Adult Swim has a lot of strange shows, but none more unpredictable and anarchic than The Eric Andre Show. Created and hosted by comedian Eric Andre, it’s a big, fun mess of a talk show that involves Andre and co-host Hannibal Buress tormenting their guests and bringing out weird stuff just to baffle them, with Andre’s daring hidden camera segments mixed in. There’s nothing quite like The Eric Andre Show anywhere else on TV, and it’s a perfect example of a comedian getting to express his weird, weird voice without any creative interference from the network.
I recently had the chance to talk to Eric Andre about his show’s second season (which begins tonight), why he set off fireworks on The Jeselnik Offensive, and the stunt Adult Swim’s lawyers won’t let him do.
So how’d filming Season 2 go?
It went great. We learned so much from last year.
What are some things that you learned from last year?
Just what bits tend to work and what bits tend to not work. Just how to get the most out of what we like. It’s fun seeing guests out of their comfort zones, so we put more uncomfortable bits for the guests and stuff like that in there. We electrocuted some of the guests this time. We had a Chinese water torture device up above the guest’s chair to squirt water down on them, drop by drop, during the interview. We put old clams under the guest’s chair to make it smell really bad.
Do they know that stuff’s coming?
No, no. Nobody knows. We just figured out different ways to psychologically torture the guests. Also, the dumbest bits are usually the funniest. We try to write more stupid stuff, not overthink it.
How much of the show do you guys write before going into production?
I kind of write year-round. And then, we have a writers’ room for like three weeks.
Who’s in your writerss room? How do you go about selecting people?
Just comedians I know, and whoever’s available. Rory Scovel, we had in there. We had this comedian, Kevin Barnett. We had Tommy Blacha, DJ Douggpound (Doug Lussenhop). We had Erica Oyama. I think she just won a Emmy or something. And you know, directors are in the writers’ room, Andrew [Barchilon] and Kitao [Sakurai]. My writing partner, Dan Curry, and I write the most. I write year-round, and Dan and I do the script together. And then, the writers, it’s more like a brainstorming creative consultant.
Is there a really tight script or do you guys make a lot of changes on the fly?
Constantly changing and constantly improvising. The script is kind of just like a guideline. The script is necessary because the art department needs to know what props to get and what to build, costume department needs to know what costumes — those department heads need to know what’s going on. Other than that, Hannibal [Buress] and I are just improvising the whole time. Dan, Hannibal, and I will come up with a bunch of stuff to do with the guest right before I go out there, and we’ll have that as a back up, backbone.
Now that you have the first season out there, is it easier to book guests now that you can show them something?
Yeah, it was way easier this year. It was much harder last year.
Who are some guests you have coming up?
We have Mel B of The Spice Girls and America’s Got Talent. We have Dominic Monaghan from Lord of the Rings. We have Krysten Ritter from Breaking Bad and Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23, my costar, and James Van Der Beek, as well. T-Pain, Questlove, Henry Rollins, Steve-O, Tom Green, Curren$y, Downtown Dirty Brown, Richard Hatch from Battlestar Gallactica, Maria Menounos, Eric Balfour, Vivica Fox. We got a shitload of people.
Are guests ever upset about being tortured or not knowing what to expect from the show?
Lou Ferrigno wasn’t happy, but other than that, people are usually good sports about it.
What happened with Lou Ferrigno?
I’ll save it for the episode, but I think he almost walked out of the show. He was like, “Did you bring me on this show specifically to mock me?” I was like, “Ehhhhh, gulp.”
So how do you know Hannibal Buress originally?
Just from doing standup in New York. I moved there, and then a year or two later, he moved there from Chicago when we we were like 22, out of college. We were just doing standup together a lot. I just had this idea for a show, and I was like, “I need a co-host.” And I was racking my brain for somebody who’s opposite in energy. He just seemed like the perfect cohost ‘cause he’s so low energy but he’s still kind of out there with his humor.
And you had done this as a live show prior to TV, right?
Yeah, I always wanted to do it as TV show. I just did it as a live show to kind of workshop it and get it on its feet. Just beta testing it.
Was it weird doing the show in front of audiences who didn’t know what to expect?
