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We Met Eric Andre at Del Taco; He Told Us About Japanese Penis Monsters

We Met Eric Andre at Del Taco; He Told Us About Japanese Penis Monsters:
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Eric Andre is tonguing a taco.

It’s 11:30 on a Wednesday morning, and the comedian is perched in a corner booth of a Del Taco in Studio City. Wearing dark jeans, Reeboks emblazoned with Basquiat prints and a T-shirt covered in a collage of bare breasts, Andre is manhandling some items from the “Buck & Under" menu as a photographer snaps his picture. The wage-workers at the cash register don’t sweat the celebrity shoot by the salsa bar; after all, this is sun-bleached L.A., where film shoots far outnumber rain clouds on the horizon. Andre moves from booth to booth, striking poses, backdropped by the restaurant’s bland pop music and the occasional warm breeze of rehydrated beans.

Los Angeles is a taco town, whose finest fare is slung from itinerant food trucks—not so much this Mecca for post-party munchies. But for Andre, the location is all part of the joke, and he’s always down to take one for the team.

On his Adult Swim series, The Eric Andre Show, he’s adept at elevating ordinary moments with surreal and borderline violent antics, whether he’s awkwardly interviewing C-list celebrities or assailing the public with street stunts. As a chillaxed lothario on a surrealist sitcom Man Seeking Woman, whose second season is currently running on FXX, he counterbalances his character’s neurotic best friend (Jay Baruchel), staying cool whether they’re encountering trolls or attending a wedding in hell. “It’s really wacky, sort of like a Naked Gun thing,” he says, “[but] we play every situation like it’s real, even if there’s Japanese penis monsters dancing around.”

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After today’s shoot, Andre squats on a curb outside Del Taco and reflects on a busy couple of weeks. Just down the street is his office, where he has been editing the fourth season of his own show, which kicks off in the fall. He was also recently a part of a hologram stand-up act. “It was the first comedy hologram show,” he says of his image beamed to a theater in Vancouver. “I didn’t do anything clever; I stood in front of a camera and took my penis out.”

As you’d expect from a statement like that, Andre holds nothing back on his own show. He begins each episode by smashing his desk, immediately setting the pace for the series, which obliterates the setup of how talk-show hosts sleepwalk through the well-trodden format. “We average 27 a season,” Andre says of his desk kill-count. “I treat it like a sport now. I started working out; I eat a banana the night before. I’m drinking electrolytes so I have more energy for set destruction.”

He says this season’s guests are some big gets, including rappers TI, Danny Brown and A$AP Rocky alongside actors including Jack Black. But for Andre, his best guest is ‘90s rap-rock act 311, who have been subject of a long running joke on the show.

Yet, Andre always makes himself the butt of the joke. “This season is a really dystopian, a really Eraserhead kind of season,” he says. “I grow my nails out like Howard Hughes. I didn’t wear deodorant the entire season; I got my suit all stinky and sweaty. My dream was to lose a ton of a weight this season, and next season get really tan and gain a bunch of weight and shave every hair on my body, so it looks like I have alopecia.”

Andre loves a good bad idea. In the show’s first season, one of the shows writers gave Andre the framework for his comedic process. “He was like ‘the dumber the idea, the better,’” Andre laughs. “He would say, ‘If you overthink, you over-stink.’”

But there’s an art to Andre’s absurdity. Like the Angeleno artist Chris Burden’s late night television spots—and his habit of buying advertising time during local news broadcasts to showcase himself crawling nearly naked through glass—Andre’s work is almost performance art. The pinnacle of his acts may be “Bird Up,” the surrealist swansong of last season, where Andre wore a skin tight greenscreen body suit and a fake parrot on his shoulder as he accosted bystanders on the street. It’s the perfect nexus for after-midnight audiences, inspired, Andre explains, by his own experiences watching Liquid Television, MTV’s experimental animation showcase from the ‘90s that spawned Beavis & Butthead and Aeon Flux. “I grew up on TV,” he says of his early days in Florida. “There was no culture in Boca Raton, I didn’t fit into any scene out there, so TV was my escape, my only access to culture.”

His father wanted him to go to law school, but Andre choose to go to Berklee School of Music, where he studied upright bass. When he moved to New York City, he interned for esteemed indie label Matador Records and became interested in challenging bands like Death Grips and Hella—whose members later appeared his show.

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When Andre’s show launched in 2012, it channelled mosh-pit energy, remix aesthetics and punkish iconoclasm into the anarchy he unleashed on-screen. His jumpcut style mirrored the cut-and-paste nature of online life, where users play digital hopscotch, bouncing from Facebook to to Instagram to Youtube and back again, collecting random imagery along the way. These digital fragments and non-sequiturs have made Andre into something like a human GIF.

Here on the curb outside Del Taco, Andre is feeling the pressure. “Comedy is very competitive,” he says. “I always want each season to be better and more high-stakes. I wonder, Is this funny anymore?” His answer rolls up in a primer grey Toyota 4Runner on its way to the drive-thru. The window rolls down, and a middle-aged Latina driver leans out and proclaims: “We love you Eric Andre!”

Man Seeking Woman airs on Wednesdays at 10:30pm on FXX.

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