Vomit, Trump and going to jail: A chat with Eric Andre
Anyone who’s seen a segment of The Eric Andre Show knows how difficult it is to do it justice through description alone. Phoning in from the US, the talk show host himself takes a moment, pondering the perfect summary. “It’s like poop and pee mixed together,” he eventually declares. A pregnant pause ensues, until Andre mercifully relieves the tension, roaring with laughter. “That stopped you in your tracks, didn’t it?”
It’s a befitting beginning to the interview, given Andre’s track-record in gleefully bamboozling his guests. “It’s a talk show where I torture celebrities,” he clarifies, before revealing his inspiration for the The Eric Andre Show. “It wasn’t [formed] out of cynicism. It wasn’t out of hating talk shows. It was out of loving mock talk shows. It’s kind of a derivative of a derivative, genre-wise. I loved The Tom Green Show, I loved Da Ali G Show and I loved Space Ghost and I loved Jiminy Glick. They were just so funny and so funny to see a crazy, schizophrenic, incompetent talk show host try to function as a low-status character in a high-status position.”
In approaching The Eric Andre Show, Andre figured it would be tough to sell people on the idea with a traditional pitch. “I couldn’t just write a script. I knew the show wouldn’t translate,” he says. “So, Hannibal [Buress] and I filmed this little seven-minute version of the show, kind of like a prototype pilot and we shot in this abandoned bodega in Brooklyn. I literally bought myself Final Cut for Dummies and just taught myself how to edit. It took me like a year to edit seven minutes of footage together. Then I sent it around to all the networks and everybody passed on it except Adult Swim.”
Once Andre was given the green light, he set about making some truly outrageous television at the expense of ill-prepared celebrities, from Jack Black to James Van Der Beek. Over four seasons, his guests’ reactions have varied wildly. Some have had a great sense of humor, while others not so much.
“We’ve had a couple of people walk out, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you,” says Andre. “Lauren Conrad left. I puked on the desk and ate the vomit back up. She walked out and never looked back. But I will say, even though I have made two guests walk, I have had sex with two of my guests. That’s important to know: I’m really even-steven.”
Naturally, this pattern of pushing boundaries has landed Andre in hot water. “I went to a town hall meeting and while the mayor was speaking, I ran up to the microphone and I was like, ‘Vote for me for President and I’ll put beer in the water fountains and cameras in the girls’ locker room,’” he laughs. “All these sheriffs escorted me out. I told the sheriff my name was John Coltrane. He said, ‘You’re not coming up in the system, Coltrane!’ And then I went to jail.”
The suggestion that Andre could realistically run for President on those promises hits close to home. “We wanted to one-up your shitty Prime Minister and we wanted to one-up Brexit, so we elected the worst human being imaginable to run our country for the next four to eight years. We really want to go out with a bang. We’ve had a good run since 1776 and it’s time for America to go out in a god damn fireball.”
“My secret hope is that he was just doing a bit the whole time and he’s the best President ever and he’s just like, ‘You know what? I lied about everything I said before. No student loans and free pizza and ice cream for everyone.’ But I see who he’s elected to his cabinet and it’s fucking atrocious."
Andre will enjoy a brief respite from all things Trump on his stand-up tour of Australia this week. On the topic of what audiences can expect, Andre plays a straight bat. “I’m just going to tell some jokes,” he says. While Andre’s work makes it difficult to trust it’ll be that simple, it’s a safe bet it will be hilarious.
By Nick Mason