At the start of 2020, Eric Andre had a pretty epic year lined up. It was set to begin in March at SXSW with the premiere of his debut film, Bad Trip, followed by the release of his first-ever stand-up special, Legalize Everything, and capping off with the long-awaited fifth season return of The Eric Andre Show.
Of course, like everyone else, Andre saw his plans change as a global pandemic began to shut down everything on his Bingo card. This included Bad Trip’s premiere and its following theatrical release being cut short. At the time, he felt “the most depressed I’ve ever been,” leaving him to embrace his inner Lebowski for about a month.
However, Andre’s story ultimately has a happy ending as Netflix wound up picking up the film for 2021, and his other two projects went on to be well received by his fans and audiences alike. Looking back, both projects not only served as a perfect distraction, but seemingly filled a void that desperately needed to be filled in 2020.
There’s something surprisingly universal about Andre’s manifested blend of brilliant, controlled chaos and insanity. He manages to expose the superficiality of the society we’re living in, while also showcasing the unexpected good in people. Like those who will stop to help, say, a man who is dangling from a fire escape with exposed bones and blood and fecal matter dripping from his bicycle shorts. In one fell 10-minute swoop, you get to see both the shit and the good that’s in humanity — and laugh your ass off in the process.
While waiting for him to join our Zoom call, I had a feeling that the Eric Andre I was about to talk to was not the same one that most people would be expecting. And I was right. I was momentarily met by a subdued, relaxed Eric Andre in a gray sweatshirt with Air Pods dangling from both ears. “Where are you? Some sort of book depository?” he asks, referring to the numerous unrelated binders that sit behind me on a shelf while we talk. And while he may not have been in performer mode, there were still plenty of moments that felt like prime Eric Andre Show content.
There was no desk being smashed, no Seal Team 69 being hoisted down from the ceiling, or other standard shenanigans going on. But for some reason, when you tell someone that you’re talking to Eric Andre, this is immediately what they think you’re getting yourself into. But there’s a thick line between fiction and reality that is consistently blurred, and Andre insists that he’s no exception (although I also got the impression that he doesn’t really mind the confusion, either).
It’s on that intriguing note — and citing a year of groundbreaking comedy and stellar output — that we name Eric Andre our Comedian of the Year. In the wide-ranging chat found below, we talked about everything from the greatest prank ever pulled on him to what he intends to take away from a year that, by his account, “really sucked.”
On Staying In Character
Over the past eight years, you’ve become identifiable with ranch dressing. Roughly, how many bottles of ranch dressing would you guess fans have brought you to sign?
Sign??? I thought you were going to ask how much I’ve drank.
Well, that too.
I got in and out of the ranch-drinking business pretty quickly, because I’ve drank enough. I’ve drank more than any man should’ve drank in his life. I’ve signed a lot of bottles. It might be in the thousands. I don’t know. It’s a very common prop, for sure [to bring to his stand-up shows].
When you do meet your fans, are they expecting you to be in character?
[Laughs] I think they’re typically underwhelmed that I’m maybe a little bit more boring in real life than in the show. It depends on the fan. I think it’s all case by case. Sometimes, I’m about to miss my connecting flight to Dallas, and I just have to run through the airport.
On Legalize Everything
This year marked your debut stand-up special on Netflix, Legalize Everything. Were you looking to capture a different kind of experience for fans who are used to seeing a certain version of you?
Well, stand-up is a different medium from the Adult Swim show. So, I had to kinda split the difference between my persona on the show and my persona in real life. It’s obviously a heightened version of my everyday behavior, but not as heightened as the persona on the show. Basically, I toured that 60 minutes of material through like 49 cities nationally and internationally. So, I did tour that act and constantly chipped away at it and listened to recordings and rewrote stuff and got rid of stuff.
The special’s high level of energy is infectious. It seems to propel your audience into this state of almost hysteria at certain points.
Well, thanks. I mean, my energy comes from my nerves. It’s like me trying to war cry through my anxiety.
The ending came together so perfectly. Like, the fact that the fan’s mom, who you texted, not only called you back, but she also had edibles at the ready.
