The Star of The Eric Andre Show Keeps It Surreal, and Then Some squib
Eric Andre's humor is so fucked-up, it should be banned... by the FDA. Joking!
by Dave Segal
The creator of The Eric Andre Show has described his Adult Swim series as "like poop and pee mixed together." While that undersells the program—a hyperbolic and absurdist parody of public-access talk shows—it underscores Andre's scatological sensibilities and knack for shocking and mocking decorum.
The son of an Afro-Haitian psychiatrist father and an Ashkenazi Jewish mother from New York City, the 36-year-old comic and musician resembles a swarthier Larry Fine from the Three Stooges, an early paragon of television slapstick comedy that I'd bet your drug money Andre watched in his youth.
Since 2012, Andre has hosted and cowritten The Eric Andre Show with fellow stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress. It's a mélange of pranks, physical humor, and celebrity interviews that veers 180 degrees from talk shows' ho-hum formulas. Even the chair in which guests sit is an uncomfortable joke.
Every facet of talk-show protocol is violated with as much absurdity and cringeworthy awkwardness as host Andre and sidekick Buress (who creepily stands near the guests instead of sitting) can muster. From the house band's slight offness to the hilarious freeze-frames to the ADHD interviewing to the set-wrecking antics to the vermin infestations, The Eric Andre Show trashes convention with maniacal, inventive glee.
The tension that ensues when guests—an array of quasi-desperate actors, musicians, and comedians—have their patience and credulity strained to the breaking point generates some of the most abdomen-wrenching humor that's ever flickered on a screen. They walk in expecting to hype their latest work and storm out cursing their hosts... and probably their agents, too. Or they roll with the shitstorm of WTF? like good sports.
What could come off as juvenile trope-snubbing actually smacks you upside the noggin with brash freshness. No transition is too ridiculous, no sight gag too gross, no interview gambit too outrageous for Andre and Buress. The Eric Andre Show makes Zach Galifianakis's Between Two Ferns seem like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
In his stand-up performances, Andre delivers similarly skewed observations with a gravel-voiced hysteria. Some subjects include his biracial status, the mentality behind
homophobia, Wendy's Baconator, and the show MANswers, whose hyper-macho approach to television he hilariously dissects.
It would be more than enough if Andre had limited himself to stand-up, TV, and film (he's acted in The Lion King and the forthcoming Bad Trip). But he's also a musician who studied double bass at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Bafflingly, Andre doesn't want you to know that he's the mastermind behind Blarf, a new recording project for the revered Stones Throw label. But Wikipedia has spilled the beans, even if his publicist insists the topic is off-limits. Whatever the case, there's no reason not to celebrate the brilliant debut album, Cease & Desist—the title a reference to the legalese that hits musicians who sample recordings without permission.
Sonically, Cease & Desist is as scatterbrained and startling as Andre's comedy. Its nine tracks assault you with grotesquely manipulated samples, splenetic beats, noise bombs, R&B parodies, and snippets of
spoken-word dialogue. It bears similarities to hip-hop and the crazier end of EDM, but run through a series of fun-house mirrors until all semblance to musical reality descends into recursive madness. "I Worship Satan," for example, spends 12 minutes soundtracking a futuristic war on Saturn.
The album's zenith, "Badass Bullshit Benjamin Buttons Butthole Assassin," is a maximalist bouillabaisse of disjointed funk beats, wantonly warped tones, and samples familiar and obscure, including Barry White's "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More" and Richard Pryor cracking wise about religion. It's like Squarepusher on the strongest acid. The amazing video is the perfect graphic analogue of the music. This is the audiovisual equivalent of the best worst DMT experience you've never had. Let's hope that Andre's stand-up act can match that level of derangement.