In its “man on the street” bits, the Eric Andre Show places host Eric Andre in danger for the sake of comedy. He approaches strangers with offensive questions liable to earn him a punch in the face—and that's just the “on the street” segments. In the studio, Andre begins each show by destroying his desk, the one place a talk show host might deem sacred ground. An hour before a live performance of the Eric Andre Show in Sacramento, I'm in his dressing room for an interview. He asks if I mind if he lies on the floor. Initially, it reads as Andre’s brand of comedy (I briefly consider joining him on the floor), but as he gingerly lowers himself and elevates his sneakers on the table, he’s not being funny.
On tour, night after night, Eric Andre is breaking his back performing his Adult Swim show for his admirers. He suffers from two bulging discs in his back, but an hour later he’s launching his body through two breakaway desks, sprinting through the entire venue spraying the crowd—front row and upstairs VIP booths—with a squirt gun filled with (hopefully) water, and army crawling through a metal partition. He heaves into the mic, seemingly cooling down, to start the show, only to flip his desk over and do it all again. At no point during the hour-long performance of the Eric Andre Show does the young comedian show fatigue or strain, unless it's for the sake of encouraging laughter. He winces, we think “great bit,” and even though I was just with him in his fragile state, he seems invincible up there. We had talked about WWF wrestlers earlier, but it’s not until you see Andre break table after table live that it becomes apparent he’s a gonzo talk show host blended with elements of late-night Smackdown, except that his version of in-the-ring spectacle replaces steroids, body oil, and spandex for a stuffed chicken, bags of fast food for throwing into the audience, and Howard Stern’s Jeff the Drunk.
You’ve gone from stand-up comedian, to physical comedy to some degree. What kind of toll is that taking on you?
Eric Andre: It sucks. My body is falling apart.
Have you gained a new appreciation for physical comics like Chris Farley, Jim Carey, and Jim Belushi?
Oh yeah, I’ve always loved those guys. Always been impressed by those guys.
And WWF wrestlers.
Has anyone reached out to you from [WWE] at all?
We tried to get Rick Flair to play Dick Cheney on the show last year, but he flaked. I don’t know what happened. We got Brutus The Barber Beefcake on the season finale this year.
Brutus was actually my favorite wrestler growing up.
Really? That’s awesome. He’s a big drinker. He was slamming beers at 10 in the morning. He’s got his nipples pierced. He’s an interesting guy.
I met the Ultimate Warrior in college. He spoke at the university to talk about guns and how great they are.
[Eric laughs] He’s a super right wing guy?
Oh yeah. It kind of killed my childhood and also made it awesome. I got to ask him if he still feels the curse of Papa Shango and he threw me out.
[Laughs] Really? Why did he throw you out?
He did not want to discuss the WWF at all. He wanted to talk about guns. He was brought there by the 2nd Amendment Club.
There’s a 2nd Amendment Club?
Yup. In Ohio.
Wow. Do they know what the 2nd Amendment actually says?
He asked one of the members to recite it and they couldn’t.
Of course they couldn’t. Yeah, people leave out the part that it only applies to state militias and not the people. It was never meant for civilians because it was written in 1775.
Your TV Guide bio says ‘abandoned his musical dream’. It’s pretty dramatic.
[Laughs] Seriously? I didn’t even know I had a TV Guide bio. What is a TV Guide bio?
It’s pretty brief. It mentions you have a sister and you can play the upright bass? Is that true?
Do any upright bass playing at all?
No. I sold my bass so I could move to LA.
Ah. How long ago was that?
Like five years ago.
So you don’t get with any celebrities around LA in jazz clubs and jam on the bass?
No. I gotta buy a new bass if I want to do that, but it’s such a pain in the ass instrument.
So are you OK, with that bio fact… that you abandoned your dreams?
I’m going to come out of retirement soon. I retired from my musical career before it started. I’m thinking about being like Jay-Z, coming back from retirement. I’m the Jay-Z of comedy because I’m in the Illuminati.
When you pitched the Eric Andre Show did you bring up that you also saw it as a tour? How did that come to be?
I was doing the show live anyway and Adult Swim was interested in doing a live tour. They did ones for Tim & Eric and Metalocalypse, and even Aqua Teen. So, it was always something that interested them. It happened organically.
You made the pilot yourself in Final Cut. The way it looks then, has it changed much to where it is now?
It’s better basically [laughs]. I have really good editors. It was pretty similiar. It was a little bit more patchwork and faster, but it wasn’t 11 minutes. It was only six or seven minutes.
Do you stay involved in the editing process?
Yeah. Big time.
Do you still do stand-up?
Not as much as I’d like to. I’m still going up.
I noticed this from watching Aziz Ansari’s most recent stand-up. Hitting 30 has really altered his content. He talks a lot about his friends getting married and having babies. It strikes me as a trap comedians slip into at certain age. Do you feel as though, given the weird Adult Swim outlet you have, that you are able to dodge that?
So are you saying could my stand-up become more traditional? Like traditional topics?
I’d say it just depends on where I’m at.
I don’t mean to frame this like a big knock on Aziz. Just have you ever thought, I don’t want to ever do that style?
I don’t approach it that academically. Whatever I feel like joking about or talking about is what comes out. It’s not like I have some bird’s eye view of my plan of attack, like ‘OK, I can never talk about family life’ or anything. It’s whatever comes to me.
It’s just something I’ve always wondered about, like… I can’t quite place it.
Like if it’s happening organically or if they feel forced by society to talk about it?
The audience can tell you when you’re not being authentic. You don’t want to force it.The audience is going to smell that pretty quickly and call bullshit.
Let’s say the Eric Andre Show didn’t happen. What would you be doing?
I’d be doing other TV shows and shit, still trying to pitch my own stuff.
You were down to your last $200 before this took off.
I was totally broke. I was just panicking. I think I was about to ask my manager for money. I don’t know. I think blocked that part of my life out of mind.
Now you’re here… on the floor.
Making 200 bucks a week
Any good Standards & Practices notes lately?
Yeah. We had, ‘Eric cannot smoke a cigarette with his penis’. Hannibal cannot be seen breast feeding, even if the action is obscured. I can’t dress like a priest and ask for teenage penis guillotines at Home Depot.
Though our interview was brief, Eric thanked me and asked about Sacramento on a Sunday, since his show would end around 10 p.m. I told him about my plans for what I was referring to as “The Most Random Sunday of My Life”, which meant attending a Lil Debbie performance three bars down from our current venue. As I was explaining Lil Debbie to his co-host, who’d just roused from a sitting nap, Eric began playing tracks on his phone and pulling up Google images of the LA-based White Girl Mob rapper. Eric Andre went from looking like he was in no condition to perform to laughing through images and assuring me he’d see me later at the Lil Debbie show. His parting words: “I’m gonna fuck Lil Debbie tonight”.
Despite his prostrate state before the show and the toll he must have endured performing, I saw Eric Andre at District 30 night club for Lil Debbie later that night, sporting a sweater with a close-up of Oprah’s face. No matter where he roamed in the venue, looks were cast his way; looks of ‘why does that dude look familiar’ to looks of ‘oh shit, that’s Eric Andre, where’s my phone?’ He hung out most of the night, posing for photos, entertaining fans, and watching Lil Debbie perform and request more fine bitches in the front row. If there was more to tell, I'd share it. It was merely random for Sunday.