Listen to Your Diarrhea: A Journey Into the Heart of Tim & Eric's Zone Theory
I went into this interview with the understanding that Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim would be discussing their new book, Tim and Eric's Zone Theory, "in character." The book is their take on self-help, with all the lo-fi scatological nightmarishness that fans of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and their countless other shows, music videos and ads would expect, so I hoped to find them standing in the middle of a conference room in pristine white collarless suits and piercing contact lenses. More than that, I wanted them to sit me down, tell me what was wrong with my life, lay hands on me. I've spent enough hours being hypnotized by their work -- the dissonant dreams of childhood rendered in middle-of-the-night public access programming -- that some part of me actually thought they could help me.
When I met them, in the second-floor lobby of Hotel on Rivington, they were seated in a corner in comfortable clothes, unnoticed by the half-dozen others milling around. They spoke at library levels, even while defending the book's no-women slant and railing against what, as I understand it, they deplore the most: the world's glut of "dumbs," "dodos," "the dimwitted" and "dumdums." When our half hour was up, I'm not sure I felt any better. But we did talk a lot about God, diarrhea and the tragic legacy of Eric's high-school job at Subway, when the Zone Theory was far in the future and and he was a simple "shit subhuman trash boy."
I am very glad to talk to you guys about this, because I am a huge fan of your shows, and also I feel like my zone isn't that toned.
Eric: We're here for you.
My first thought was, like, comedy is the greatest therapy...
Tim: Laughter is the best medicine, is the expression.
Anyway, this book is a different direction: healing, self-help, I don't know how you define this. Do you think this has more power to help people than your shows?
Tim: By a factor of a thousand.
Eric: Laughter is a one-dimensional thing, and it's a temporary fix. You chuckle, and then you're back to your dull, horrible, unsuccessful, unhealthy life. This is a system of seven zones. You reach Plane 8, which is a much more elevated state of being and consciousness. So that's why I would say it's a much more profound, powerful healing device.
Tim: We don't live in ivory towers; we have to communicate and deal with human beings all the time, so we thought what better way to make my experience with, say, the dude working at the Burger King I go to for breakfast every morning... Why not make his life better, so that when I'm dealing with him, I'm not screaming at him: "I said a ham and cheese croissan'wich, not a bacon and cheese croissan'wich, and I shouldn't have to specify egg." So...
Eric: It's the same order every morning.
Tim: It's the same dude.
Eric: The problem is I have to hear about this. He goes through this experience, same guy, and the next hour is just Tim complaining about it. So we can change that burger man's life...
Tim: "Oh sorry, it's eleven o'clock. We're not doing breakfast anymore." Fuck you. I see the goddamn Croissan'wich sitting there. Are you just gonna throw it out?
But this is a change that starts with you, with your attitude to him.
Tim: No. I'm in the right on this issue, so I see clearly. I, as a Zone Plane 8-er, I can see 10 steps ahead. So if life is a chess match, I'm basically saying checkmate from the beginning of the game. From scratch. So I see the croissan'wich there. I see it.
Tim: It's not metaphorical; it's literally there. So if I can encourage the guy at Burger King to work harder to do a better job and take personal responsibility, whether it's 11:05 or whenever they're cutting off breakfast... If he becomes a Zone Planer, then he'll become more responsible as an employee, and then my relationship with him will be easier. I don't think there's anything more clear about that than what I just said.
Eric: There's nothing more to say about that.
What about when you were in the position of the Burger King guy, before you were Zone anything? When was that?
Eric: We were lost until we met Ba'hee Natarumu Priss Dimmie.
Eric: Zone Theory is based on his teachings. So we were kind of lost. We had some success with TV and film, but it wasn't until we started talking to Turkeyman and he kind of gave us all the knowledge. That's when we changed. We went through all those seven zones.
Is this while you were making the show?
Tim: It was after the show. We had a dark period, we were just basically lost saying, "What do we do now?" We've achieved everything we've ever dreamt of. The dreamboard that we have, you know, you have... movie: check. TV show: check. TV show: check. TV show: check. Web series: check. Live tours, recorded albums: check, check, check. Book.
Eric: When you're in Hollywood and you've done everything, you turn to narcotics. You turn to prostitution. And I lived many years in that life, until Ba'hee came in and really helped us get back on track. We're giving back; this is what we're doing. We've been helped, we've been saved. We're Zone Plane 8.
