‘The Eric Andre Show’: How an Unemployed Stand-Up Made the Weirdest Show on TV
...and he hurt his butt-cheek doing it.
Full-contact comedian Eric Andre might be the most post-everything funnyman in history. By combining the home-brewed humanity of Fernwood 2 Night, the surrealist Möbius strips of Tim & Eric, the Dada puckishness of Tom Green and the kinetic pranksterism of Jackass, he’s ultimately an Andy Kaufman for the Four Loko generation. His televised scream-therapy blurt, The Eric Andre Show, just finished a ten-episode run on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, reigning as possibly the weirdest (and most engrossing) ten minutes on contemporary television — key bits include recruiting Killer Mike to perform hypeman duties for an opera singer, asking a MENSA convention, “Why would you think pee pee comes out yellow?, and using a birthday cake for a pillow.” We got down to exactly how the hell this thing got on TV and how many butt-cheeks he punctured to get there.
Their note was ‘He can shit so hard that organs fall out of his anus, but he can’t make it look like he’s intentionally doing it.’—Eric Andre
How was the The Eric Andre Show born?
I knew it was too crazy and visual and too much of like an absurdist stream-of-consciousness show to really sell on paper. So I was like, I’m just going to have to shoot this thing myself. We rented out this little semi-abandoned, semi-illegal bodega in the middle of Brooklyn. I think it’s a bar now, but it was called Bodega back then. They had, like, punk rock DIY kind of shows and stuff. When we got there it was a total rat’s nest. It had crap and piles of broken glass everywhere and it was super nasty and we just cleaned it up a little bit, threw up curtains. While we were shooting, like six to seven different dudes claimed that they owned the place. Some dude would come in and be like, “HEY! What the fuck you kids doing in here, man!?” Ah, nothing! We’re doing a comedy thing. We got the key from Tony and he said it was okay! “Tony? Yeah, well tell Tony he owes me $300, man!” And then five minutes later some other asshole would come it and be like, “What the fuck are you guys doing in here, man!?” That was kind of affecting the mood of the shoot.
We shot in there for a few days and we shot some man-on-the-street stuff and then I ran out of money. I was paying out of pocket for it, obviously. I didn’t have enough money to hire an editor. It was like a slop pile of footage that nobody would really know what to do with besides me, so I had to teach myself Final Cut. It took me like a fucking year. We sent it to a bunch of networks and they all thought it sucked except for Adult Swim — they loved it. So they were like “Here’s $300, make ten episodes.” [Laughs] “Here’s 300 dollars and some Domino’s Pizza coupons.”
What were you doing at the time?
I was scraping by doing commercials and random stand-up. But I was just scraping by. I had a wad of money saved up from commercials. I used to be a Geico Caveman for live events. I was a corporate mascot. It was the silliest job. It was actually awesome and fun but it was retarded. I had a couple of bucks saved up from that, so that’s what paid for the demo reel, and what allowed me to move to L.A. and survive without a day job for a little bit. When Adult Swim was first showing interest I was on unemployment. I had like $200 in my bank account. I was flat broke.
What was being a Geico Caveman like?
They just needed somebody to go to hockey games and shit. I was just a high-end mascot. I was a high-end corporate whore. We did Lollapalooza, we did Yankees games. They wanted me to walk around a hunting supply store outside the Super Bowl for no reason and just pick up bow and arrows and be like, “Hey, I’m just shopping for things that kill deer.”
Did you get some good rejections for the demo?
One network, who shall remain nameless, was like, “Uh, it looks a little cheap and public access-y” Yeah, that’s the fucking point. Did you think I was unaware of that? That was definitely the wrong network for us.
How quickly did you shoot the first season
We shot the [first ten episodes] in February and March here in L.A. in Hollywood. We ran a tight ship. I mean, I don’t know. I never ran a TV show before. I guess it was efficient.
How did you film all the insane opening sequences?
[The opening] was a couple of bursts. I think it was like two and a half days of just trashing shit. That’s how we ended the season. It was a very cathartic experience. It sucked because I got sick earlier in the week so I was like, “Fuck, it takes so much energy to break the set for that long.” It was big 12-hour days. We went super-overtime one day. We shot from like 8 a.m. to like 2 in the morning. We were so exhausted. But yeah, that shit is fucking draining. It’s like playing ten football games in a row or something. I kept getting sick because I was so stressed out and so panic-stricken because I was hoping the show was well-received. I never had that much pressure in my life, so it was just a total stress ball. That definitely took a year off the life of my stomach just from all the acid. It burned a hole in my stomach.
