Eric André Proudly Defends Dumb Comedy
Describing Eric André’s comedy ends up being a lot like watching the opening credits for his show: a confused jumble of comedy snippets cobbled together into a crazy quilt. (Visit his site to get an idea of what that’s like.) And that’s 100 percent by design.
André, whose previous work on Don’t Trust the B— In Apartment 23 and The Internship memorably stood out created his eponymous show when he was an underemployed stand-up, which was picked up by Adult Swim after the exact opposite of a bidding war. The show, soon to be in its third season combines live remotes which are sometimes cruel pranks, (one episode features André holding a camera to his face, and upon removing the camera, he is a cyclops) and other times brilliantly stupid comedic stunts (Hannibal Buress tests pretzels, concluding “pretzels is the same.”)
I recently sat down with Eric as he literally finished writing season three. (Seriously. The writing team was finishing the scripts off at the coffee shop I picked him up at.)
Karen: The origin story of The Eric André Show is kind of unbelievable. You taught yourself Final Cut, did everything on a shoestring budget and the show was rejected by everyone, except for Adult Swim. Is that true?
Eric: It’s true. We had meetings with everybody, and they said “this is funny, but we can’t do this on our network.” One exec said, “It kind of looks like public access.” (Which is the whole fucking point.) That’s the joke: it’s meant to look like the whole show could fall apart at any time.
Karen: But Tim & Eric’s show also looked low budget…
Eric: That’s because it had to be that way. They were just starting out, and all they had was a green screen. And, they grew up watching public access too, it’s a big influence.
Karen: Even through the show is absolutely maniacal, each sketch has its own “message” or “meaning” to it. Is that a focus or intent from your end? Or does great comedy just naturally make great commentary?
Eric: It’s not that academic. We try to make ourselves laugh first. We’re influenced by intellectual bullshit, but we try not to overthink it. We try to come up with the dumbest shit ever, and we really like poop jokes.
Karen: It’s hard to write any comedy, but it seems like it’s harder to write “dumb comedy.” Is that the case for you?
Eric: It’s the easiest. That’s why I do it: I’m incredibly lazy. [laughs.] Nah, it’s easy to overthink shit. That’s really from Tommy Blacha, from series one who guided that. We were trying to way overthink it and do these really heady bits, and he was just, “Guys. When you overthink, you over-stink. Watch this: A chicken enters wearing a stethoscope named Doc Chicken and you guys all start chanting “Doc Chicken.” We all started cracking up and saying “that is the STUPIDEST idea ever.” But it was the most popular segment of season one.
Karen: You often retweet hate tweets. What’s your motivation behind that?
Eric: I think it’s funny. I want people to see all the shit I deal with. It’s funny, because it’s self-deprecating. I also do it because then I don’t have to fight back. I retweet it and my followers go harass that person.
Karen: Hannibal Buress is a foil to you, instead of a sidekick. Is that something you cultivate, or is it organic from your history?
Eric: We have a script, but it all goes out the window the moment we start riffing. The best stuff happens that way. The script is really just a guideline so we know the path.
Karen: Talk to me about some of the more odd things from season two. Specifically, why you painted a picture of Hannibal’s mother on a codpiece covering your junk.
Eric: That bit actually happened entirely in editing. The real joke I said when we filmed it was way dumber. I said, “What’s up with Betty White? Call me when there’s a Betty Black,” and then I dropped my pants and that’s an image of Betty White right there. And I say, “yes, please!”
My editor hated it. He cut it so I said “What’s up with Hannibal’s mom?” Hannibal’s mom hates that joke. She left him a voicemail that said, “Tell Eric that only stupid people talk about people’s mothers on television.” It’s the funniest. He told me I had to apologize to his mom. He texted me her number.
Karen: You were on a cult show (Don’t Trust the B— In Apartment 23) which was cancelled. Can you tell us a story from your time on there?
Eric: I used to tell Dreama things and she believed them. One time, she asked me how old the oldest woman was that I slept with. She said, “Over 40?” and I said “way older than 40.” “Over 50?” “Over 60? Over 70?” She asked. I said “79.” Her response was “she must have been a beautiful woman!” And I said,”No, she was hideous. She was a beast!” She believed it for two days, until James Van Der Beek told her “You know, he’s fucking with you, right?” I loved that show. Everyone was great. It was a really nurturing environment.
Karen: What are you able to tell us about your FX show with Jay Baruchel?
Eric: Jay plays a schlubby kind of guy that just got dumped by his girlfriend and the whole world shits on him for the duration of the show. I play his cocky best friend, who’s a womanizer-chauvinist guy. It has a fantastical spin on it like Walter Mitty. It has that Scott Pilgrim kind of vibe.