Inside the Outrageously Twisted Mind of Eric André

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Shutterstock

Kelly Caminero photo illustration / The Daily Beast/ Shutterstock

Eric André is worried that there’s something in his drink, and he can’t stop thinking about it. There’s “some shit” in the bottom of his espresso martini, he says—and no amount of telling him it’s probably just lingering coffee beans will assuage him.

“Maybe this is a boring question,” I say early into our interview Monday afternoon in Austin at the SXSW Festival (which is always a good way to start off a question…) “But I always wonder how pranksters—”

He interrupts my speech, which is likely smart. “I’m a germophobe,” the comedian, here at the festival to celebrate the recent announcement of The Eric André Show’s upcoming sixth season premiere, explains. “I’m looking at my drink because I want that”—the residue at the bottom of the glass—“to be espresso. You know what? Those coffee beans were just garnish.”

No longer able to take the specks of brown in his cup, André asks his handler (or manager, or agent, or whoever the nice blond man is) to take the drink back and get him a new one, so we can carry on.

“I’m like, ‘Is that espresso or is that cockroach eggs?’” André says. “That’s where my brain goes.”

I ask if that’s happened to him before, finding bugs or larvae in his alcohol.

“No. Probably. We probably all have.”

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Compounded by the fully matching Newport cigarettes-themed sweatsuit André’s wearing as he walks into the hotel conference room, this is exactly as absurd as I expected an interview with Eric André to go. Adult Swim has a loyal audience thanks to his bizarre TV series. This is equal parts hidden-camera comedy and celebrity torture chamber.

The appeal of The Eric André ShowThe 2012 debut of ‘The No-Holds-Barred Show’ is a great example of how open-minded it can be. Each episode begins with an Ed McMahon-style introduction by our host. He then proceeds to discuss the episodes. rampage through his set for a full two to three minutes—nearly a third of each 11-minute episode. Sometimes André destroys his desk. Sometimes, he gets covered in blood. While he is waiting, his band and cohost patiently wait for him settle down and get to working. (The co-host for the first four seasons was Hannibal Burress. Buress left in Season 5, which became a pivotal plot point.

These openings are so funny, subversively, and remarkably unhinged, that over-the-top prank segments Another third of each episode makes the episodes seem much more manageable. Think Jackass Oder Da Ali G Show: Every skit, like when, is unpredictable. André posed as a Scientologist who believes L. Ron Hubbard was actually Black, who’s soon joined by a man proclaiming he can turn his own poop into wine, or when he walked around a gas station asking people if they can give him a “little squirt” of gas. He also expanded his prank sensibility to the instant, far-out cult classic Bad TripHe wrote and starred as in the movie, “The Pandemic,” which was released on Netflix at an early stage of the pandemic.

And then there’s the interviews with the celebrity guests, which can be anyone from Wiz Khalifa, Flavor Flav, and Lil Nas X (who is featured this season). Real HousewivesBrandi Glanville, Jennette McCurdyJames Van Der Beek, and Andre. André took the Dawson’s Creek Star by surprise bringing out body doubles Van Der Beek, Buress and himself mimicked everything they did or said in a classic sketch. He also terrorized 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer by screaming, shouting, and blowing up fireworks In rapid succession in front of him

They’re the unchecked id to the late-night hosts he parodies’ comparative superego: confrontational, bizarre, and always cackle-inducing.

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Ahead of Season 6’s long-awaited premiere this June—the first two very good, very strange episodes screened at SXSW—André spoke to The Daily Beast’s Obsessed about how much of those wild interviews are scripted, how he keeps the show exciting after more than 11 years, and what it felt like to watch an Eric André Show alum win an Oscar on Sunday—and immediately become a Twitter thirst object.

It’s been a minute since there was a new season of The Eric André Show. Season 5 aired in the latter part of 2020. But you’ve kept busy in the interim with Bad Trip Jackass Forever. Why did you decide to make the new season?

Matt Groening [who André worked with on Disenchantment] I was kind of convinced. He was like, “Never stop doing your show. It’s too good. Just don’t stop.”

[Also,] I just had more ideas. … In quarantine, all we had time for was to think and drink. I didn’t even overthink it that much. It was just natural to continue.

Six seasons of this show, it seems like you have everything under control You can do almost anything with it now.

That’s the other thing, and [ex-Adult Swim exec vice president] Mike Lazzo also said it. There’s no project I’ll ever do for the rest of my career where I have this much creative freedom. Because even Bad Trip or something else, that’s narrative. There’s limitations to narrative stuff. [The show] This is the only area in which I have complete control, and I should keep doing it as long as possible.

I watch the show because I love the surrealist talk show aspects, but it’s also very much a prank show. How do you decide how much time to devote to the celebrity guests and how much to the pranks in an episode? You would do the same with a celebrity guest as Lil Nas XFor example,

[Lil Nas X] He was a wonderful guest and he was very responsive to many of the pranks. We also got some great pranks during his interview.

