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They’ve even been known to turn in their coevals. When someone uploaded B$M, in its entirety, to YouTube the day after it debuted on iTunes, a fan immediately informed Heidecker via Twitter, and the videos were taken down. Every day is a struggle to make their case to a fan base that sees bit-torrenting as a righteous act. “If it doesn’t make that money back, we probably won’t get to make another one” is how Tim explains it to his thieving flock. “It’s not like TV, where there’s ratings and other amorphous ways of gauging things. It’s ‘This dollar equals that dollar.’ ” Hence “The Tim and Eric Billion Dollar Movie Pledge,” an affidavit certifying that the signer will actually pay for the film, turn in friends who don’t pay to the police, and promise not to see The Lorax (because it “looks bad”). The pledge may have actually had an effect: B$M has performed well on YouTube, iTunes, and video on demand, grossing in the mid-to-high six figures in its first three weeks—and that’s before it actually comes to multi­plexes. If theatrical ­grosses follow suit, Tim and Eric may have threaded the new-media needle, leveraging fan love against cross-platform saturation and building a whole new business model in the process. But they’re not popping the corks just yet. “We still need a lot of people to see it just to get there,” notes Heidecker: “Three hundred thousand people at ten bucks a pop.”

In all likelihood, their main revenue stream won’t be from this movie, or any movie, because Tim and Eric have begun the profitable export of their aesthetic. They’ve produced an unhinged series of nationally televised Old Spice ads, starring the manic former NFL player and champion hollerer Terry Crews. In them, Crews bowls with his own head, holds conversations with his animated abs, and bursts violently into commercials for other, actual products. (In one, a soccer mom hawking Bounce fabric softener is startled when Crews explodes through the wall of her laundry room on a Jet Ski.) On TV and the Internet, these spots have probably been more widely viewed than any comedy short the pair has ever produced. A bizarre Absolut campaign starring themselves and Galifianakis attracted similar attention. And their company, Abso Lutely, is producing two new series, The Eric Andre Show (for Adult Swim) and Comedy Bang Bang (for IFC). But mercenary success, no matter how welcome, is a touchy subject. “Oh, man,” Heidecker said with a sigh during the Q&A when a fan asked about prospects for new Old Spice commercials. “We could not give a shit about that.”

Their movie’s premise calls for them to make and then blow through a fortune, and the real Tim and Eric have considered and rejected that strategy. (“Seems like that would be a trap,” says Heidecker, and Wareheim adds, “We come from a place of Making Shit for Cheap.”) But they’d like to keep making movies. Why not? Says Heidecker, “There’s always going to be people turning 17 that this kind of humor is designed for.”

It’s a kind of humor that requires a lot of vigorous support—touring, tweeting, and making strenuously uncomfortable media appearances. (A recent sit-down with Good Day Austin was particularly squirm-inducing.) One way or another, “you can’t keep up the energy of doing a bit,” says Heidecker. “If Andy Kaufman had lived, I’m sure he’d have let his guard down.”

From the look of things, Tim and Eric’s guard won’t be coming down anytime soon. Nor should their fans’. Take that pledge-breaker from the Landmark. His name, he told me, is Stephen, and he was eventually welcomed back into the fold: Tim and Eric took pictures with him as a huge Kumbaya moment accreted. Stephen, moving apart from the scrum, said he enjoyed rolling with the “bit” T&E threw at him. He gets it: the combativeness, the dangerous shifts in tone, the hostility to clueless media and clued-in fandom alike. “The message is, I’m smarter than you, but you and I both know what this is about, so let’s just shed the bullshit.” So they don’t really care that he stole their movie? “Uh,” says Stephen, dropping his eyes. He steals a look at Tim and Eric. They can’t hear us: Both seem to be buried in a pyramid of pulsating adorers, posing for a kind of yearbook picture. Stephen lowers his voice. “I wouldn’t mention that to them again, if you don’t mind.”


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