The Absurdity & Methodology Of The Eric Andre Show

This new wave of post-modern media has been especially wrought with a sense of experimentation and a semblance of irony. Independent media makers and corporate productions have since thrived on this evolution of the already existing semi-nihilistic model of portraying certain aspects with a darker twist on them — starting with Conan O Brien’s NBC talk show in the early 90’s. However, none have come close to achieving the amount of popularity Adult Swim’s ‘The Eric Andre Show’ has, making use of the internet age and using it to portray the world almost as a caricature of what it actually is — grim and arguably lawless.

First, let’s trace the show’s beginnings to a majorly pre-ironic internet world — 2012 — when memes were still fathomable and unambiguous. The Eric Andre Show started as a program on the acclaimed Adult Swim late night watershed network, as a way for the two hosts (and the staff) — Eric Andre & Hannibal Buress — to draw more of a caricature of the rather pseudo-idealistic world that we believe we want to live in, something that resembled more of the American Dream of this century than anything else. This was done by inviting certain popular celebrities on the show who were unaware of the fact that they had unknowingly reached out of their comfort zone and entered a free-for-all arena where everything was random and completely haphazard. Where the interviewee expected a professional dialogue with someone s/he believed s/he understood in a familiar environment, s/he would be greeted with a decrepit studio with ‘hosts’ that could only be described as… eccentric. This would be followed by random acts which had the sole purpose of making the interviewee feel disgusted, angry, sad and shocked all simultaneously, something that was antithetical to what the interviewee expected from a ‘talk show’.

As an example, I’ll mention the Haley Joel Osment interview, where Andre, in his usual fashion, lured the guest into a false sense of comfort by commenting on his style of walk and appearance. This sense of comfort and relaxation is soon diminished when Eric brings out a paper with the word ‘RULES’ on it, casually throwing it on the ground, suggesting that this interview might just be a tad more different than others. However, Haley is soon proven wrong when Eric breaks a piece of glass with the same word on it and then choking out a random stage referee brought in to provide a certain amount of ‘context’ to the scenario (we’ll get to that later). This is where things start to get surreal, with Eric reading out a tweet that Haley allegedly posted, something that contained a very hostile mention of scientologists and their ‘shitbag legal team’. Haley attempts to refute this but is then interrupted by Eric to present a small snippet of his new film… a clip of a cow giving birth. This is followed by the crowd ‘yeah-ing’ and clapping, with the interview finally coming to a close with the referee (who Eric previously choked out) being shot and presumably killed; the final shot focusing on the horrified expression displayed on Haley’s face.

Now, this might just seem inconsequential and meaningless, but there’s actually a lot to parse here. For one, you might have noticed that there’s varying levels of irony in this whole segment, with Eric starting out with a seemingly friendly introduction. For the sake of the argument, we’ll call this Irony Level 1, which mostly just consists of a friendly comment on appearance for the sake of lulling the guest into a false sense of comfort i.e irony. Then we move on to Irony Level 2, which, in this scenario, is Eric casually throwing (and later breaking) the piece of paper (and glass) with the word ‘RULES’ on it. This is a step above Irony Level 1 because it involves the use of aggression, something that is pivotal to enabling higher levels of irony to take effect. Irony Level 2 is where the limits of professionality are tested and where the uneasiness/awkwardness begins to appear. This is where we move on to Irony Level 3, where the host(s) of the show completely cracks open the emergency glass and abruptly brings out the figurative (and literal) big guns, showing the show’s true colors. In the mentioned scenario, there is no distinct contrast between Irony Level 2 and 3, so we’ll have to settle for the part where the referee is brought in, considering how that part allows the violence part of the formula to be exhibited. The referee is choked and thrown on the ground while Haley Joel watches the drama ‘unfold’. Also, this might be a good time to acknowledge that indication of ‘context’ that the violence provides. Now, prior to this, there has been no mention or exhibition of physical violence; the acts of throwing the ball of paper with the word ‘RULES’ on it has the guest only figure how off-tangent the interview COULD be, putting only the basic, somewhat expected shenanigans in the lap of the unsuspecting guest to somehow skew whatever perception of the show the guest could have. This is changed by the abrupt introduction (and departure) of the referee who provides, for lack of a better word, context as to what the show actually is — irrational and absurd.

Now, Irony Level 4 is where it gets tricky; instead of a gradual increase in the amount of weirdness involved, the entire interview just escalates, resulting in a mishmash of different attitudes, from both the host(s) and the guest.This is usually the end point for the interview and the ultimate goal which the ideal absurdist interview aspires to fulfill. This phase usually involves the declaration of the true purpose of the interview — to make the guest as uncomfortable and miserable as possible. By now, the guest is too far deep into the interview and generally does not have the absolute power/agency in the show anymore; s/he also isn’t able to abandon the interview, given that s/he believes it might be too awkward to make a move at this point. This is evident in the Haley Joel interview when Eric reads out the fake tweet and shows the clip of the cow giving birth, with the crowd clapping and ‘yeah-ing’ immediately after. This is immediately followed by an orgasm sequence (which remains only mentioned in this article) and the shooting of the referee at the end. Now, this transpiration of events is rather quick, as in the space of 25 seconds, Haley experiences confusion, shock, disgust and then finally — complete trauma.

Now, this use of the mentioned formula isn’t just limited to Eric’s interviews; his candid open-world skits are equally ambiguous, outlandish and formulaic. His ‘Ranch Dude’ skits draw the same use of a caricature to paint humor, with the caricature being of a new-age hipster in this case. Then there’s his use of the subway, using different, increasingly outlandish characters to produce a response from the ‘audience’. This almost always involves a food item or anything material for that matter, being thrown inside the train onto the passengers. Accordingly, there’s also the character from his ‘Bird-Up’ segments, that involve him dressing up in a green suit and performing various bizarre acts on random people in the streets of New York City. Now, I could go on and on about the outlandishness and surrealism of this show, but frankly, it won’t do me or anybody any good, because the premise and concept of the show is wholly unfalsifiable. The blueprint that the show operates on is new, bold and something that has quite literally never been done before, making use of the internet to portray it almost as a caricature of itself, deliberately producing a contradiction which the show aims to not resolve, but only acknowledge. There is no criticism one can derive from the show because even being overly formulaic isn’t enough to counter that feeling of complete and utter amusement that you obtain from the randomness of it, even if it is at the expense of seemingly innocent people on the bustling streets of a huge metropolis.

From that, I derive my final conclusion, the only one that can make sense in this cruel, absurd world — that The Eric Andre Show is the only perfect piece of television to have ever existed and that every other show on television is nothing but garbage.

A 19 year-old with a really intense passion for literary fiction, folk music, and other oddities.