Yeah, sometimes. We did the show at UCB, and they paired us up with some other show. The other show they paired us up with was really sassy. It was a musical show. It was like “Guys and Dolls Do Improv” or something. So, half the audience was there for me, but half the audience was there for something really sassy and theatrical. I came out, and I had all these ceramics. I came out naked, and I just was like breaking all these ceramics. Everything exploding everywhere, I’m pouring milk all over myself. I ran out, and I came back naked, and I tackled one of the PAs into the desk. It was super crazy. People were fucking shocked. Just living in terror.
[Laughs] They’re just afraid of what’s gonna happen to them over the course of your show.
[Laughs] Like, “What is going on?”
And you guys are about to take the show on tour, right?
Yeah, we’re gonna go on tour. We went on tour last year, and we’re doing it again this year.
Are you guys testing out stuff for the next season of the show at that point?
No, it’s more like this season’s version of a live show. So, the best stuff from the TV show, I’m doing live.
You’ve got a habit of being unpredictable on other people’s talk shows and stuff. Do you plan those bits before, or is it just whatever you feel like doing in the moment?
A little bit of both, I guess. Like, the firecrackers on Jeselnik [Offensive], Derrick [Beckles] from Hot Package just had a shitload of fireworks and he tossed it under my office door when I was prepping for Jeselnik. I was like, “Oh, shit! I should light those fireworks off during Jeselnik’s show.” So I kind of had that in mind. Yeah, it’s a combination of both. I’m just really nervous when I’m on other people’s shows, so I really feel hyper. I’m, like, going through fight-or-flight response.
So that hasn’t worn off at all, having done more shows?
No. I’m, like, super nervous all the time.
Are you nervous doing your own shows?
Yeah, really nervous.
Do you feel like your comedy in general is just like a response to that?
Yeah, yeah. It’s like coping with nervousness.
Did that manifest itself in any way before you started doing live comedy?
Well, I was in a band, but I was less nervous doing music than comedy. Comedy has been more nerve-wracking. I feel more vulnerable.
What kind of band were you in?
I was in like an everything band, I’d say. It was like Mr. Bungle or Frank Zappa. We played a little bit of everything. Or Beastie Boys. That kind of thing.
What made you transition from music to comedy?
The music industry fell apart as soon as I got to college. Napster came out, and everybody had a CD burner on their computer. The music industry just went off the deep end at the end of the ‘90s/early 2000s. I just kinda gave up. I always had a lot of comedy ideas, and I just wanted to try it. As soon as I started doing standup, I was like, “Oh, this shit’s awesome. I want to do this all the time.”
Were you a big comedy fan growing up?
Yeah, I was, but I didn’t know as much as I know now about standup. Like, I didn’t know about Lenny Bruce and guys like that. I didn’t grow up on Richard Pryor or George Carlin just because I don’t think I was allowed to listen to those records when I was little. But I grew up in front of Comedy Central. I love Mystery Science Theater 3000 and shows like that. Ren & Stimpy and Beavis and Butt-head, Space Ghost, Tom Green, and Jackass and all those.
What’s it like to be able to get people like Tom Green to do your show?
Oh, it’s all a dream come true, dude. He invented me over to his house. I was like, “Dude, the 12th grade version of me would be so proud of myself right now.” And he’s, like, super nice too. But he’s great. He knows I’ve done nothing but gush. I’d been like, “Dude, you’re one of the biggest influences on the show.” The whole idea for set destruction was really from him ‘cause he destroyed his set one time. Just once, spontaneously, just for fun, he started skateboarding all around the set and all the walls started collapsing. I was like, “Oh fuck! Tom Green should do that every single time!”
I feel like I read somewhere that when you were on Don’t Trust the B—-, ABC was concerned about The Eric Andre Show being a thing.
They were at first, and then they kind of relaxed. I had the contract done for Eric Andre Show before I booked Apartment 23. I just got lucky in that. I don’t think if I booked Apartment 23 [first], The Eric Andre Show would have happened or it would have been pushed down the road. Yeah, I think they were a little bit nervous at first, but once it started happening, they were fine. Nobody’s paying attention. Nobody’s who’s watching Adult Swim is watching primetime ABC shows or vice versa. I don’t think they’re that aware. Like, the president of ABC is watching Adult Swim…
[Laughs] …making sure none of their stars are naked and breaking things.
