It used to be that a comedian's dream was to get his own talk show. By that measure, Eric Andre ("Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23") is living the dream -- but not in the traditional way, to say the least. On May 20, Adult Swim will premiere "The Eric Andre Show," a twisted talk show hosted by Andre and white-hot comedian Hannibal Buress that promises to offer an antidote to the Lenos and Lettermans of the world. In one promo released by Adult Swim, Andre's house band is composed of a gang of jazz musicians who slowly unravel while playing, unable to keep it together musically or emotionally.
We spoke to Andre about the DIY genesis of the show, why he likes working with Adult Swim, and how his other bosses at ABC aren't too thrilled about his new endeavor.
HuffPost Comedy: Are you excited about the show coming out? It must be a really strange thing, right?
Eric Andre: I'm stoked. I can't believe it. It's totally surreal.
HPC: Tell me a little bit about it. I've seen some clips of it, but I haven't seen a whole episode yet.
EA: It's basically like "Space Ghost" as a live-action show, with elements of "Tom Green" and "Ali G" and "Jiminy Glick." It kinda looks like "Fernwood," if you saw "Fernwood" back in the day. It's got a little bit of physical comedy, like "Jackass" elements, a little bit of "Chappelle's Show" in there too. It's just an absurdist, surreal late-night mock talk show. And we have some real guests and we have some fake guests. And then all the studio stuff is broken up by these man-on-the-street bits, these prank bits that I do.
HPC: So it seems like it's deconstructing the idea of what a talk show can be, right?
EA: Exactly. That's how the network puts it. It's a deconstructive talk show, deconstructing all the common elements of a talk show. We'll do a fake monologue where I completely bomb every time, and Hannibal criticizes me as I'm tanking. We did our own version of [Jay Leno’s] Headlines, and I'm just like, "Oh looks like somebody got murdered the other day. Nice playing with guns, guys." Hannibal's like, "You're a terrible person." Things like that. And we have fake musical acts. Every element of a talk show is satirized.
HPC: When you watch real talk shows, do you feel like they need to be deconstructed?
EA: Some more that others. I feel like some are so fake. Somebody can have just been arrested, and Leno will be like, "So I heard you're coming out with a new CD on Tuesday!" And it's like, "What? They just got arrested! Aren't you going to talk to them about that?" The hosts have to be diplomatic, and it's so glossy. But there was no malicious reason for coming up with my show, like "Fuck Jay Leno, man! I'm gonna show him who's boss!" I just wanted to do a silly, fake talk show. I'm just a huge "Space Ghost" fan, I'm a huge "Ali G" fan, I'm a huge "Tom Green" fan.
HPC: It sounds like "Space Ghost" was really a big part of the conception of this thing, or at least one of the big influences.
EA: Huge. I loved "Space Ghost" when I was in college.
HPC: Yeah, that show's the best. It still holds up so well, too.
EA: Still holds up. Before we started shooting, I rented as many seasons I could get my hands on and did a "Space Ghost" marathon by myself in my house, just so I could absorb as much "Space Ghost" as I could. I picked Mike Lazzo's brain about it -- that's an executive at Adult Swim, and also he's the creator of "Space Ghost" -- and he couldn't give a shit about "Space Ghost." He's like, "What? Space Ghost? Space Ghost is dead to me."
HPC: Wow, really?
EA: He couldn't care less. I was like, "Remember episode four in season two...?" I'm a huge geek, and he can't even remember.
HPC: How long ago was that on the air? Like 15 years ago?
EA: Yeah, you know before Adult Swim existed, they did a run of it on Cartoon Network in 1994, and then it disappeared til like 2001 or something like that. There's this weird history to "Space Ghost."
HPC: It's kind of crazy how, even after all this time, it seems like Adult Swim has very much kept a lot of the same comedic sensibilities that "Space Ghost" pioneered.
HPC: Why do you think Adult Swim gets away with that and other networks don't?
EA: I don't know man, that's a good question. Because we don't have any money? Because we do everything for like three dollars?
HPC: But that's gotta work in your favor in some ways, right?
EA: Yeah. I think less money involved, there's less suits involved and there's less pressure from suits and sponsors to turn out huge numbers.
HPC: How did Hannibal get involved?