That was pennies from heaven. That was a gift from God that that mom was not only on the hook, but brought up drugs organically. It was almost to the point where I’m like, “People aren’t going to believe this is real when they see it.” But it was 100 percent real. And yeah, that was a gift from God, for sure.
Was that the best that bit has gone?
No, there’s been some killer ones. Because I would do that every night on the road, and I had some pretty equally amazing ones, but unfortunately they weren’t captured on film. I had ones where the mom and dad picked up, and the dad was like shirtless and terrified. Like they thought their kid was kidnapped, and they were looking at me — like studying my face — so they knew what to tell the police when they called. [Laughs.] It was like that terrifying.
So, they thought you kidnapped their kid and then went onstage in front of thousands of people?
Well, they were baffled. It was before I turned the phone around and showed the crowd. But, yeah. There were some amazing parents. There were some parents that would like flip out on you or be more crass and offensive than I was. I always would be pleasantly surprised. I got some heat … Where was I? I think it was a show I did in Nebraska, and this woman’s mom kind of lit me up. But it was perfect. She was roasting me in front of the crowd. And the crowd was loving it. It was perfect.
As long as the mom calls back, it’s a foolproof bit, because it’s in the moment, it’s improvisational, and there’s nothing more high stakes than messing with a mom. And it’s relatable. There’s something kind of G-rated about it. It’s not like a hard R-rated bit. Like, I could do that bit on Jimmy Fallon. In a good way. In a way, it’s universal. I used to just do it at random throughout the set, but then I realized that it was my closer.
Of course, the thing everyone talked about when your trailer was released was the timing of having a COPS joke in there a few days after it got cancelled.
Yeah, but then I heard that COPS did not actually get cancelled. I heard that they just changed their name, and they’re already producing like a new version of COPS. I don’t really know. It might be a rumor. But the timing of that – COPS announcing their cancellation and that joke coming out – was also another gift from the universe. I think it was just pure luck, man. It was another one of those things where the timing was impeccable.
Sorry, someone’s ringing my bell. [Gets up and checks]. Oh, it’s just my Postmates. I forgot I ordered food. [To the Postmates driver, out the window] You can just leave it right there on the table. Thanks, bud. Appreciate it.
That’s the world we’re living in now. Getting everything delivered.
I know. It’s a weird, sad world. It sucks. [Under his breath] I’m so fucking over it.
I can imagine it’s strange having to promote stuff during the pandemic.
Part of it’s nice, because you can just sit from your home. Press can be exhausting, because you’re like flying all over the place and running to various shows and stuff. This is like I can just sit in front of my computer and Zoom 12 hours a day. There is something nice about that, but I miss the excitement of doing late night, doing Conan, Colbert, Howard Stern. Actually being there. It’s nothing like the real thing. The rush of that is like titillating. It titillates and excites me.
Read ahead to hear about Hannibal leaving, replacing Ellen, and the greatest prank every pulled on him…
On Bad Trip and Returning to the Show
When did you first consider going back to The Eric Andre Show?
I always wanted to go back. We just made Bad Trip, this movie that was supposed to come out this year, and now it’s going to come out next year on Netflix. The movie just took a long time. It took three and a half years. And then it takes a year to make the show. So, it wasn’t like by design. I didn’t want to take that much time off, but I wanted to invest the time we needed into the movie, and it just took way long.
The trailer came out and everyone got so excited, and then … We all know what happened.
It was COVID. We were supposed to premiere at South by Southwest and a theatrical release in April. And then COVID shut everything down. So, then we sold the movie to Netflix, thank God. So, it’ll be out on Netflix next year, which I think is kind of the best place to be right now, especially in these times. I have a captive worldwide audience, and their subscription is up to like 200 million subscriptions.
So, they’re kind of the best place to be, and they’ve been a really great partner and really enthusiastic about the movie. So, I kind of lucked out that it landed there. But yeah, I was bummed. I was devastated. I wanted to do that South by Southwest premiere and have that moment. It just got vanished by a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. Really, it was the most depressed I’ve ever been. I think I spent a month in my bathrobe drinking White Russians like The Big Lebowski. I was fucking devastated.
