Eric Andre Discusses His New Podcast Bombing and His Worst Moments on StageComedy Features Eric Andre
When I speak with comedian, actor, writer, and now podcaster Eric Andre over video call, he’s in an anonymous, beige hotel room in Stockholm. He’s found himself with ample free time, in part due to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike, and so has been on a whirlwind trip through Morocco, Ghana, São Tomé and Príncipe, Spain, and Sweden. Andre plans on joining the picket line once he’s back in the States, as well as potentially dipping back into stand-up.
“I’m going to do some live stuff,” he tells me, and when I remind him that in 2020 he said he was done with stand-up, Andre responds, “Then the unions went on strike and I was like, ‘Shit, man, I got a mortgage.’”
Also tiding him over during the strike is his new podcast Bombing with Eric Andre, released as part of the iHeartMedia and Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players Network. The podcast premieres today, August 9, and can be heard on the iHeartRadio app and all the usual places. The first episode features Michelle Buteau, of Survival of the Thickest fame. The two share a storied history involving urinating in a cup during a traffic jam and plenty of other shenanigans.
The premise of Bombing is simple: Andre asks his guest, usually a comedian or other type of performer, what their worst experience in front of an audience was, the worst bombing they’ve ever seen, and the most wasted they’ve ever been on stage. Initially he’d also dreamed up a music podcast called Playlist, in which he’d ask other comics and artists about their 10 favorite songs, but licensing costs were prohibitive (“Especially if they’re like, my favorite song is ‘Rock With You’ by Michael Jackson and ‘Birthday’ by the Beatles”). Bombing won out in the end, and it works because, as Andre puts it, “It’s always good, it’s always cathartic to hear people’s failures. It makes them likable and relatable.”
I flip Andre’s main three questions back on the host himself, and I quickly understand why he can make a whole show out of the concept: Andre has so many horror stories from the road.
“The worst show I ever did was in Port Arthur, Texas,” Andre says, explaining that he was in his early 20s and had to deal with an aggressive flight attendant before even landing.
“I get there and the kid picked me up from the airport and he’s like, ‘Hey, man, this town has the biggest KKK population in all of America.’ I was like, ‘Cool.’ He’s like, ‘You could talk about that and in your stand-up,’ I was like, ‘Okay, grab my pen.’” Andre recalls with a laugh. “And then we got to the venue and it was a sad, shitty, dilapidated—it was a college but it looked like a middle school. It looked like where I went to middle school, like a public middle school, auditorium style seating, probably fit 100 people, 150 people. Scantly packed, 20% of its capacity. And it was all moms with their kids, so I couldn’t do any material. There were three year olds in the audience. I couldn’t say any bad words. And the guy was like, ‘Not only are you doing stand up, it’s a variety show. So you gotta bring all these yahoos up.’ And it was just mission impossible. I did so poorly.”
More recently (and by recently he means six years ago—”God, what the fuck, time flies”) Andre bombed while opening for Chris Rock, and ended up in a one-way feud with Anthony Mackie.
“I never did great for [Chris’] audience, but I held my ground. But I never knocked it out of the park. And then this time I was just phoning it in and not really paying attention, and this guy in the audience yelled out, ‘Next!’ I snapped. I was like, ‘Why don’t you come up here, motherfucker?’ Like half joking, half serious, and I was trying to get that guy on stage so I could roast him. He was like, ‘No I’m not coming up, what are you talking about.’” Andre tells me. “And Anthony Mackie was in the audience apparently because Chris Rock is very famous, so celebrities come out to see him. Then my agent called me a week later, and he’s like, ‘Dude, I just had Anthony Mackie in my office. He said you were the worst stand-up comedian that he’s seen in his life.’”
Laughing, Andre concedes: “In his defense, if I saw me that night, I would have been like, that’s the worst comedian I’ve ever seen in my life. So he’s not wrong, but I still hold a grudge to this day, to the point where I saw him at the VMAs, he was like in line on the red carpet in front of me and I was so passive aggressive. He was walking down the red carpet and every time somebody interviewed me, I was like, ‘I don’t have the answer. Maybe Anthony Mackie has all the answers, because he stands in front of a green screen of Captain America, and goes, Wee wee wee, laser beams. Why don’t you ask him?’”
As for the worst bombing Andre has ever seen, it’s difficult for him to narrow it down. “I’ve seen so many. It’s all Vietnam helicopter sound effects in my mind,” he says. Andre recounts one time when his friend John F. O’Donnell made a crack about Jay-Z at a New York variety show, right after a rapper had left the stage. The rapper threw his pint glass at O’Donnell, missing the comedian by inches. O’Donnell tried to power through his set, but Andre convinced him to call it a day.
“I was like, ‘John, get out of here, get off stage. You’re not doing your Tom Cruise material. Wrap it up,’” Andre remembers with a laugh.
Sometimes the person bombing isn’t even the one performing. Once, while playing at a college in Columbus, Ohio, Andre had a belligerently drunk woman in the audience. She was on her phone, stepping on his punchlines, and generally disrupting the set.
“She was being really drunk and really rude the whole show and talking. She was obnoxious. So I go, ‘Give me your phone’… I took her phone and I texted her mom, ‘Mom, I think I have feelings for Dad.’ Send,” Andre says. When she wouldn’t stop interrupting the show, he asked for her phone again, but this time passed it around the entire crowd and told them to text whoever.
“It’s like a game of Russian roulette with a bullet in every chamber. We call that American roulette. So then by the time she got her phone back, which was half an hour later, she was seething. I don’t know what those kids said, but it wasn’t good, as you can imagine, it was a nightmare. So she turned thermometer red and she jumped up on stage and she threw a punch at me,” Andre tells me. Weirdly enough, she still asked for a selfie after the show was done.
When it comes to the most wasted he’s been on stage, Andre says it was either when the now-defunct hip hop group Das Racist gave him loads of ecstasy before a show, or when he did stand-up after seeing Phish perform—during which he had multiple hits of ecstasy to get him through the jam band’s set (“I guess I just gotta do drugs until the music turns good”). In general, though, he doesn’t like to be drunk or high on stage, and even caffeine is iffy for him. Performing is enough of an adrenaline rush.
“I made a vow to myself early on that I was like, I never want to drink before stand-up because I have to get used to the nerves of it all,” he explains. Plus, it makes it easier to remember those moments you bomb for your new podcast.
Bombing with Eric Andre premieres today, August 9, via iHeartMedia and Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players Network. The podcast is streaming on the iHeartMedia app and everywhere else you find podcasts.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.