Watching The Eric Andre Show always felt like you’d just entered some sort of lawless state. The titular host would destroy his desk every episode, then slowly torture whatever celebrity guest was under the hot studio lights with uncomfortable questions and surreal bits. Maybe he’d slurp up his own vomit in front of a horrified Lauren Conrad or start fighting his co-host Hannibal Buress in front of True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten. Their man-on-the-street bits, featuring Andre as a ranch-obsessed raver or any number of odd characters, especially shirked the law.
“Like, I used to just go out there and be a fucking maniac and then I got arrested. I got arrested, like a couple times,” Andre tells me over the phone. For the first three or so seasons, they never bothered to get permits for these segments, ending the bit whenever the cops told them to clear out.
The same wild ethos informs Andre’s first-ever Netflix stand-up special, Legalize Everything, which includes an awfully timely opening segment with Andre as an unruly New Orleans cop and anecdotes about the various drugs he’s taken. Though many of his fans aren’t used to seeing him in such a conventional format, Andre’s been performing stand-up since 2003. However, he warns that we shouldn’t get used to seeing him back onstage.
“I think I’m gonna retire. I think I’m one and done,” he says, later adding, “I want to move into movies and TV, and like, [stand-up] is just so hard. Some people love it. I have like a love-hate for it and I don’t—I feel like I’m better creatively served in a more visual medium.”
When I ask what exactly he hates about it, Andre promptly replies, “It is just such a grind. It’s a grind and like, the biggest frustration is when jokes work at first and then they get moldy and old and they stop working and you can’t figure out why and psychologically fucks with you.”
And as for what he likes about stand-up? “I think instant gratification. When you’re crushing on stage, you get that instant feedback from the audience, you know, versus like, delayed gratification of television and filmmaking, which is like, slow, a much, much slower process. You know, stand-up, you’re connecting directly to the fans and it’s just more of a rush, or invigorating.”
Andre’s transition to film has already started with the hidden camera film Bad Trip, featuring Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish and Michaela Conlin, which Netflix acquired the rights to in May, Variety reports. The veteran comedians were now on Andre’s turf, and Howery had an especially difficult time with the unpredictability of shooting a hidden camera film.
“Rel’s second day of shooting, he was like, ‘What is this bit?’ I was like, ‘We put our dicks in a Chinese finger trap and we’re gonna walk into a barber shop in a panic in, like, the hood and we’re gonna ask the dude if he has scissors to cut us out.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, okay,’ ” Andre recalls.
“And then we go in and the guy was furious and he looked for the barber. We go into the barber shop. The barber was furious. He’s pissed. He’s looking for his gun. He can’t find his gun, so he grabs his knife and chases us out with a knife,” Andre continues. The crew’s security guard jumped in and explained what exactly was going on to the barber.
“He went from like murderous rage to like, support,” Andre says.Howery was understandably shaken: “So Rel was like, ‘Dude, you’re gonna get me killed, Eric. I have kids. What are you doing?’ I was like, ‘Well, we got a great shot.’ ”
Another challenge of Bad Trip was keeping from being recognized. They purposefully avoided certain demographics who would know them—namely, college kids—and steered themselves towards middle aged folks.
“Rel is like a chameleon. Tiffany is like—Tiffany is, we disguised Tiffany: we gave her face tattoos and cornrows and… It was a combination of like avoiding the—they’re called marks, like people that you prank are called marks—so avoiding the marks that we didn’t want and keeping the marks we did want around,” Andre explains.
Those who did recognize them—dubbed “looky loos”—were convinced to keep quiet so that the pranks could take place.
“My PAs and my stunt coordinator, they were very good at… seducing the looky loo into like, ‘No, no, no, if you want to be on our side, just quiet. Just walk away—like walk across the street, get out of frame.’ You know what I mean?” Andre tells me. “So, that was… it wasn’t easy, but we got it. We got it down to a science by like the second week.”
Of course, speaking to Andre right now, it felt necessary to address the ongoing protests against police brutality.
“It’s America, you know, it’s founded on slavery and Native American genocide. So it’s kind of in our DNA to be shitty to minorities,” he says.
Despite the bleakness we’re surrounded by, Andre harbors hope: “I think progress is being made. I think like, people are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore and they have to keep being disruptive and keep protesting using non-violence and civil disobedience. We gotta make these politicians pay attention… I think it’s ultimately good. I think it’s the beginning of a”—he puts on a French accent— “revolution.”
Andre’s Legalize Everything anticipates what 2020 has become: a time to question authority and the racist systems we’ve been conditioned to accept, and also to be on a lot of drugs.
Eric Andre’s Legalize Everything is now streaming on Netflix.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast, hibernophile and contributing writer for Paste’s music and comedy sections. She also exercises her love for reality TV at HelloGiggles every now and then. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.