Really? Just over the state of things?
That, too. But it was like a week before South by Southwest when everything started shutting down. And I was like A week! Had the Coronavirus hit just a few weeks later, I could’ve had that moment. I’ve been working on the movie, in fits and starts, for almost like seven years. It was heartbreaking, and it was completely out of my power. Nothing I can do about a global pandemic. It was just a cosmic slap in the face. But it’s at Netflix, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel, so I think tons of people are going to see it next year.
Some people actually believed that you were able to film all of this stuff during the pandemic for The Eric Andre Show. I’ve read so many comments on Twitter of people wondering how you pulled this off.
I think people think I’m filming it the night before and then putting it on the air. The process of it is that we write for six weeks, prep for six weeks, shoot for six weeks, then edit for six to eight months. So, we shot all of that in the summer of 2019, with a little bit in February right before Corona hit. But the majority of it was filmed last year, then I came back and I edited for most of the year. So, I don’t know. People don’t totally connect the process of the filmmaking of the show with how it actually works, which is fine. Nobody can predict how the show’s made. It’s kind of its own unique piece.
You make it look so seamless and effortless that people just assume that you can create all this great stuff overnight.
Yeah. Well, I think that’s why people are so frustrated that they have to wait so long for each season. Because it feels like a live-to-tape talk show that’s filmed every night, but it’s not. It’s a tremendous amount of tedious editing that gives the show its aesthetic.
On Gaining Weight
Tell me a little bit about the transformation you did for this season. You gained all this weight.
Yeah, I gained 20 pounds, I got rid of all my body hair, I waxed my pubes, I spray tanned and tanning bedded and tanned outside. I did all types of tanning. I bleached my teeth. I would put on a ton of cologne. Yeah, I looked like Kojak.
How long did all that take?
The weight was hard. I never really got good at it. I was gaining weight and losing it and gaining weight. I wasn’t consistent. That was an ongoing process, and it was actually harder to lose it when I was done with the season when I wanted to lose it than when I was trying to gain it. Tanning, that wasn’t too long. That was like going to these tanning salons twice a week and taking meetings outside shirtless with tanning oil all over my body. Bleaching my teeth just took an hour, but it was incredibly painful. And waxing was incredibly painful, but that took like a half an hour. It was just a bunch of little things.
That video of you getting waxed looked so painful…
It sucked. It sucked. I’m never doing that again.
Do you have a moment during that where you’re thinking, Why the hell am I doing this to myself?
Yeah. Well, I was psyching myself up for it. I knew why I was doing it, and it made for a great moment. It was kind of the centerpiece in the behind-the-scenes special. So, I knew that the pain of it was worth the footage. I think filming is painful, and I think some people think it’s glamorous. I think acting in a scripted show is painfully embarrassing, and there’s some level of agony in some part of the process. The final result, when you watch it as an audience, is enjoyable. But while you’re going through it, it’s a nightmare. When I’m filming the show and I’m filming the pranks on the street, people are attacking me. It’s a nightmare. But I know it’s going to be good footage later. So, I think pain while you film is pleasure in the editing bay.
On Being Recognized
How often would you say you get recognized while street filming?
The body transformation helped. Like me shaving my head, making my head bald, went a long way. Especially when I’m dressed like an MTA driver or whatever. I’m kind of dressed down. None of my outfits were flashy. Or I’m dressed like a cop. I look like an average New Yorker. And I would still get recognized. But my demographic is young. So, we would just avoid people under 35, and we’d be fine. Usually, like moms and dads are our target. People that wouldn’t recognize me. It’s not insurmountable. When I get recognized, I just kind of give the person a wink like, “You know what I’m doing right now, right?” And they’re like “Ohhhh.” I’m like, “Yes. Keep it on the DL.”
Do really great takes ever get ruined by people recognizing you?
