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Eric Andre Hates That His Cops Joke Is Still Relevant

Eric Andre. Photo: Getty Images

Over a decade ago, Eric Andre was still an up-and-coming stand-up when he saw Cops on the TV at the gym and couldn’t believe that the show, which glamorized the police to the point of being essentially propaganda, was still on the air. So he wrote a joke about how gross the show was and the incongruence of its reggae theme song. What he couldn’t have imagined — or what he probably hoped wouldn’t be the case — is that all these years later, as he’s set to release his first hour-long comedy special Legalize Everything on Netflix on June 23, the joke would still be relevant. It wasn’t until last week, as Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the globe, that Cops was finally canceled after 31 years. Thirty-one years.

On Vulture’s Good One podcast, Andre discussed coming up with the joke and passionately performing it every night. He also discussed the upcoming fifth season of The Eric Andre Show and his Netflix narrative prank movie, Bad Trip. You can read some excerpts from the transcript or listen to the full episode right below. Tune in to Good One every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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On How He’s Doing

I’ve been drinking too much. And the world’s falling apart in a race apocalypse. And we’re in a global pandemic. And yeah, we’re doomed. But other than that, I’m fantastic.

On What He’s Observed at the Protests

A lot of full-frontal nudity. No, I’ve been fortunate. All the ones I’ve been to have been pretty peaceful and civil. I think the news is focusing on the wrong part of it. They’re focusing on vandalized Starbucks. It’s not about that. I actually saw a very diverse group of youth, for the first time, being very proactive. They protested outside of Mayor Garcetti’s house and asked him to defund the police. And he didn’t defund them, but he allocated some of their money, which is out of control. It’s been really productive.

Our generation is taking the power into their own hands and putting stuff on social media because the media is just portraying violence and looting, and they’re not portraying how the police brutality is continuing and how peaceful the protesters are and how proactive and organized the protesters are. I’m really proud of my generation for the first time in forever. So, yeah, it’s been going really good. I think we’re getting the world’s attention now in a positive way.

On (the Recently Canceled) Cops

I grew up watching that show. It was always on and always fascinating, and they definitely downplayed the police brutality — that’s the farce of Cops. But the underlying subtext to Cops is like that Bill Hicks joke: State power will always win, and we’ll bust down your door and get you anytime we want. I also read some article about how cops, in less violent towns, when they’re filmed on the show Cops, they kind of ratchet it up. And people have been killed or hurt because the cops were kind of showing off for the camera.

I heard that they do a dirty trick where they go to the person who’s arrested in the back of the car, [and] they say, “Hey, can we release you?” And the person’s thinking like, Oh, I’m going to be released from these handcuffs. So they’re like, “Yeah.” It’s secret code for a verbal release consent form for the filming. I heard that the producers have a dirty trick. I don’t know if that’s true though. But that’s pretty dirty. It is unethical, producing Cops. 

On Why He Screams Himself Hoarse Onstage

I love Bad Brains. I love punk and metal and noise music and the Boredoms and Mike Patton, Dead Kennedys, all the grindcore bands and metal bands: Cryptopsy, Origin, Dillinger Escape Plan. I grew up listening to loud music and avant-garde jazz — you know, John Zorn and Albert Ayler and Coltrane’s later albums. I like it loud and like it feels like your brain is swelling while you’re listening to it. I also love Chris Farley — [he] was one of my favorite comedians when I was a kid. And I love wrestling. I loved WWF growing up. Those guys are always screaming and yelling like cavemen. There’s something primal about it. I’m also very, very nervous onstage, so it helps get over my nerves.

It’s exhausting. I used to do three sets in a night and I told my agent, “I can’t do this anymore.” By the third set, I’m like, Oh, I sound like I’m on my deathbed, and I feel like it too. And I was getting sick all the time. I’m like, One set a night. That’s all. Even that’s exhausting.

I wish I was like Robin Williams or Richard Pryor and I could tell you [my secret was] freebasing before the sets. But it’s like, I’m eating salads. I’m really lame. I’m like a boring suburban dad. I would do vocal warm-ups and shit and study with a vocal coach. You’ve got to warm up your voice. You’ve got to, like, put your voice on a straw and water and blow bubbles and go like brrrrrrrr and cool down your vocal cords and not talk after the show. It’s a lot of work. It’s a tremendous amount of work.

On the Upcoming Season of The Eric Andre Show

I think it’s our best season. I gained weight for it and got rid of all my body hair except my eyebrows for it. And I spray-tanned every day, and I bleached my teeth. Hannibal [Buress] quits in the middle of the season, and then we clone him and we replaced him with his clone. A lot of drama and action, high stakes. But it’s also [that] we got the pranks down to a science now. After the movie [Bad Trip], we know exactly how to produce pranks and yield such a high result that every single episode is banging. It is by far the best season, I think. We just know what to do, what not to do. And we learn from our mistakes. You learn from your mistakes over and over again. So we know who to hire, who not to hire. We know what bits, when we’re writing them, will yield good results. And we know what writing is un-producible.

I love the show so much … Plus, I’m looking at Always Sunny in Philadelphia going into their 17th season. I look at Curb Your Enthusiasm going into its 10th, 11th season and I’m like, Why would I get rid of this show? Why would I walk away from this? Adult Swim wants more. There’s no show where I’m going to have more creative freedom than this show, and as long as I can pick it up and put it down whatever I want — which is the case — I’m like, Keep the door open.

On His Movie Bad Trip

The movie is the first time that we did pranks that had to be narrative. So we strung together 40 to 60 pranks into a cohesive narrative story, which is no small feat. But we accomplished it and it came out amazing. Plus, Rel [Howery] is amazing in it, and Tiffany Haddish is amazing, and Michaela Conlin. It’s a small cast because you can’t put a bunch of actors in it. You have to keep the cast very minimal so you know exactly who’s being pranked and who’s not. There’s only four cast members, and they’re incredible. And Jeff Tremaine was our mentor the whole time. He directed all the Jackass movies and Bad Grandpa, and he co-founded Jackass. And he has 15 to 20 years more experience than we do. So he was like our Obi-Wan Kenobi. And the final product is amazing. I’m really, really excited.

There was danger. We got a knife pulled out on us the second day of shooting — very dangerous. But I think this is the first, like, ethnic cast, like all people of color cast, that has done a prank thing. I think that this is the only prank movie where it doesn’t seem cynical or punching down or being mean to the people who we’re pranking. We show the humanity in Americans throughout the movie, which is exciting. I think we broke new ground, hopefully.

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Eric Andre Hates That His Cops Joke Is Still Relevant