Brilliant, yet overlooked, comedian begins to shine
THE SANTA CLARA
September 22, 2016
It’s the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones spews hateful comments about the Black Lives Matter movement and vows loyalty to police officers and veterans. Fervent Donald Trump supporters cheer him on.
Slowly making his way onstage is Eric André, the half-black, half-
Jewish comedian from Boca Raton, Florida. André, wearing his trademark grey suit and sporting his messy afro, is shooting online content for Adult Swim.
Assuming André is a correspondent for “The Daily Show,” Jones invites him onstage. André grabs the mic and tells Jones, “I want you to have sex with my wife.” The crowd boos as André passes Jones a hotel key. Jones scoffs at Andre’s antics and the crowd eventually removes the clown.
A week later, André is in Phila- delphia attending the Democratic National Convention. He and his crew’s press passes have been revoked, but the antics continue. André shows convention-goers photo-shopped pornographic images of the candidates, speaks in an exaggerated Midwestern accent and ferociously sucks face with a Hillary Clinton look-alike.
Provocative. Shocking. Disgusting. Hilarious. Welcome to the summer of Eric André.
When he isn’t pranking political pundits and random strangers, André is the creator and host of Adult Swim’s “The Eric Andre Show,” currently in its’ fourth season.
The show, in all its low-budget glory, satirizes the formulaic stiffness of public access and late-night talk shows. It deftly blends both of André’s comedic strengths—sur- realism (akin to Steve Martin’s stand-up) and prank-based comedy (more Andy Kaufman than Jamie Kennedy)—as well as maintains an overarching feeling of nihilistic destructiveness.
As is the case with many great shows in their prime, “The Eric Andre Show” is criminally overlooked by the mainstream media. Though the show has a cult fan base—mainly those in the comedy community, most notably Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel’s—most people have never even heard of the show.
Each episode begins with André violently ripping apart the drywall-constructed set in varying ways— he smashes his desk, tackles t h e elderly drummer of his band, charms a snake until it bites his penis and later performs oral sex—you get the idea.
Next, his sidekick, the understated and underrated Hannibal Buress, comes out and provides commentary during André’s “monologue.” Buress’ easygoing, monotone delivery and demeanor perfectly contrast the manic energy of André. However, Burress will occasionally tap into his more vocal and crazy side— often resulting in the highlight of the episode.
After the “monologue”—I use the term loosely since it is anything but traditional—comes a series of on-
the-street pranks and uncomfortable celebrity interviews.
There may not be a braver comedian alive than André, who channels the absurdity and recklessness of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat when confronting strangers.
His recurring skits include “Ranch it Up!” (where he spoofs rave and music festival culture by wearing neon and hurling Millennial slang at people sitting on park benches) and “Drunk Cop” (where he publicly drinks malt liquor, urinates, pukes and gripes about his job as a police officer).
André’s interviews are just as cringe worthy and baffling as his hidden camera pranks.
Since most of the guests are unfamiliar with André and assume the show is a legitimate talk show, they are genuinely appalled at whatever he throws their way.
Highlights from interviews this season include a growling zombie crawling out of the floor to attack rapper T.I., rats nibbling at the feet of Fox News personality Stacey Dash and little people portraying Mini- Me versions of André, Burress and guest Jillian Michaels.
The most memorable interview moment occurs in season three during an interview with the gorgeous (if somewhat high-maintenance) star of “The Hills,” Lauren Conrad. After Conrad claims “it’s like ninety degrees” (the set is intentionally heated to heighten the uncomfortability of the guests), André vomits all over his desk and proceeds to slurp it back into his mouth. A horrified Conrad flees as André tells Burress, “She’s a great guest. I like her.”
In a time of endless television options—past and present, cable and streaming—”The Eric Andre Show” stands out. It has more laughs and gasps in a single eleven minute episode than most shows have in an entire season. It is, for my money, the funniest and most original show on television.
An argument could be made that Eric André is one of the foremost satirists of our time, on par with Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.
The confrontational nature of his comedy forces the people he interacts with to show the most vulnerable, fight or flight side of their personality.
His antics show us the real Alex Jones, T.I. and Lauren Conrad better than any other talk show interview ever could.
Though it pokes fun at real world issues, I believe that Eric André’s brand of comedy is deeply rooted in nihilism.
All of his political pranking and volatile interactions with celebrities are secondary to his main priority: making us laugh and laugh hard.
During a time when many comedians are chiefly concerned with standing for something and being taken seriously, André only wants to be funny. Nothing more.
This sense of nihilism echoes a famous quote from Groucho Marx. After the release of his and his brothers’ war-themed film “Duck Soup” in 1933, Marx was asked what the significance of the film was. He replied, “What significance? We were just four Jews trying to get a laugh.”
The same goes for the half-black, half-Jewish comedian from Boca Raton, Florida. For all his craziness, profanity and profundity, Eric André is simply trying to get a laugh. And it’s high time we indulge him.