Plus, I was like sixth on the cast list for Apartment 23. I was only in a few scenes an episode, and I wasn’t even in every episode. If I was the lead of the show, I think they would have had a problem, but I was a pretty peripheral character.
I mean, Adult Swim is pretty onboard with everything, especially weird stuff, but was it ever a thought to tone down the show a little bit to get them to make it?
No, never. Never tone down the show. Tone it up! Tone it up. Get toned.
Have there been any bits you wanted to do on the show that you haven’t been able to pull off because they’re too elaborate or too crazy?
Sometimes, bits are illegal.
I had this bit that we shot for the presentation where I dress up like Ronald McDonald. I went into a McDonald’s smoking a cigarette, and I fired everybody. I was like, “The boss is here! You’re fired! You’re hired! You’re fired!” That, we’re not allowed to do. I wrote a bit where I’m Colonel Sanders, and I go into KFC and order a KFC bowl and throw it at a Popeye’s and wage war with Popeye’s. So, the bits are illegal. I had a bit that I wrote this year where I wanted to drive a car full force into a marching band and, like, seriously injure 45 people, but I wasn’t allowed to do that, so bits like that that get cut.
Like, what’s that conversation like? Who’s that person who has to tell you that’s illegal?
[Laughs] It’s either my producer or our lawyer.
Do you just hate marching bands?
No, I just think that’d be a funny visual. [marching band music] Boosh!
It is a funny visual, but that’s dangerous stuff.
Yeah, it is dangerous stuff. We can’t do that.
Is it tough dealing with lawyers on the show?
Yeah, sometimes, it’s a bummer. The laws bum me out. California’s a two-consent state. You can’t record hidden camera, so a lot of prank stuff is really hard to do in California. You can’t record hidden audio because it’s wiretapping. It’s a felony, so we shot a lot in New York. New York’s a one-consent state; you can shoot hidden camera there. It’s hard, a couple bits that we shot here got cut because of those laws. It sucks because you spend a bunch of time and money and energy into a bit and it goes off well, but it will never see the light of day because of it’s illegal. We shouldn’t have been producing it the way we were to begin with, but that shit bums me out.
What are the reasons that KFC bit was illegal or the McDonald’s one?
Well, ad sales — half of Adult Swim is Cartoon Network, so a lot of their shit they put in Happy Meals. KFC and McDonald’s are big sponsors, so they don’t want to piss off the sponsors, which I get, but whatever.
It’s like the same as the ABC thing, where it’s not like the sponsors are watching Adult Swim at midnight.
Yeah, nobody’s fucking paying attention.
Do you have any plans for projects outside of The Eric Andre Show that you’re working on?
Yeah, a little bit. I’ve been trying to make an album for like five years. I make like one song every three years. I want to do a one-hour standup special over the next year. I don’t know. Sometimes, I get superstitious. I have a feature idea too that I’m trying to put pen to paper on, but I’ve been so busy with the show that I haven’t been able to get to all these other pet projects.
Do you have any dream guests that you’d want to get for the show that you haven’t been able to yet?
Yeah, Maya Angelou.
Have you made any attempts at that?
We did. I think she’s in North Carolina. I think her rate is like $10,000 or 20,000. She’s super expensive. She’s really old. She probably, even if we could afford to do it, wouldn’t want to do it, so it’s been hard. But I think we go out to her every year and see if she’ll do it for way less money.
Do you have to pay a lot of people rates like that to do the show?
Yeah, we pay people, but it’s Adult Swim. We don’t have tons of money.
Right. You don’t have Maya Angelou money.
[Laughs] Yeah. It’s not that great of a deal. It’s like, come onto the show for no money and be psychologically tortured by the host. But everybody likes the final product, I think. Ryan Philippe did the show last year, and I ran into him this year and he was like, “Dude, I’m such a big fan. That interview came out so well.” He was, like, over the moon about it.
The Eric Andre Show’s second season premieres on tonight at 12:30am on Adult Swim.