EA: Hannibal's been involved since day one. When I was pitching the show, I was like, "It's not going to work as a pitch. It's not going to work if I write a script." It's so visual and it just won't work unless you see it. Like the prank bits, I could pitch them and it would still be funny, but it would just be so much better served if I could make a little sizzle reel. So three years ago, in 2009, I was trying to shoot more sketches and build web content and build video content for my website and YouTube. And there were some sketches that were beyond my capacity to shoot. I just couldn't do them with my little handicam. So I went out to a buddy of mine, Kitao [Sakurai], who's the co-director, and he was making music videos at the time with a buddy of mine, Carlos, and I said, "Hey man, I'm doing these sketches, I wanted to pitch some to you, see if you were interested in filming them. They're just beyond my capacity to shoot."
And he really liked them, so I was like, "I've always had this mock talk show idea I've wanted to shoot, and it's beyond my capacity." And he was starting a company with the other director, Andrew [Barchilon], and he showed Andrew the script, and he loved it. They were like, "We totally see this, and we have these cool Ikegami cameras from the late '70s or early ‘80s that process all the light in tubes so it makes everything look dingy like in public access from back in the day. We rented out this space in an abandoned, semi-illegal bodega that four different people claimed they owned on this corner on the cusp of [Brooklyn neighborhood] Bushwick heading into Bed Stuy on the JMZ train. This was a shithole. Just piles of glass, it was a rat's nest. And we gutted it out, and we just shot in there. What was the original question?
HPC: How Hannibal got involved.
EA: Oh, how Hannibal got involved. Hannibal was always involved. He was always in the script. I always thought I needed a co-host. And I knew I was so crazy, I needed somebody just as out there comedically, but opposite in energy to be the voice of reason. And I was doing [stand-up] comedy with Hannibal and thought that Hannibal is the perfect dude to be the co-host for this show. He's going to balance the whole show. There needed to be somebody in the show who just allows me to be completely insane or just be like, "Oh no, that's terrible. What you're doing is awful." To just ground the whole show. So he was just perfect in his sensibility. We were on the same wavelength, but opposite in energy. So he was just perfect. We were both doing standup at the same time in New York, and we were both broke as fuck. So anyway, we shot in this little bodega, and then when we shot this thing, I had to teach myself Final Cut to edit it, because I didn't have any money to hire editors, so it took me like a year to edit that video. And then we passed it out to all the networks and Adult Swim was stoked on it, stoked on Hannibal.
HPC: It seems great that both you and Hannibal are having a pretty good 2012 so far, after being "broke as fuck."
EA: [laughs] I know. When we got the show, I was like, "Hannibal's way more successful and famous now than when we were shooting in that bodega. He might not even want to do it anymore! He might be like, 'Peace out, I got bigger fish to fry.'" But he's so stoked to be part of it.
HPC: How many episodes have you shot?
EA: We wrapped. We shot ten episodes.
HPC: Are there any bits or sketches or any highlights of the show that you're excited about?
EA: Well, I got beat up at a Mensa convention, that was kind of cool. The most violent bit was a Mensa convention. And I did a bit where we pranked a Tea Party convention, where we prank a bunch of thug-ass dudes playing basketball. All the bits where I thought I was definitely going to get assaulted, I didn't, and then the bit that I thought would be the least violent was the most.
HPC: Have you seen IFC's "Comedy Bang! Bang!", the other absurd talk/sketch show coming out this summer? It seems like it’s coming from a similar place.
EA: Yeah, it's the same production company. They're both on Abso Lutely, Tim and Eric's company.
HPC: Must be a lot different working with them than working on the other show you're on, "Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23."
EA: Yeah, totally different. Totally different. But both awesome.
HPC: Sure, of course.
EA: But, definitely different worlds. Like most of the crew at "Don't Trust The Bitch" don't even know Adult Swim is a network. They're like, "Adult Swim? Is that, like, a porno website?"
HPC: You didn't hear anything else from ABC about this show? They don't have a problem with it?
EA: They're not thrilled.
EA: Well, I'm not the lead on the show. I'm such a peripheral character that I think it's okay. It'd be different if Krysten Ritter had a show where she was the lead on Adult Swim as well as the lead on an ABC show. But sometimes for press releases it was like, "Hannibal from 'SNL' and ‘30 Rock' and Eric Andre from ‘Don't Trust The Bitch In Apartment 23' are doing a new show on Adult Swim." And then like 14 people from ABC flew in on helicopters, were like, "Don't mention us in the Adult Swim show!"
HPC: That's really funny.
EA: I mean, whatever. ABC is owned by Disney, so it's a little more conservative than Adult Swim. Polar opposites. But for the most part they're cool.