Figuring Out What Makes Millennials Tick With Derrick Beckles

We talk with Adult Swim's Derrick Beckles as we dig into his gonzo send-up of tomorrow's future: today’s youth

Derrick Beckles’ and Eric Andre’s Mostly 4 Millennials is as close as television will ever get to making the audience feel like they’re literally trapped in a teenager’s drug-fueled fever dream. Mostly 4 Millennials is a lot and it will absolutely be too chaotic and surreal for most people. For those that have been eager for something that’s as weird as The Eric Andre Show, but somehow even crazier, get ready for this new madness to become your new religion.

Mostly 4 Millennials uses the innocent structure of a variety talk show for teens and early twenty-somethings, but pushes this premise as far as possible. The result is an exhausting vehicle that never slows down or allows the viewer to catch their breath (both from laughter and from gasping in shock).

Beckles injects awkward interviews, made-up musical guests, and unreal man-on-the-street segments to create something that’s the perfect satire of millennials and their culture, while it’s simultaneously a program that they would love. It’s like if David Lynch and PFFR produced educational programming for high schools.

We get woke with Derrick Beckles as he talks about the evolution of this insane show, the most shocking moments from filming, and why this generation provides an infinite source of entertainment. #thinkaboutit, y’all!

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DEN OF GEEK: I was a big fan of Totally 4 Teens and this show is obviously very much an extension of that. How would you say that these shows are different and is there anything that you learned from the Totally 4 Teens experience that helped here?

DERRICK BECKLES: You’re right, the shows definitely share some DNA. Totally 4 Teens and The Eric Andre Show, myself, and Eric, and all the writers involved with those programs really helped shape what they’d become. The network always loved Totally 4 Teens, but they passed on it and so we just kept kind of making other stuff with them. I always kind of wanted to re-visit Totally 4 Teens and now it feels even more relevant.

Let me be clear though, the show was never designed to make fun of—even back to my TV Carnage compilation videos, I hate it when something is just making fun of a generation of people. So Eric and I were very clear from the start that this is not meant to be a lampoon of a generation. It’s more about corporate desperation and how every generation is like the one that everybody becomes obsessed with and it feeds into the world. With millennials, social media, and all of that stuff it just becomes this perfect storm of people not knowing what to say, or think, or do. It’s like three-dimensional TV Carnage. That’s what we’re living now. I don’t even know how you could do something like TV Carnage now because just everything is so ridiculous. There’s too much.

What I learned from Totally 4 Teens is that none of that goes away. The stuff I was saying ten years ago in Totally 4 Teens is still relevant today. It’s something that Eric and I celebrate, both together and individually, but it’s this sort of obsequious desperation. This need to be cool, to make money off of what’s cool, and how that can be embarrassing a lot of the time. Anybody that was part of any generation loved laughing at adults trying to be cool. But a lot of thought goes into all of the elements that we throw together rather than just a base level, “millennials are dumb!”

Your work with the TV Carnage compilations, Hot Package, and this show all tie into this idea of parodies of entertainment variety shows. Why does this subject interest you the most?

I think it interests me because the lines are blurred in terms of how people should be informed and what we should be spending our time on. It’s become so insane and this bizarre form of escapism that we start to use to define ourselves. It’s sort of like back in the days of tabloids in the checkout aisle of a supermarket and it was relegated to that niche area, but now it’s somehow in the norm and in your morning news. It’s the centerpiece rather than the fringe and that’s interesting to me.

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I have been wanting to get away from this variety show vibe, which I love, but I’d love to get into more narrative stuff. I’ve got some pretty dumb things brewing in that area that it’d be fun to get out. I’m obsessed with cults and so I’ve written this thing about two guys trying to get their cult back together, but it all sort of goes back to this same idea. Like even though Mostly 4 Millennials is a variety show, we still try and make my host an actual character. We try to give him a couple of layers, if possible. He’s like the head of this company and just morally corrupt, ethically devoid, and blows in the wind of whatever people tell him. He’s also this temperamental fraud and this generation thinks he’s a God to some extent. Even on the Eric Andre Show we really spend a lot of time thinking about character, even if it doesn’t seem like it.

There’s a really bonkers, overwhelming style to how the show is edited and shot. Did you ever get concerned this was too much? Did you go the opposite and make it even more aggressive to freak people out?

I’m glad it gives that visceral reaction because we’re definitely conscious of how much we cram in. With this particular show, part of the psychological mandate of it is that it is disorienting to some extent. I feel like that’s what we’re living now in terms of how much social media, and how many apps, and all of these things that tug at us every day. As human beings I don’t think we’re exactly wired for that, but the show mirrors that experience.

So, at times, the pacing is aggressive and there are a lot of jokes packed in, but when it is overwhelming that’s when the producers of the “show” are trying to make it seem cooler. So we have that, but understand when to take a breathe. That being said because it’s Adult Swim they always just want it to go further. A lot of conversations we’ve had have just been like, “More! More!” I love that. I really wanted to make sure that it was right on the line of what was mentally tolerable.

All of the “Man on the Street” stuff that I’ve seen is really great. Do you have a preference between that stuff, or the studio stuff?

They’re definitely two different ways of telling jokes and communicating ideas and getting our version of a message across. You always have to wrap these things in absurdity and Adult Swim is always open to the more bizarre side of comedy. When we go outside of the studio we always try to make it big and weird. It’s great to do this stuff in front of other people, but it’s also way more dangerous.

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Sometimes, people just want to kick the shit out of you, especially with this show. We’re always careful to make sure the joke isn’t just, “We tripped a guy, he got hurt, and isn’t that funny!?” They’re supposed to be our own social experiments. It’s like if Just For Laughs Gags was making their final episodes before armageddon.

What are the standout reactions or experiences from guests? Did anyone really freak out or not appreciate what was happening?

I’ll put it this way—and I’m not trying to be coy—but our lawyers were sent letters from some of our guests, one in particular who wasn’t very happy. It was all funny stuff, but they didn’t have a fantastic sense of humor. That happens sometimes! We had Ann Coulter on though and she hung in there, that’s for sure. She hung in there. We had her, Snooki, Joey Badass, and we do stuff to all of them and interact with them in a way where no one is sacred. Like I think Joey Badass is really wonderful, but I’m not going to be this glad-handing imbecile when he’s on. Everybody gets treated the same. They walk in there and then they walk out a changed person, for the better.

Finally, Derrick, is there more Eric Andre Show on the way?

Yeah, there will be. He’s working on another project right now that we wrote together, but once that’s done we’re going to do another season of Eric and then make more Mostly 4 Millennials!

Mostly 4 Millennials airs Sundays at midnight E.T. and 12:15am on Adult Swim.

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