Adult Swim Provides Adult Laughs

“Ladies and gentleman, it’s the ERIC ANDRE SHOW!” Consider these first urgent lines more of a warning for you to brace yourself than an introduction, as this latest Adult Swim (a section of Cartoon Network) oddity is one of the most chaotic, surreal, and captivatingly bizarre shows on television today.

Debuting last year and recently entering its second season, “The Eric Andre Show” is, like much of Adult Swim’s original programs, comedy not for the faint hearted, and last week’s episode, “Lou Ferrigno; Downtown Julie Brown,” was a perfect testament to the show’s dedication to outlier comedy.

Brought to you by the same production company behind the brilliant, divisive “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” “The Eric Andre Show” compares heavily to its predecessor with its jarring, occasionally gross-out take on comedy, but differs by focusing itself more into a late night talk show parody centered on the outrageousness of its titular host and dazed, straight-man sidekick, Hannibal Buress (who himself is a rising star in the world of stand-up comedy).

But this is less like a David Letterman/Jimmy Fallon kind of talk show and more like some strange, public access project where the cast thinks nobody is watching as the show slips into unorganized chaos quickly. On the set of “The Eric Andre Show,” nothing is off-limits, and practically nothing is impossible.

A typical episode of “Eric Andre” features a number of hallmarks: Andre savagely destroying his set and maiming himself in the intro; Andre doing intentionally bad stand-up as Buress ridicules him; guest interviews are made as awkward as possible. Even its most predictable elements are done with such intense spontaneity and conviction that you can’t help but be knocked back every time.

The ‘guests’ on the show only add to the discomfort, as they’re either D-list celebrities (who are often bewildered by Andre’s antics) or blatant imposters of celebrities like George Clooney and Russell Brand. Yet no matter what, Andre makes every interview unique with his willingness to go to incredible lengths to weird people out.

This week’s episode featured none other than Lou Ferrigno (the original “Incredible Hulk”), who, as stone-faced as he is, could barely keep his composure as a scrawny Asian man in Hulk attire invaded his personal space. In the show’s second interview, featuring “Downtown Julie Brown” (who I’m not sure is fictional or not), is completely derailed by Andre as he shoves powdered donuts into his mouth, asks her questions through a distorted microphone, and abruptly shoots one of the crew members (all of this happens, I should add, within the span of a minute or two in the show’s first ten minutes!).

However, the “talk-show-gone-awry” setup is only one side of the show’s twisted coin. The other half of the program includes Jackass/Punk’d styled segments where Andre (and occasionally Buress) go out on the street to weird people out in a variety of ways, from asking random moms if he could hold their baby to crashing a MENSA convention dressed as a knight.

This is where Andre truly shines as a fully committed and brilliant physical comedian, as he always stays in character no matter how absurd things get. In last week’s episode, we see Andre, donning a suit and Bluetooth, screaming and shouting obscene business lingo and projectile vomiting on a busy Wall Street sidewalk, even confronting some fellow yuppies for stock tips while puking right in front of them. It sounds like pure toilet humor on paper, but Andre’s stern conviction and determination to push the envelope through the whole segment makes it all the more worth it – and hilarious at that.

Part of the fun of watching “The Eric Andre Show” is honestly never knowing what exactly is going to happen next, as things often just happen with little reason or explanation. Near the episode’s end, Andre and Buress are just having a conversation when two doppelgangers sit beside their respected other and mimic everything they say, all before a strange women comes out of nowhere and starts harassing the real Buress for cheating on her. There’s no introduction, no explanation for any of it, and before you know it, the show’s over. Few shows can pull off such rapid-fire spontaneity in such a sublimely surreal manner.

As unique as it feels, “The Eric Andre Show” is certainly geared towards the particular crowd of viewers that have been eating up Adult Swim’s various curiosities for years, and if you consider yourself a part of that audience, then this show’s clearly for you. If you’re not a regular watcher of Adult Swim and want to experience comedy that’s ferociously bizarre, I’d highly recommend “The Eric Andre Show.” However, please, proceed with caution.

PHOTO TAKEN from firstorderhistorians.com