I'm confused because it sounds like the book was also an impulse to check off all those things.
Tim: It was a little bit of that, too.
Eric: There was a lot of confusion.
Tim: I don't want to use the word "scam." I said, "What if we had a scheme to create a product that we've dreamed of creating that doesn't exist yet and it satisfies that check that we've been desiring?"
Eric: We don't want to say the word "cult," but we can say "club."
Tim: There is a market for this. They don't give the Bible away, you know. You gotta go into your Walden Books and buy it.
Am image from Tim and Eric's Zone Theory.
You mentioned drugs. Certainly, you're going to be getting a lot of comparisons to Scientology. Scientologists are very anti-psychiatry and medication. Where do you guys stand on that?
Tim: Well, we don't encourage it. When you do the Zone Theory fast, of course, you're gonna cut out alcohol, you're gonna cut out drugs. And we hope that inspires you to move beyond that. But people get hung up on the idea of what you consume. We say, do what you want to do, but listen to your diarrhea. So if you're diarrhea tells you "This isn't working for me, doing cocaine every weekend is causing the body stress," listen to diarrhea because it's a wise messenger of information about what's happening inside your body.
And to be clear, we're not talking about eliminating diarrhea.
Tim: No, no no. We've found through our research that moderate diarrhea is very healthy, and when you incorporate the Zone Theory Diet into your life, you will find yourself having moderate to severe diarrhea throughout the week.
Eric: And when Tim's talking about "listen to what your diarrhea has to say," he's not talking in general terms. He's talking in specifics. We sell a Diarrhea Dipstick that is a diarrhea reader.
So just... a diarr-reader.
Tim: That might've been a better title for it. But it's open-source technology, so if somebody wants to come out with a competing product that works better, we welcome that. But the point is Zone Theory is not about telling you what not to do; it's about connecting in and finding out what you should be doing.
Eric: And in terms of prostitution and sex, if you do the Zone Theory, you're gonna be bottling and storing a lot of your Probo [semen] on a daily basis, so you will be exhausted and depleted. You will not want to hit the streets and look for that trash.
Tim: These things sort themselves out on their own.
Diarrhea is a very consistent theme throughout your work. There's D-Pants. Dr. Steve Brule has talked a lot about his loose movements, and of course there's Shrim in the movie. Why is this such a central part of your ethos?
Tim: Well, we produce a lot of content.
Tim: Content. And from the beginning of Awesome Show at least, we always tried to include a nod in there to our favorite brown liquid. So while we've yet to make a film where the entire premise is based on diarrhea or an entire book called Diarrhea: The Book, it does become a thing that ends up in our work, because the word is funny to say and it's an experience that everyone has. We all have it. Not all the time, thank God. But it's one of life's... It's one of the worst things in life.
Switching gears...You talk about God in your FAQ and how God is compatible with this. What is your relationship with God?
Tim: I'm watching him right now on these TV screens. There he is. I don't think there's a big difference between God and that dude there. It's basically him, down here on Earth. No relationship with God. At all.
Eric: Same thing. None.
Tim: No interest in the subject. It's for the dim-witted.
But it's OK for Zone climbers...
Tim: Yeah, yeah. We're not exclusionary. If that gets you through the day, you know, all the best to you.
But if you have someone who's entering the Zone Program, what if you're scared of hell?
Tim: What about it?
Can you help with that?
Tim: I would encourage them to embrace Zone Theory and you'll realize that you're scared of the wrong things.
Eric: There's a lot more real-life stuff you gotta battle with. That's what we kind of focus on. The hocus-pocus is for the Burger King guy, really. On one of the first pages, it describes the person that needs this book. And you'll find that if you are a religious freak, you will need to change your life for this.
It's like a pre-Zone-Tone...
Tim: We're getting this book out and the next book is gonna be Zone Theory for Women, and then the book after that is gonna be called Prepping for Zone Theory: Pre-Zone Process. And that's really designed for the low, low, lowest common denominator. Dodos who are not ready for this. I envision it being more of just a pamphlet, designed not for children but for men and women who have the mind of a child. Dumdums.
We have to go there with the no women thing. There are a lot of people in my office who were thrilled when they heard about this book, and then we heard from your PR, "Sorry [PAPER senior editor] Elizabeth, but you can't be a part of this interview."
