Eric Andre has made reinvention a staple of The Eric Andre Show. What started as a lo-fi spoof of the celebrity talk show circuit has evolved and devolved over four seasons. In season 3, Andre’s refreshed look featured a Katt Williams-esque perm. In Season 4, Andre completely let himself go: He neglected to bathe and turned the set into what he called “ratty and disgusting and gray, like a Soviet prison.”
After four years off air, The Eric Andre Show returns to Adult Swim on Oct. 26 with a complete 180. The new set is bright, colorful, and ritzy. “I wanted the set to be Liberace inspired,” Andre told Den of Geek ahead of the season 5 premiere. “I just wanted to do everything the opposite.”
The changes to the show are not only cosmetic. Andre’s longtime sidekick Hannibal Buress quits the show after the first episode, and is replaced by a clone. Eventually the clone also quits.
Structurally, The Eric Andre Show mostly remains in tact. He may look more glamours, but Andre still opens every show by manically recking his set. The man-on-the-street pranks are as gross and random as ever. He even got his good friend, Grammy nominated rapper/singer Lizzo, to put on the green suit for Bird Up.
These antics do come at a price. As he told Jimmy Kimmel in a recent interview, Andre landed in the hospital with a concussion after stunt in which John Cena throws him through a bookshelf went wrong. Andre bounced right back. A comedian who masters the art of reinvention can have a long and prosperous career, so long as he’s not snapped into pieces by a WWE superstar.
Though it comes in the midst of a nightmare of a year, Andre’s career is prospering right now. In June he debuted his first ever stand-up special which is available on Netflix. His long gestating feature-length prank film, Bad Trip, was originally slated to premiere at the canceled SXSW 2020, and have a theatrical release shortly after. Those plans changed with COVID-19 upheaving the movie theater industry, and Netflix picked up the film and plans to release it next year, according to Andre.
Over zoom, we spoke with Andre about the return of The Eric Andre Show and what he has in-store for season 5.
Before we get into The Eric Andre Show season 5, you had your first stand-up comedy special drop on Netflix over the summer. Your closer absolutely killed. How did you come up with the mom / phone bit?
There was this Knitting Factory show years ago in Brooklyn, and I did it to my mom. I would prank my friends with that autotech shit, just to scrambled brains. And then I was like, ‘Oh, my mom would be perfect to do it to.’ And I’m on the east coast. Usually when I do a stand-up show in L.A. she’s in bed because she’s three hours ahead. But I was in her time zone. She’s in Florida. So I pranked my mom, and it worked so fucking good. And the audience was going fucking bananas. And then I tried to prank her again at a different show. I tried to recreate it, and she already knew the gag. So she’s like, “Okay, you’re pranking me again.” So I was like, “How do I keep this up?” Because it just worked so well. And then I just started doing it with people’s moms in the audience.
I used to do it in the middle of the set, but it would bring the house down and I couldn’t recover. I couldn’t go back to my material afterwards. So I really had to start doing it at the end. And it’s just such a great… and it’s G-rated too. Everyone relates to mom confusion. Everybody’s mom, at some point, or many points throughout their lives, is very confused, doesn’t get a pop culture reference right. So everybody can relate to mom confusion, and auto-correct, and auto-fill, and all those things that scramble mom’s brain. So it’s a good G-rated dismount after a bunch of R-rated material.
It’s been a long time since The Eric Andre Show has been on air. And in that time, a lot of really, really bad TV shows have debuted. Is Bird Up is still the worst show on TV?
I hope so. I hold that trophy high. So fingers crossed that we continue. Maybe I shouldn’t reveal. We got Lizzo in the Bird Up outfit this season. We did Lizzo up.
How’d you convince her?
We were friends with her before she was famous, so she’s good friends with my director. So Lizzo being famous is crazy to us. So we just texted her. I’m like, ‘Lizzo, come do the show,’ and she was like, ‘Cool.’ That was probably the easiest casting. She was really good at it. She may be much better at it. She flourished. She got in that outfit, she brought her flute.
In the trailers it’s pretty obvious that there’s a crazy new set design for season 5. What were your inspirations behind the look and feel of the new season?
So I basically did everything the opposite of season four. So the previous season, season four, I lost weight. I got pale, I grew out my hair. I didn’t brush or wash my hair. I didn’t wear deodorant. I got really stinky. I didn’t wash my suit once, I grew out my fingernails. And the set was really ratty and disgusting and gray, it was like a Soviet prison.
In season five, I wanted everything the opposite. It was a ritzy and rich set, I wanted the set to be Liberace inspired. I got rid of all my body hair, I waxed my pubic hair, I shaved my armpit hair, I bic’d my head bald. I would tan every day. I bleached my teeth. I got my fingers and nails manicured, pedicured. I would put on a ton of brut cologne every morning. I gained weight. I just wanted to do everything the opposite, season five from season four. So that’s how we got to the look.
I know sometimes it can be difficult for actors to gain or lose weight. How was it for you?
