Eric Andre has become an established player in the comedy scene in recent years, bringing his uniquely weird energy to shows like “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” and “Man Seeking Woman.” But to really understand who he is, you need to watch “The Eric Andre Show.”
“It is like pure Id, the most creative freedom I’ll ever have,” he told IndieWire. “There’s no rules. It can totally be as surreal or absurd or nonlinear as it wants. If you hooked a tube up to my brain and fed it into a television, it would be the show, for sure.”
Returning to Adult Swim this month for a fourth season, “The Eric Andre Show” has the nominal look and feel of a talk show, but stands apart for no shortage of reasons – particularly the fact that guest stars rarely know exactly what they’re in for.
“The show is a Google click away, and people just don’t do research. They’re coming in blind,” Andre said.
Thus, they’re unprepared for the quasi-psychological torture that the show delights in inflicting upon its guests, resulting in moments like Jimmy Kimmel getting tickled by the couch he’s sitting on, or Stacey Dash being tormented with live rats.
Sitting alongside Andre is comedian Hannibal Buress, who brings his own laid-back vibe to the show as its straight man/sidekick. Buress started off as a writer, with early credits including “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” but moved on camera because, in his words, “performers get laid more than writers.”
Buress has managed to fit the roughly two weeks of in-studio production between his stand-up tours, semi-regular appearances on “Broad City” and other projects over the past four seasons.
“A lot of people are into this show, people I didn’t expect,” Buress said. “Most recently I was on a flight with John Cusack. He was like, ‘Oh, man. I love your all’s show. When can I do the show?’ Like, ‘Oh, for real? All right.’ A lot of people that were on this season were fans of the show already. It’s been cool watching it grow slowly and getting a fan base.”
But Andre still prefers the guests who have no idea what’s going on: “We had [‘Dance Moms’ star] Abby Lee Miller on this season, and before she got to the stage, she walked up to the AD. She was like, ‘Now what is this show? Is it a cartoon or is it with real people?’ We were just like, ‘Yes! She knows nothing!’ That’s the best guest.”
Andre cited Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick character and “The Ali G Show” as influences: “Season 1, the editors just kept telling us, ‘When you get the guests out of their comfort zone, that’s when you have the gold. Just keep getting the guests out of their comfort zone.'”
And it’s proven pretty easy to do so — because people don’t do the research, and because the framework of the format is so deceptive. “When people think ‘press,’ I think a lot of actors and musicians are just like, ‘Oh yeah, press day. I’ll go out and blab about me and blah blah blah,” Andre said. “There’s no show like ‘The Eric Andre Show’ on TV right now, so they’re not like, ‘Oh I’d better gear up because I’m about to get attacked.'”
In front of the camera, Andre and Buress are a team; behind the scenes, Andre collaborates on the show with his writing partner Dan Curry and director Kitao Sakurai. “Dan Curry is the funniest guy in the world. I can sit in a room with him for hours, and he’s just cracking me up constantly,” Andre said. “And Kitao is the next Terry Gilliam. A lot of comedy directors are just comedic writers, but they don’t have any sense of aesthetic or visual vocabulary. A lot of more visual directors go into drama or just weird artsy kind of stuff. It’s the best of both worlds with Kitao. He is a really great artist.”
Just watch one episode, and between the funhouse nature of the interviews and the deliberately bizarre man-on-the-street segments, it’s clear that the “Eric Andre” team has been blessed with some extreme creative freedom.
What haven’t they been able to do? “We were going to have a transgender man and a transgender woman pose as PAs off to the side of a camera. Then during an interview, they were going to slowly undress completely and then start having sex with each other,” Andre said. “Our lawyers were like, ‘You could get in a lot of trouble if you have people publicly fuck in front of a guest that doesn’t know that.'”
There was also “a pro-Al Qaeda country song” that the network cut last year — the only thing Adult Swim has ever cut for content reasons, Andre said. “It was for good reason, I think. I didn’t hold a grudge. I think there was a spike in ISIS beheadings or something horrific was going on in the news at the time. They were getting a lot of flack for ‘Black Jesus,’ so I think they were just like, ‘You know what? We get enough hate mail for right now.'”
Andre does hope to leak out the song at some point, but otherwise seems happy with the level of freedom they’ve been given by Adult Swim. “We really have carte blanche. The network is super, super nurturing and supportive. It couldn’t be a better matrimony. We’re TV-MA, so we can do whatever we want,” Andre said.
That said, how much longer does he think the show can go? Andre hopes for at least one more. “Five seasons,” he said. “That would be a nice number.” Because even if the guests are savvy enough to be aware that Andre and his team are coming for them, there’s always something they can do.
“We had Jack Black and Howie Mandel on this year, who had seen the show before,” he said. “But it didn’t matter, because we were torturing them so hard that it wasn’t about blindsiding them with the absurdity of the show. Howie Mandel is a germaphobe, so right away we’re like, ‘All right.’ We had a dead squid under his chair that I pulled out, and we were dropping used dental floss around. We got him. It’s kind of foolproof at this point.”
“The Eric Andre Show” airs Fridays at midnight on Adult Swim.