Tim: I don't know why she was excluded from being a part of the interview. I mean, the book is written and designed to work for men. Nothing against women. If a woman put out a book on the proper usage of tampons, for example, that wouldn't be designed for men. We encourage women to purchase the book, and we recommend they purchase the book, own the book. But reading it is excluded and will not be...
So they would buy it and...
Tim: They can give it as a gift. They could keep it sealed. They can get it signed by us. They can display it. I mean, obviously it's a free country. They can read it but it's not recommended. It could be very damaging to their health.
Eric: And our message to the press is: There will be Tim and Eric's Zone Theory for Women.
And it won't just be "How to be a Zone Wife."
Tim: No no no. It'll be a full comprehensive system for them to achieve perfect happiness.
What change do you want to see in the world as a result of this book?
Eric: The big thing is, Tim and I want to take some of these dumbs and just elevate them to regular humans -- like functional happy, healthy humans. There's a lot of scum out there, a lot of trash that we deal with on a day-to-day basis. It'll be nice to elevate humanity, really. That's the big picture with this book: get it out there, print as many as the Bible. Have this be in your hotel nightstand. Here's another option.
Tim: I want to be able to go to Burger King in the morning and not have a hassle. I want to go to Subway for lunch and not have the same guy ask, every day, "Whole wheat?" Yeah. Yes. Still whole wheat. Like it was yesterday. Tuna. No mayo. Provolone.
Eric: People are programmed to obey. I was a Subway employee once, and that's what you do. It taught me a lot about dealing with people. One of my first jobs. I got it because the manager -- we called her the Raven -- she was like the cute goth girl in my high school when I was a freshman, and I did that job just so I could be around the Raven. She commended me on my mopping skills. It was a pretty powerful experience.
Did anything ever...
Eric: No. I thought there may have been a chance, but I was just a shit subhuman trash boy.
Tim: She committed suicide four years ago, before we had the chance to publish Zone Theory for Women.
Eric: And I asked Tim, "Could you just not support Subway? Do you have to eat there every day and I have to see the wrappers? It reminds me of the death of Raven." And he said, "No."
Tim: Well, here's the deal: Quiznos is garbage. Jersey Mike's is fine, but the price points don't make sense. So I'm still getting a better deal at Subway than I would anywhere else. So. Where's that math take you? Follow the numbers.
Eric: Yeah, it's just a simple request. It just hurts to see that.
Tim: Well, don't look. Close your eyes.
Tim, you mentioned that you have doubts about your own thing that you've created.
Tim: I did?
There's a whole page on it. I believe the page ends, "It is shit."
Tim: Oh yes, yes...Well, I think it's fair to say that there was not good spot-checking done on the book before it went to press. You know, I'll be honest, we didn't read a lot of the book.
Eric: Here's the weak thing about the book. You know, page 11 [reads]: "About the Author. Tim is a weight-lifter, poet, artist, musician, writer." Third paragraph, "Tim is a weight-lifter, dancer, chef, and minister." We did say "weight-lifter" twice in there.
I wondered if that was just for emphasis or...
Eric: Not sure.
Tim: I think that was a creative choice.
So it sounds like this was not something you guys... Did you sit down together and devote months and years of life to every page of this?
Tim: No, no. There's a very fine gentleman who we set up in an office in the Valley with a computer. Which was annoying because we'd drive out there, but the rent was too good for the space where the office is. And we'd visit with him and he would let us know where he was at.
Tim: The typist of the book. He typed the ideas and the concepts that we would begin to provide. So as the book progressed, we'd spend less and less time there because of the distance.
And he kind of picked up the slack?
Tim: He had a deadline imposed by us to finish certain chapters -- benchmarks, you know. "Finish 10 chapters by Friday."
Eric: The typist did his job. He worked very hard.
Tim: One of those unsung heroes.
Eric: Yeah, literally unsung. There was no credit...There's a whole deal in the publication world about typists and how much they do contribute.
OK, that's all the questions I've got.
Tim: Well, that was fun! Played it straight there, that was good. The more contradictions revealing this thing to be a total scam, the better, I think. â
Tm and Eric's Zone Theory is in bookstores now.
Tm and Eric's Zone Theory is in bookstores now.