Eric Wareheim Will Serve You “Dessert Pizza”

I’ve been sitting at the bar at the Old Homestead Steakhouse for five minutes before the host finally walks over to me. I’m guessing he noticed me eating all the free candy overflowing from a massive plastic martini glass and decided to ask if I was waiting for somebody. I tell him yes, and decide to go with “a tall man” as my descriptor for Eric Wareheim. Wareheim is tall— small-forward-sized. But because I haven’t specified his exact height (6’ 7”), the host, who’s about four inches shorter than me, thinks I’m talking about a man who’s sitting alone in the dining room. He leads me to the table and the man smiles. “Bradley?” he asks, in a way that tells me he’s never met Bradley in person before and this was likely a first date.

Everybody sitting in the restaurant is on a date; it’s Valentine’s Day. People love old steakhouses on February 14th. I guess splitting a prime rib is some people’s idea of romance. All I know is that the entire situation feels very Wareheim; somewhere between the comedic absurdity of his work with Tim Heidecker, and the tiny-detail-obsessed, food-centric stuff he’s been increasingly focused on over the last few years.

Sadly, Wareheim and I weren’t going on a romantic Valentine’s date; he picked the spot because one of the big projects he’s been working on is a book documenting steakhouses across America. When I finally find him sitting by himself at a table in the upstairs dining room at Old Homestead, he’s nursing an ice-cold martini with blue-cheese-stuffed olives. He’s wearing a grey Stoffa suit with a t-shirt underneath. I clock the white Ferragamo velcro sneakers since he’s a tall guy whose legs don’t fit under the short table.

Wareheim is at an interesting place in his life. He’ll be 48 in April. A lot of people probably still know him best for his work with Heidecker on Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, which first impacted the Adult Swim universe toward the end of the aughts, long enough ago that it’s a key influence on the generation now taking over comedy. (If you need any proof of Tim & Eric’s impact, just wait online for an hour or so until somebody posts the gif of Wareheim’s mind being blown and you’ll understand how even the weirdest comedy teams can sneak into the mainstream.)

But his influence on the first two seasons of Master of None was also undeniable. He played Aziz Ansari’s best friend on the acclaimed series, and directed episodes that featured some of the buzziest New York City bars and restaurants of the last decade, including Carbone, the Four Horsemen, and Westlight; Wareheim was also behind the camera for the season 1 finale, which started with Ansari’s Dev and Wareheim’s Arnold searching for the best tacos in NYC, and ends with Dev getting on a plane to Italy to study pasta-making.

His work on the show as the sweet-natured best friend felt like a nice surprise to those of us who had been following him before, but it was also fair to wonder what he was going to do after. He has a talent for directing, but as the people who sign the checks in the entertainment industry have shown many times, talent doesn’t always fit with the bottom line. Some people don’t totally understand that, and as their careers continue, they often decide if the system can’t work for them, they’ll work for the system. That’s how talent turns stale. Thankfully for Wareheim, he had other plans—lots of them.

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