I’m not very good at it. My body doesn’t want to. I wasn’t good at losing it, I wasn’t good at gaining it. I am far from Christian Bale. He also has a team of nutritionists that calculate how to fucking do it. But I was eating peanut butter jelly sandwiches and pizza every night before bed. That’s my go-to. And I got pretty puffy. I probably put on 20 pounds, but it was inconsistent. I couldn’t nail it. It’s fucking hard. And you’re depressed, and you’re irritable, you’re cranky, you’re sugar crashing. It’s fucked up. It’s not good for your body. I’d never do it again. No more body modifications, I don’t think. Life’s too short to put your organs through that.
Does having that extra weight help you throw your body around during those opening scenes?
It doesn’t. You’re huffing and puffing, it’s hard to tie your shoes. It stresses my body. I didn’t even gain that much. I can’t imagine Christian Bale gaining 60 pounds, that guy’s going to die soon. It really stresses your body out.
What was it like editing and putting the finishing touches on this season during the pandemic?
It wasn’t ideal. We started editing before COVID happened. So that was good. We got a good chunk. We got into our groove with the season before COVID happened, and then we finished remotely from home. But we were already in the groove, and it’s not our first rodeo. It’s the best season yet. We knew what bits were working and what wasn’t. So it wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t insurmountable.
With the man on the street bits, do you think that there’s going to be a heightened sense of shock value because it’s airing now?
It’s hard to remember the before times, but I don’t know. Maybe, that would be an added bonus if it feels heightened stakes. But yeah, it was filmed before the quarantine.
I remember you telling us in a past interview that you had a couple of close encounters on the set of Bad Trip with some of the pranks, particularly the barbershop scene. On the set of season five, did you have any close calls or interesting stories from season 5?
There’s this one where I’m a news reporter and I’m in Newark, New Jersey, reporting on the street. There’s this passed out businessman, stuntman behind me that looks like he jumped off a building and tried to commit suicide. And then he started getting up, and I go to my news camera team. I’m like, ‘This guy, if he doesn’t stay injured, I don’t have a story.’ Boom. And I started kicking him on the ground. The guys bleeding out the back of the head, kicking him on the ground. I’m like, ‘Stay down, motherfucker. I need this story.’ All these people came out of coffee shops and this one guy was like, ‘I’m going to fucking kill you.’ And I was like, ‘No, if I don’t get this story, I don’t get the promotion I need, this man is my big break in news.’ And he’s like, ‘I’m going to fucking kill you.’ And we had to, we pushed that guy to the limit before he clocked me, and then we had to cut and reveal.
When it comes to the guests on the show, I always think back to James Van Der Beek calling the experience a “fever dream.” Were there any interactions off the camera with guests this season that stuck out to you?
It’s way more exciting on camera for my show, than off camera. Oh, the best was, I forgot about this, so we had Robin Givens on the show. She’s an actress, she’s been around for a few decades. She was married to Mike Tyson at one point. And I’m lighting her up, so we’re dropping cockroaches from the ceiling, and we have maggots coming out of food. The show is like a haunted house. So she’s freaking the fuck out, and her publicist, or her agent I think, is fucking pissed. I didn’t know this at the time. I’m in front of the cameras interviewing her. My second AD told me, her agent is running around, we don’t let any of their agents or publicists on the stage while we’re rolling, because we don’t want them to stop the interview.
So my second AD and my first AD are running this woman around, her pissed off agent, they’re running her around in circles. She’s like, “End this interview now, how do I get to the studio?” My second AD goes, “Go through that door, take a left, take a right,” and then they’re just sending her around in circles. She comes out, ‘I went through that door.’ They’re like, ‘All right, go outside, here’s a shortcut, go through the elephant door, go here.’ And they’re just sending her around to locked doors and around the building, just running laps around the building, while I’m dropping maggots from the sky in front of Robin Givens. She was so pissed. Yeah. We definitely got the release form ahead of time on that one.
Are you guys at the point where, for the most part, the guests know or at least have some sense of an idea of what they’re stepping into? Or are you still catching people off guard?
We purposely try to get guests that have no idea what my show is, who I am, what Adult Swim is. Every once in a while we do, but we just light their ass up. You know what I mean? I think even if you know the show, when vermin and pestilence are exploding out of the desk, you’re still going to have a great reaction. So it’s foolproof in that way. But yeah, we definitely try to not get hipper, younger guests. We try to stay over 40. So there’s a definite age limit to my fan base. Not all the time, some middle-aged bands and even older fans, but for the most part the fan base is millennials, gen Z
With your stand-up special, the movie Bad Trip eventually coming out on Netflix, and now the new season of The Eric Andre Show, those are three very different mediums you’ve worked across recently. Is there a medium right now that you find the most creatively fulfilling?
To me it’s not the medium, it’s the idea. With The Eric Andre Show, obviously I have pure creative freedom. I’m in the zone with it the most. I think standup is the hardest. The movie was no small feat. But yeah, any and all mediums.