Essential Episodes is a new series on the site where we discuss the best episodes from our favourite comedy shows, and what makes them so special.
The Eric Andre New Year’s Eve Spooktacular!
Absurdist, almost anti-comedy with a chaotic anarchic edge, The Eric Andre Show is a deliberately low-fi low budget pastiche of local cable chat shows, often nonsensical and purposefully ridiculous, and had it been misjudged by even a millimetre it would be an absolute disaster. And that has applied to the occasional episode, it must be horribly difficult to pull off this illogical madness each and every time, but at it’s best it’s sublime, and this special New Year’s Eve episode is somehow perfect.
For anyone who hasn’t seen it before it’s a beautifully deranged but oddly lovable series which deconstructs pretty much every element of conventional chat shows, where Eric Andre interviews some real life celebrities and some who aren’t the real thing but claim to be, for instance their version of Russell Brand is a skinny black guy with a bushy grey beard who must be in his seventies at the very least, and though their George Clooney is white and something of a silver fox he’s also obviously not the real thing. Added to the mix are some sketches, most of which are shot on location and often feature members of the public who aren’t in on the joke, and Hannibal Buress is on hand as a co-host, though he isn’t given a chair and just has to lurk behind the celebrities present. It’s a thing of wonder, even though I’ve re-read the above and I can imagine why some might think it sounds like a big old pile of shite.
The New Year’s Eve special takes things to the extreme and then a few light years past that, it’s the show on cocaine, speed but then ketamine as it lurches from one bizarre moment to the next. As with all of the episodes it begins with Andre angrily smashing up the set and assaulting the regular band, but here the end credits roll three times before it even begins, Andre tells some deliberately awful jokes, and two kids sing a punk-ish song as Andre and co-host Hannibal Buress trot out their own self written song, and are joined by the fake George Clooney at the end who croons the line “Don’t Forget Your Hats”. So yeah, it’s daft, it’s irrational and it’s ludicrous, and yet it all comes together to be strangely hilarious, you can’t help but laugh at the audacity of it all.
Mirroring the more tedious of chat show conventions (particularly Letterman here) Andre reads out a top 10 list of The Best Things of 2012, all of which are just things that he can see around him, like “10. Desks, 9. Chairs, 8. Hannibal Buress, 7.Desks again”, before deciding he can’t be arsed to finish it off now. Then the first guest is introduced with Andre interviewing Demi Lovato. At this point she wasn’t that well known and presumably came on the show in an attempt to reach a wider audience, and like many a guest had no idea that this wasn’t a real chat show and so ends up bewildered throughout as Andre describes himself as “Jar Jar Binks if he were a burn victim” and tells her he thinks she’s great, “A knight in shining armour” and “I, er, am ready for some football”. Oh, and did I mention that he’s eating spaghetti bolognaise during the interview? Yep, because it all adds to the surreal nature of the show, which only becomes more demented as Sebastian Bach of 80’s metal band Skid Row pops in and asks her “What do you think about my legs?” and she can only clutch her head and utter “Hold on, what is going on?”. It might feel a little exploitative but most of the time she looks bemused, and presumably got paid a decent amount for the appearance anyway, and in these cases I always feel that if the celebrity in question had done even the tiniest amount of research they would have been fully aware of the nature of the beast. How long does it take to briefly look up the programme on google after all, so I struggle to be sympathetic, and it’s not like they suffer any long term harm.
After a brief segment where Andre asks his correspondents what New Year’s Eve is like around the world (during which they’re clearly standing in front of photographs of the location) where they come up with statements like “I felt nothing and then after that I thought I was going to die and thought I’d never walk again and it sucks” and “I see people protesting… People getting shot… It’s too chaotic man” which works as it’s the exact opposite of the things you’d expect to hear on the kind of shows broadcast on this special night, and the actors deliver their lines in pleasingly serious if annoyed ways. Then it’s time for the next interview, with Omarosa Manigault Newman, who at the time was best known for appearing in the first season of The Apprentice, and interestingly later became a presidential aide under Trump but then was fired and released a book ripping him apart. She’s much happier to play along at least some of the time, taking Andre on at his own game by beginning the interview with “I want to congratulate you first, I heard you came out of the closet”, only for Andre to admit he hasn’t as he has no genitals yet. Unlike Lovato she’s clearly aware of the nature of the show, though won’t go along with everything, like joining in with him in prayer, and she happily mocks his ratings. The show is always best when the guest either completely freaks out or enjoys playing along, though I have to confess that I personally prefer the latter. The interview’s truncated when Andre announces it’s time for The Luther Vandross Wheel, a shit prop which is randomly spun as a large man leaps across the studio, picks up Andre, and smashes him through his table and they continue to fight / struggle on the floor for a fair old while. Meanwhile Kevin Sorbo (of Hercules fame) comes out and whispers a song, and a brass marching band stomp across the studio and Rory Scovel briefly attempts some stand up before deciding he can’t be bothered.
If you think this all sounds like the sort of lunacy which is beyond insane, well, you haven’t seen anything yet as somehow Andre takes it up another gear (I think we’re in the 108th one right now, but I could be wrong), as he introduces a moment of silence for all of the hostages (which lasts a good 30 seconds), before a moment of blindness for “cool hostages” and is pepper sprayed in the face. As midnight supposedly passes pandemonium breaks out, it’s a mix of Sumo wrestlers, people kissing and vomiting, the words “Happy Rosh Hashanah” flashing on the screen and a countdown appears stating that it’s 364:23:59:38 units of time until 2014. Cheerleaders and American football players dance, Andre chants a Jewish prayer with three others before declaring a celebration of 12.06am, a butch black man passionately kisses a 1940’s style sailor, a bride is lifted in the air by the crowd, and at the end Eric is sacrificed to appease their gods as he thanks his guests.
As you might have guessed by now it’s probably not the best episode to introduce yourself to the series, call me crazy but I’d suggest beginning with the very first, but it’s one of the funniest simply because it contains so many varieties of madness. It’s effective because the tone is often so casual, at least until the end, and we’re watching a chat show which in alternative reality would make perfect sense (but then that alternative reality is really fucked up, admittedly). Whilst very funny there’s also a slightly unsettling feel to it on occasion, it’s a little otherworldly, and reminds of David Lynch’s wackier moments like those found in On The Air, except that this is even more unhinged. It’s also the type of show which I can understand some hating, it often doesn’t make any sense at all and plays around with ideas that are only funny because they’re so idiotic, and it regularly relies on surprise or shock factor. But if you love humour that’s utterly unpredictable, breaks pretty much all the rules of comedy and doesn’t care if you like it or not then you may well adore this.