‘Tim & Eric’, the comedy duo from the US known for their shows on Adult Swim such as Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Beef House, are famed for their particular brand of off-kilter, grotesque and surreal comedy.
With Great Job! running for five seasons, the two developed a dedicated cult following, which allowed them to explore other territories like a feature film, a YouTube channel and a published book. Making regular appearances in other shows, with Tim Heidecker featuring in I Think You Should Leave Now with Tim Robinson, and Eric Wareheim in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, they’ve secured themselves as well-seasoned professionals within comedy culture.
Based on the style and aesthetic of their work, and with the context of the era that the two rose up to prominence, it’s no surprise to hear that Wareheim’s favourite film of all time is one of the darkest and most twisted comedies to come out of the 1990s.
Happiness (1998), written and directed by indie icon Todd Solondz, interrogates the concept of middle-class suburban America through the depiction of the lives of three sisters. A deeply black and often unsettling comedy, the controversial sophomore feature from Solondz was heavily criticised at the time for its presentation of extremely taboo themes, including rape and references to paedophilia.
Striking that incredibly delicate balance between thought-provoking and outright obscene is part of Tim & Eric’s brand, so it makes perfect sense that this Cannes-winning black sheep of a film is so highly regarded by Wareheim. Speaking to MTV back in 2014, Wareheim made it categorically clear that Solondz’s second movie was his favourite of all time and confirmed the influence it had on his and Heidecker’s work.
“Happiness. I just rewatched that again. That was very inspirational for our work, for me. It was just one of those movies that hit you on all levels.” It’s not hard to imagine how Solondz’s uncompromising vision and commitment to comedy, no matter how bleak or unpleasant, might have affected Wareheim.
He goes on to conclude, “Really, really funny, but really f—ked up. Todd Solondz is one of my favourite directors.” Solondz, whose feature debut Welcome to the Dollhouse in 1995 won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance, was a massively prominent figure in the late 1990s independent film scene, coming up alongside filmmakers such as Todd Haynes, David O. Russell and Alexander Payne. Watch the trailer for Happiness below.