He’s one of the biggest stars we’ve ever gotten, but I would say it’s whatever’s playing the strongest throughout the episode gets the most attention. To make sure everything was getting big laughs every weekend, we tested each piece. It’s more about the laugh than the person.

Your ex-sidekick Hannibal Buress appeared to be inseparable. he left early into Season 5. What did this do to the show’s success?

The greatest blow [of him leaving] Monologues were the focus. The monologue [was] He was ready for his punchline. That was it! [also] the biggest blow for the interviews—you really just need somebody who’s absurd and unpredictable hovering over the guest, which he did amazingly.

But [comedian and new co-host] Felipe Esparza is a master at this. … I knew Felipe knew the drill, because he was introduced in Season 4 as Hannibal’s co-host, so it was organic to bring him into the show in a bigger capacity.

How much of the celebrity interviews are improv’d by you and your co-host?

Most of the stuff you see is improv. Hannibal was almost all improv, because he wouldn’t read the scripts—and I didn’t really need him to, because—

[At this point, André’s new espresso martini arrives, which he approves of.]

Thank you so much. [He points at the new garnish on it.] Um, I didn’t ask for this lemon in here. [laughs]

You stated that Hannibal wasn’t reading much of the script.

It was not, and it was more fun to just throw Hannibal into the mix and see what he does. It was like an experiment, to see what he does using the right. [guest].

You’re playing a heightened version of yourself as your character. How much is just you riffing versus scripting what you’re doing with the guests?

Together with my writing partner, I write aggressively. [Dan Curry, who also plays the character Kraft Punk]. The interview questions and a ton of the gags, we come up with in the writers’ room before the guest gets in. I can use the pre-written questions as well as the gags to help me get through the interview. Once I’m in the thick of it, and I’m seeing certain things are getting a rise of the guest, then I’m leaving it to improv and letting it go, and riffing with the guests. It’s like organized chaos.

Is there ever a situation in which a guest is so confused that it’s impossible to control them?

There’s guests that have walked out. [That infamously includes T.I. and The Hills star Lauren Conrad, after André “vomited” on her.] That’s a fucking home run [when that happens]. I feel like I’ve landed a touchdown.

Do you notice that guests now recognize your charm and are prepared to serve?

It’s a spectrum anywhere between they know the show but they don’t know anything [to expect]You can go from knowing nothing to knowing everything, including not knowing who you are, your name, and not knowing what the show is about. The majority of guests fall on this end. Yeah.

But Lil Nas is X [who is a fan of the show] is so big, we don’t want to pass on him just because he knows the show. But when things are exploding, when locusts and cockroaches are flying out of the desks, somebody’s gonna react with it.

My ideal guests don’t always have to be young and hip. I want the cast to NCIS Oder something.

How about the pranks. As you become more famous, how can you remain undercover?

My hair is different this season—hair is big. A COVID mask would be a good choice. [and] Avoiding the demographic with hair, glasses and other accessories

As long as I prank people over 40, I’m pretty safe. I love to prank people over 40. Bad Trip—you won’t notice anybody under the age of 30 in the movie.

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That was what we were trying to say The Eric André Show It is a wonderful project. But, do you ever feel the urge to take on something larger? Do you want to work with someone else or your own?

It’s my sandbox, so I get total creative freedom. It’s comforting and comfortable doing that, because when I’m on another set that somebody else is writing or directing, I’m always like, “Is this what you want? Is this good? Was that take good?”

Whereas Eric André… I know exactly what I’m trying to achieve, whether I’m hitting it or not. I don’t feel the pressure of trying to help somebody else with their project. … I try not to think too much about the budget or the scope. If you’re only looking at that, it’s like a bit of a distraction. I think you gotta look at the creative first and just figure out what’s best for the creative.

It feels like it is my dream and goal.

Right. Right. [otherwise], I’m just trying to get in that next Daniels movie. Shit, Everything Everywhere [All at Once]!

Paul Rogers, your former editor, just won the Oscar for this movie! How was it to see that movie?

We gave him his first paid job. We’re the first people to pay him. It brought a tearful to my eyes.

I texted him at least 50 times this morning. He hasn’t written me back. I’m fucking pissed. You Hollywood motherfucker. I turn on you? I pulled you out of the gutter!” No, I texted him, and he’s very sweet.

There’s all these tweets, like, “DamnThe editor is from Everywhere!” Paul’s been married for like a decade, [and] all the tweets are like, “Damn, Paul’s hot.” “Who’s the editor from EEIAOEB? He’s hot!” So I texted [one of the] Daniels this morning [and] I was like, “Thank you for jeopardizing Paul’s marriage, in the best way.”

You’ve worked with a lot of different people on the show who have gone on to become big in their own right. Paul Rogers was awarded an Oscar. Hannibal took down Bill Cosby.

Hannibal said one time on stage, “The Eric André Show This is the only program where the cohost is significantly more wealthy than the host. Johnny Carson’s co-host, Ed McMahon, has more money that the Ed McMahon [does].”

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