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The Playboy Conversation: Actor-Comedian Eric Andre

The Playboy Conversation: Actor-Comedian Eric Andre: Photograph by Kyle Mizono

Photograph by Kyle Mizono

For those of you familiar with the comedic antics of Eric Andre (and they are antics, to be sure) you’ll sympathize with our first thought when we learned we’d be having a one-hour sit-down with the man who regularly puts his body on the line for shits and giggles: we secretly hoped the first minute would be a very watered-down version of the batshit crazy intro to The Eric André Show on Adult Swim.

It was not, which is probably for the best considering all the breakable objects strewn about our HQ in Los Angeles. Andre visited us in support of his new comedy Man Seeking Woman, which premieres today on FXX. The half-hour comedy stars Jay Baruchel (This Is The End) as hapless romantic and recent dumpee Josh Greenberg, trying to find love in very hopeless situations. Andre plays Josh’s fast-talking, Tinder-obsessed best friend Mike, who’s luck in love is really only noteworthy in comparison to Josh’s lack there of. There is a trippy fantastical element to the show that makes it hard to explain, so we’ll let Andre take the lead. Read on for our journey through topics like: the problem with Florida, slappin’ da upright bass and why Viagra sucks.

How did they pitch this show to you?
They didn’t really pitch it to me. My manager just e-mailed me the script and I auditioned for Jay’s role and they were like, “Oh no, we don’t want you for the Josh role.” “I’m auditioning for Josh.” Then I didn’t get it and I’m like, “Oh, yay. No, that was a bad idea. Let me audition for Mike.” I met with [creator] Simon Rich when I was in New York. I just loved it. So I fought hard to get it.

How are you selling it? What type of experience it is? It’s not necessarily romantic…
The DVD short version was: Cartoon come to life. I use Walter Mitty as an example; it starts off in the real world and kind of travels into the fantasy world, a surreal world.

In the second episode the ex-girlfriend’s stuff — bras, razors, tampons — starts attacking Jay’s character, which is really funny. How did they shoot the fantastical elements? Practically or did you green screen it?
It’s a combination of both. I think for the most part they did practical effects, and little things coming on wires, but if that wasn’t attainable they just did CGI. But I much prefer practical effects.

What about the girl who was a troll?
That was real. That was a real human being. She was awesome. And everyone else can see [the fantastical elements], it’s not just in his head, it’s just part of the world. Adolf Hitler, we’re making jokes about being sensitive around him.

So what’s the atmosphere like in that kind of situation on set? More imaginative, more physical?
No, it’s less physical than my show but it’s awesome because we’re allowed to like, riff as much as we want and I can say whatever I want. I feel like I have creative freedom, I’m creatively invested in it because, yeah, Simon and the directors, it feels like a very collaborative and nurturing environment.

In reading through each script for each episode was there any particular moment where you were like, “Really? We’re doing this? This is happening?”
I think they tried to freak me out a couple of times but I just came off of my show and I was like, “You can’t freak me out. I’m unfreakable.” I don’t want to spoil an episode but in the finale I’m a sex slave. I have, like, gay sex with this Jabba the Hut kind of overlord creature. Like, a giant puppet. There were like two dudes inside of it, hovering in the arms and the eyeball. It was cool.

I get so tired just watching the intro to The Eric Andre Show.
Me too.

Was there a moment in time where you realized you were good at the awkward stuff?
My entire life I think.

Is it that you enjoy feeling awkward yourself or you enjoy making people feel awkward? I think both. I felt it, so I retaliated on the world to make the world feel it. No. I like celebrating panic attacks. My life has been full of anxiety so instead of trying to hide it or suppress it or cope with it I like fueling it.

I’ve heard you talk about the anxiety and what-not. The Jewish side. But it doesn’t come through in conversation right now.
Really? I’m always a little nervous. I started meditating, which helps a tremendous amount. Exercising helps, therapy helps. So those are three things I didn’t do too much before. But no, I’m pretty anxious. I’ve gotten better.

And then the business you’re in. That’s a lot of pressure.
I know. I don’t even know why I’m doing this. I really don’t. Sometimes I’m like, “What am I doing?” And I feel like I don’t belong here. I get those feelings, like I snuck into the back door of entertainment somehow. It’s like a fluke sometimes.

So how do you know how far to push with your street and subway gags?
I can’t always tell. You never know. I just am kind of bobbing and weaving and fucking with a person enough, right up to the moment where they’re about to punch me. I’m usually doing something so crazy where I’m like covered in milk or something gross where they don’t want to touch me. So they want to punch me, but they don’t want to touch me. They’re like, “This dude.” And it’s on camera. They don’t know why I’m doing it. “So this is like a crazy person, how much do I want to get physical with this lunatic guy?”

I think the last one I saw was you in the centaur outfit, with the cakes…
Yeah, I was scared during that one. The original plan was to have two huge birthday cakes with lit candles on them and get on a really crowded subway but that was impossible.