Did you hurt yourself filming the intro?
Yeah, I took a hole out of my butt cheek. I don’t remember when or how it happened, but I just went home and it looked like someone had held a cigarette against my butt cheek and just kept going until it melted deep, deep into the cheek. And, also, I tore my back in half trying to lift Hannibal’s chair. I have two bulging discs in my spine from working out at the gym completely wrong from when I was like 16 years old until I was 20, so my back is all fucked up. And I tried to like run up to Hannibal’s chair. It was way heavier than I anticipated and I tore my back in half. I had to like marine crawl back to the video monitors and take a 20-minute break. It sucked. You know what hurt the most, oddly enough? The bit where I hid in a garbage can and jumped put and surprised people. I permanently fucked up both my knees for crouching in a garbage can for hours on end. I’m in physical therapy for it. My knees are both out of the track.
Has your physical therapist seen the show?
No, I’m debating whether to show him or not. I feel like he’ll just be like “You’re a fucking asshole.” He’ll give up on me.
The live performances were crazy too. Did you hurt yourself on this tour?
One time I was like taking glass bottles and smashing them on my forehead Rowdy Roddy Piper style and that was a bad idea. I did that at an early L.A. show before the tour. It wasn’t Hannibal co-hosting that one, it was my friend Jerrod [Carmichael]. He was supposed to say this whole monologue or something, but instead he just looks at me and goes, “You’re bleeding, man.”
How many desks did you break this season?
I think it’s like 20 or something.
What are they made out of?
They’re like drywall. And I think for the live shows it’s like this weird Styrofoam. I think it’s drywall. That’s what we used for the demo. I think we just got nicer drywall for the season.
Are there things that Adult Swim wouldn’t let you put on television?
Suicide and drug use and making fun of specific gods are like the three S&P issues that come up. Blowing my brains out always works its way into a bit because that’s like my default if I can’t figure out how to end a bit. I’ll just take out a banana and put it in my mouth and blow my brains out and blood will splatter behind me. but that kind of stuff always gets flagged by S&P. I can curse out God but I can’t curse out Jesus. The best S&P note we ever got was when there was a set destruction piece we wanted to do. I wanted to shit so hard that my organs fall out of my anus. Their note was, “He can shit so hard that organs fall out of his anus, but he can’t make it look like he’s intentionally doing it.” That was their only problem. I guess they don’t want kids to shit so hard that their organs fall out. We couldn’t figure out — without getting a close up of my asshole — how to visually sell that, so we ditched the bit. Like, organs are a dark red/purple color so they’re not that bright. And then are they going to be dropping? It’s just going to look like large amounts of poop. How do we sell that?
There was tons of stuff where I was like cursing out God or I’d put my middle finger to the heavens and be like, “Fuck you, God! Strike me with lighting!” and they’d be fine with that. But then if I was like, “And you, too, Jesus!” they’d be like, “Whoa! No cursing out Jesus! What are you, crazy?!” It’s tough, too, because Adult Swim is Cartoon Network, so it’s a kid’s network during the day. So there’s a little bit of resistance to certain topics. Even though we’re on at 3 in the morning.
Are there any things your wanted to get on the air this year that you couldn’t?
There was a bit where I wanted to jump out of a manhole on the street in like a prison uniform and handcuffs and run out and be like. “I’m free! I’m free!” But we were like, Okay, I don’t want to get shot. We contacted the city and they were like, “There’s toxic gases in the sewer you need special hazmat suits for.” We wanted a bit with Andrew “Dice” Clay called Andrew “Nice” Clay. And we got Andrew “Dice” Clay and then we lost him for some reason. I think he had like emergency eye surgery or something weird where he had to leave town immediately. The bit was he’s Andrew “Nice” Clay and he’s a feminist and he just spouts out feminist theory and stuff like that. “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe. She didn’t have any kids because abortion is a personal choice, not a state matter…Oh!
Who were the drummers in the noise-rock bit in the last episode?
Oh, that was Spencer Seim from Hella. He’s actually the guitar player from Hella. We were actually going to have Zach Hill and Spencer since they both play drums, the two guys from Hella, to play the Siamese drum set — this conjoined drum set that we made. But Zach was on tour with Death Grips so he couldn’t do it. We got Pete Newsom, who is super awesome, too. That was like my favorite bit. My dream was to make that pyramid of practice amps and that bouquet of microphones that I had invented a long time ago but I just didn’t have money to make it. I’ve never had an art department at my disposal and that was like the first thing I asked the art department to make. I didn’t have a bit, I was just like, “Uh, I don’t know? I’m just going to scream into it.”