You’re setting yourself up in a position where you have to do a bunch of takes anyway, and you’re trying to hit a bunch of people anyway with the pranks. So, yes, sometimes stuff gets ruined. Shit goes wrong all the fucking time when you’re filming those things. Like, every five seconds something’s going wrong. So it happens, but if the bit’s strong enough, you’re going to film it until you get it right.
On Hannibal Leaving
After doing the whole series with Hannibal Buress up until this point, what was that like when he told you he was going to leave?
I was blindsided by it — it was really painful — and we had to figure out what the most organic move for the show was. But we realized the most important thing is to have an eccentric performer hover over the guest while I’m interviewing them. The tension that that creates. So, that’s why we had Blannibal, which was Hannibal’s clone. That’s why we had Felipe Esparza. That’s why we had Lakeith Stanfield.
The most important thing is having an unpredictable performer hover over the celebrity guest in the chair — that’s what the magic of that is and what Hannibal would do. I told the volleying co-hosts to just be themselves. They shouldn’t try to be like Hannibal. They should just be themselves. So, yeah, Hannibal will be missed, but he’s on his own path. He’s on his own journey.
If you bring the show back for Season 6, is there a chance that he may wind up coming back?
I don’t know. I think only he can answer that. I mean, the door’s always open. But that’s up to him ultimately.
On Guests, Pranks, Ellen, and 2020
What makes for the best guest on the show?
Someone who has no idea [what they are getting themselves into]. We never have a guest who’s like, “Hey, I’m a big fan. I love this show.” I want guests who don’t know my first name, don’t know what Adult Swim is. We avoid guests who are fans of the show — unless it’s a musical guest that we get to torture at the end of the show. But for the couch, we only pick people who have no idea. We avoid fans of the show. There would be no stakes to that. Then it just becomes like a sketch comedy thing. But it’s a prank show, so it needs that for the stakes.
What is the best prank that has ever been pulled on you?
Hmm. There’s been a few. Recently, while we were editing the movie, Jeff Tremaine, the guy who directs all the Jackass movies, he hit me in the back of the neck with a cattle prod. [Laughs.] So, that got me.
My ex-girlfriend from high school — we’ve been friends longer than we were [dating] — her and her other friend, we were at a bar. I was in my early 20’s, drinking at a bar in New York. It was late at night, Friday night, nd there was this cute girl outside, and they were like, “Hey, when you went to the bathroom, that girl asked about you. She was like, ‘Is that guy single?’” And I was like 23 and hot blooded and was like, “What, really?” And they were like, “Yeah. Go talk to her.”
So, I went outside, super confident, and I was like, “Hey. What’s up?” And she was like, “Yeah?” And I was like, “I talked to my friends.” And she was like, “What?” And I was like, “Okay…” I just like shit the bed and then walked back in. And I was like, “She acted like … She was weird, I don’t know. She wasn’t flirty or anything.” And they were like, “We totally just made all that up. She didn’t talk to us at all. I think she’s just waiting for a taxi.” [Laughs.] They fucking got me.
The simple pranks are the ones that are going to get me. If it gets elaborate or convoluted, you kind of smell a fish quick. But if it’s simplistic and anything grounded, I get duped.
Are you still keeping up with the petition from over the summer to have you replace Ellen Degeneres?
I don’t know. I think they got a shitload of signatures. But I think she’s coming back.
She’s been back for a few months now. But they still managed to get to over 100,000 signatures.
No fucking way! Really? Get the fuck out! I’m looking that up right now.
I’m sure it’s gone up.
106,893. [As of this writing, it is up to 109,2360]. Holy shit. That’s amazing! I kind of forgot about this. It’s insane. It’s totally insane. It’s incredible. [Note: Andre did indeed wind up tweeting this out while we were talking].
What has made you laugh the hardest this year?
I started watching Vice Principals. That’s pretty funny. I like that show. I also liked that footage of like when Trump had Corona and he was like on the balcony like Evita and he could barely breathe. And he was like [ breathes heavily]. Kind of like mouth breathing all fucking crazy. It was like terrifying. It was like a laugh of fear.
What is the most vital thing that you are able to take away from 2020?
I think this year was an exercise in patience.