You’re from Florida, which seems like one of the weirder states. How did it kind of shape your world view growing up there?
I just like resented everybody that lived there. I hated it. It was full of a bunch of racist fucking George Zimmerman, fucking Kenny Powers-type shitheads there and like I had to get out. I got out of there as soon as I possibly could. As soon as I turned 18. I grew up resenting where I’m from, so I think that fuels comedy somewhat. Resenting my parents for dragging me down there. My mom’s from New York, I’d been in New York and they dragged me down there. That’s where I was born, when I was in the spirit realm.

Why do you think that place that creates such weirdos?
It attracts many different shitty people for many different shitty reasons. Everyone there is dumb. It attracts losers. It’s a loser magnet. Well, not everybody. Key West is cool. People in the Keys are dumb but in a cooler way. They’re kind of like ex-pats. Key West is like another little country down there. But everybody else is just like Kenny Powers, like that character.

How do you deal with the love and the hate and the social media aspect of things?
I retweet hate tweets, death threats have gotta go to the police department.

Really?
Yeah. Some I respond to, some I just… Most of them are pretty funny. Some are actually constructive criticism. And some hurt my feelings. You’ve gotta go file [the death threats].

How many have you filed?
Just one. One was clearly like, “I want to kill you.” I wear it as a badge of honor.

How do other comedian friends or people in the business react to that hate and social aspect? Do they appreciate it or say it’s part of the job?
Amy Schumer says the people who call you ugly are like the ugliest grossest people. They tweet her like, “You’re fuckin ugly, bitch.” Then she’ll go to their profile and they’re like Jabba the Hutt. It’s usually hypocrites and stuff like that. Sometimes I’ll retweet or respond and they’re like, “No I was just joking, you’re awesome!” I understand when they hate tweet you on Twitter, because they don’t necessarily follow you, but I don’t get when they hate on your Instagram. It’s like, why are you following me? You don’t have to follow.

I don’t understand that either. I’m curious about the deeper psychological study of what kind of effect it’s going to have on people decades down the line, constantly thinking their opinion is worth something and throwing it out there.
People are much braver on the internet than they are in person. I was talking to Hannibal [Buress], everybody giving him shit for the Bill Cosby stuff, for outing Bill Cosby. He’s like, it only exists online. Nobody has ever come up to him on the street; like, “How could you out Bill Cosby, he’s my hero.” So yeah, people are confident online. Also people are trolling because they just want attention too, so they say something controversial. It’s like a 12 year old.

So you went to music school and played the upright bass, one of my favorite instruments of all time, but I feel like you just don’t talk about it anymore. You don’t care about that bass?
I sold it so I’d have money to move to Los Angeles. I’m gonna buy another one. I just moved into a house so I have space to have an upright bass. I’ve been in an apartment the size of this office for the past five years, so not really an upright bass space. Plus they’re expensive as shit.

Any time someone got on the subway with one I wanted to go over and talk to them about it.
You know, the only time I’ve ever gotten bedroom eyes from the opposite sex was when I was carrying my upright bass on the subway. Other than that, women were just like, get out of my way.

The experience of going to a music school; how do you think that shaped things for you?
I’m glad I did it. I did it when the music industry started falling to pieces. So it was good that I was in it and saw what was going on rather than always wondering what if, or if I was always trying to pursue it. Clearly, this is a mess. It brought me to Boston and that is how I started doing comedy. Open comedy night. I realized in this I will have a career and music is such a crap shoot. You can be the best guitarist or songwriter in the world and it’s not gonna matter. But if you’re good at comedy then you’ll work.

So you save the music for yourself?
Yeah. I wanna put out some of my own music, but it want it to be like the most impossible to listen too. Horrible music. I just want to put out the worst album of all time.

What happened at the end of your Howard Stern interview, after you took half of the Viagra?
It didn’t give me a boner. I started kind of getting aroused as I was walking out, and then by the time I got to the airport it totally went away and I just felt like shit. That fucks with your blood pressure. And then I landed and had to do a table read for Man Seeking Woman then I flew to Toronto and I just felt like ass for the whole rest of the day.

Viagra sucks. I thought it just automatically made you rock hard, but apparently you need to be stimulated. Because if your erection, if your boner doesn’t work, you take it then you receive stimulation, then you get an erection. It’s not like, boing!

You talk about anxiety but you seem so relaxed. How do you wrestle with doing the work and the prospect of losing your privacy?
Saying good-bye to my anonymity? It depends on the location. I was home in Florida visiting my parents and I was getting mobbed at bars. I stayed at the Marriott because my Dad’s girlfriend was in town so I couldn’t stay at his house, I don’t get sleep if I stay at my Mom’s house. I was getting mobbed because I did two episodes of 2 Broke Girls, so I was getting mobbed by like, Long Island soccer moms on vacation. But here, in LA, I went to the farmer’s market and nobody batted an eye. It depends on where I am.

Can you tell instantly when someone’s walking up to you what they’ve seen of your work?
Nine out of ten times. But sometimes I’ll be surprised. Sometimes I’ll see a total freakazoid looking dude and he’s like, “Dude I love your stuff!” And I’m like, ‘Whoa, he watched the Eric Andre Show,“ and he’s like, "Man, I don’t know why they canceled Don’t Trust the B.”

I wondered who was watching 2 Broke Girls.
It’s primarily 20-something Asian girls. And middle-aged moms. For some reason that show resonates. And it’s the number one sitcom in China. And Korea I think.


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