Eric Andre sends up talk shows on Cartoon Network seriesWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“It’s the Eric Andre Show!” the cheerful announcer proclaims. The introduction comes at the start of each episode of the live-action comedy talk show, which began its second season Oct. 3 as part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup. Superficially, it looks like many other low-budget shows of the genre. Tacky set, live band, cheesy feel.
Then the title host bounds onto the screen and proceeds to destroy everything. He runs through walls, he smashes his desk, he wrecks his band’s instruments. It’s a demolition derby with Andre — a comedian and actor known for his work on the late ABC sitcom “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” — acting as a human wrecking ball.
“I was just a big fan of ‘Jackass’ and ‘Tom Green,’” Andre said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “Tom Green did a set destruction one time, just randomly, spur-of-the-moment when he was on Canadian television. And he was just interviewing some guy that worked in a butcher shop or something, and then for no reason he took a skateboard and he started skateboarding off the walls. And the set came crashing down. Just totally impromptu, silly nonsense. And he never did it again.
“And I remember watching that when I was 17 years old, and I was like, ‘Oh, man, Tom Green should do that, like, every episode! He should do that all the time!’”
Green is but one in a long line of influences Andre cites as inspiration. There are hundreds, if not thousands of creators whose work shaped “The Eric Andre Show” — the brave souls who, with a few bucks and a lot of time, took to public access airwaves in the ’70s and ’80s, determined to make their own television programs.
“It’s a combination of watching shows back in the day and also finding gems on YouTube, forgotten gems,” Andre said of those classic low-budget creators. His work was also shaped by one of the pioneers of Cartoon Network’s adult-skewing programming — “Space Ghost Coast to Coast.” Andre cites the classic cartoon talk show as the biggest influence on the development of … well, whatever “The Eric Andre Show” has become now.
“I don’t know. I just was always toying with that idea. I don’t remember, like, the very first time I had the idea. But I just always was a huge fan of mock talk shows. And I just always watched, like, ‘Jiminy Glick,’ ‘The Tom Green Show,’ ‘Space Ghost.’ I was obsessed with those shows growing up.”
The ideas all crystallized into the avant garde, surrealistic production that is the show, with celebrity guest impersonators, a deadpan and deliberately offensive host and a low-budget veneer underscored by being the only show on the Adult Swim lineup not shot in high definition — at least in the first season.
“You know, it’s funny, this season we’re in HD, so we don’t have that lo-fi look anymore. So that look’s dead to me,” Andre said. “No longer part of it. We realized that 18-year-old kids that were born in the ’90s don’t really get the reference to late ’70s public access, and it was turning a lot of people off. But, I liked it. And that stuff was always a big influence — kind of like seeing the best of the worst of television.”
Like the show, many of the production’s most off-the-wall ideas come from Andre himself. “I kind of write year-round. And what I do, I kind of try to write 10 bad ideas a day. And then, once the writers’ room begins … I’ll take those, like, hundred pages of random ideas I had, email them to my director and they’ll kind of like take away their favorites. And then we have a writers’ room for a few weeks, where we get a bunch of writers and comedians in there.”
Much of the over-the-top surrealism of the production might be overbearing if it weren’t for Andre’s right-hand man, comedian Hannibal Buress. While superficially it may seem that Buress is playing the Ed McMahon to Andre’s Johnny Carson, his role is far more critical than it seems at first glance, Andre argued.
“If it was just me, and I was being offensive and inappropriate, the show might come off mean-spirited, or like that’s my real point of view. Hannibal is like the liaison between my point of view and the viewer.”
In addition to the new season’s visual upgrade, the show’s established reputation has meant an upgrade in potential guest stars, as well. Real, nonimpersonator celebs like Dominic Monaghan from “Lord of the Rings,” Mel B. of the Spice Girls, Lou Ferrigno, Richard Hatch of “Survivor,” Steve-O and even Green himself will be among those sitting across from Andre this season.
Given the show’s bizarre treatment of its guests, were all the celebs who appear this year ready to play along?
Andre paused. “Not really,” he said.