The Only Late-Night Show Crazier Than a Trump Rally
Adult Swim’s “The Eric Andre Show” is, without question, the most gleefully unhinged show on TV. Andre talks to Marlow Stern about the return of his demented creation.
Each and every season of The Eric Andre Show is an embarrassment of riches. Take the time Lauren Conrad sprinted for the exit after he began slurping up his own vomit, T.I. flying into a rage when a PA emerged with his dick hanging out, or his chaotic exchange with the Spice Girls’ Mel B over whether Margaret Thatcher had “girl power.” This season, its fifth, features a new addition to the highlight reel: the look of pure, abject horror on actress Judy Greer’s face as she watches Andre guzzle a tall glass of his nanny’s diarrhea.
“It’s a haunted house, for sure, and that’s what we’re aiming for—them at their most mind-blown,” Andre tells me. “You know when your computer pinwheels? We’re trying to get them to pinwheel and capture it on camera.”
Andre reveals that he typically interviews celebrities for over an hour, subjecting them to a carnival of indignities until they ultimately crack, and edits it down to the best few minutes. While some famous folks are in on the joke, like Seth Rogen or Tyler the Creator, most of them aren’t, and their terrified reactions are the real deal.
“There’s no show like mine, so people aren’t going to be anticipating that there’s going to be some talk show where it’s 200 degrees in the studio, and pestilence and vermin are coming out unannounced, and the chair is exploding, and people are falling from the ceiling,” he explains, with a grin. “And we specifically go after people that wouldn’t know about the show. We try to keep most of our guests over 45 years old.”
The Eric Andre Show, which airs on Adult Swim, makes all its late-night competitors—or any show, really—feel tame by comparison. In addition to its celeb-pranking and hijinks with sidekick Hannibal Buress (typically involving gunshots), Andre regularly hits the streets of New York City to push people to the limit. A standout bit in Season 5 sees Andre harass commuters on the subway while dressed as an MTA employee, including urinating on a passed-out frat boy and introducing riders to a pet subway rat.
When one woman takes particular issue with Andre peeing on the frat boy, drawing her umbrella like a weapon, he quips, “Sorry… I think you’re beautiful. I have a crush on you, secret’s out,” only to have her fire back, “Shut the fuck up… I got a crush on you too.”
It’s Andre’s favorite moment of the season.
“That subway-rat woman, when I said, ‘I have a crush on you’ and she said ‘I have a crush on you too’—after wanting to murder me for peeing on a frat boy and having a rat on the subway—like, that blew my fucking mind,” he marvels. “I was like, holy shit, the timing of that woman! She’s naturally funnier than almost any comedian in the history of comedy.”
It’s been three-and-a-half years since Season 4 of the show—he was busy making the cross-country prank movie Bad Trip with Lil Rel Howery, which Netflix will release sometime in the near future—and in order to raise the stakes, the comic underwent a dramatic transformation worthy of a Bale or De Niro.
“I did the opposite of everything I did Season 4,” he says. “So Season 4 I lost weight, I got pale, I grew my hair out, I grew my nails out, I didn’t use deodorant. This season, I gained weight, I tanned, I bleached my teeth, I got a mani/pedi every week, I waxed my pubic hair, I got rid of all my body hair except my eyebrows, I used tons of Brut cologne every day.” He adds, “I looked like Vin Diesel when he takes time off between the Fast and the Furious movies and he gets all fat in Italy.”
Like his idols Sacha Baron Cohen, Tom Green, and the Jackass fellas, the 37-year-old Andre believes that pranking is the “highest-stakes comedy.” And, despite being “non-confrontational in real life,” he believes his fearless brand of comedy was forged during his formative years in Boca Raton, Florida, where Andre—who is of Jewish and Afro-Haitian descent—felt like an outsider.
“I think it comes from the boredom I felt in suburban Florida, and not feeling like I fit in, and wanting a rise out of people,” he offers. “My mantra is: My pain is the viewer’s pleasure.”
Andre has indeed suffered for his art. He’s been hauled away in handcuffs, rearranged his spine whilst jumping on a desk during an interview with Vivica A. Fox, and sliced his hand open while accidentally punching through a car window. In Season 5, his infamous “Mike Penis” character—an aggressive party bro trying to talk his way into exclusive nightclubs—receives a swift kick to the nuts, courtesy of a particularly surly bouncer.
“This group of bouncers in the Meatpacking District was ready to kill me and my whole camera crew,” he remembers. “There were more and more bouncers coming out, seeing commotion, and looking for a fight. And then I got kicked right in the nuts! It was fucking brutal. He was stoic, and then he was just like Pelé—pop!—and then I went down. That sucked. I don’t know if I’ll bring that character back. That was rough.”
There was also the time at the 2016 Republican National Convention when Andre was manhandled by a group of Trump fans in MAGA hats after crashing a speech by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
“My comedy has always been political,” he says. “Comedy is political, and they’re not inseparable. To be conservative is to not be comedic. To be comedic is to dismantle society and break apart institutions, and to be conservative is to uphold institutions, and uphold religion, and uphold the white power structure, and uphold the patriarchy, so how can you be subversive and pick apart society while saying, Yeah, everything’s great and we should keep things the way they were in the ‘50s?”
Given that Season 5 of The Eric Andre Show is the first to shoot under a Trump presidency and premiered so close to the election, I ask him whether the chaos Trump has sowed has forced him to up the ante.
“I always feel pressure to raise the bar on the show every season,” he says. “This show is a reflection of the world we’re living in and our reality but it’s not, ‘Oh fuck, Trump’s being crazy so I have to be crazy.’ Shit, I’ve been crazy since I was in kindergarten.”