Eric André smells like the stale bread of a turkey sandwich that was slathered with mayonnaise mixed in a hobo’s armpit and then left out in the sun for several days. It's the stench of commitment.
André is stinking up the place in between cuts at Apache Stages in North Hollywood, where he’s finishing filming season four of The Eric André Show, his unhinged Adult Swim parody of shoestring public-access talk shows, which will finally premiere this Friday, Aug. 5, at midnight. His sweaty, disheveled appearance has partly to do with the stress he’s under as producer, writer, and star, but it’s also a character choice. After a season in which the show's deranged host—a fictional version of himself—sported a silky Katt Williams perm and appeared to be on an ascent professionally, André envisioned him bottoming out in a dystopian future. Such a look could have been easily achieved by hair, makeup and wardrobe, but believability is key to the pranks that he pulls on celebrity guests and on everyday people during man-on-the-street segments. So, he went full funk-lord. For months, André hasn’t washed or brushed his hair, used deodorant, or cut or cleaned his fingernails, which have reached Nosferatu length.
He looks as ragged as the stage, which features a sprawling pile of debris from sets that André has destroyed for the traditional opening of each episode (the crew is currently working hard on a piston-powered dildo that is supposed to break through André’s desk). In a break before a segment in which Amber Rose is scheduled to be interviewed, we retreat to André's small, cluttered, poorly ventilated office to discuss the new season, the adverse effects of his funky condition, the importance of leaving jars of urine around set, and which rapper guest tried to kill him.
Your look and your smell are...impressive. How have they affected your life?
Not having deodorant is rough, but these [fingernails] suck the most. Women don’t want to deal with me when I’ve got these fucking Freddy Krueger gloves on. Also, we had these red demon eyes and these cataract contact lenses for certain bits, and I kept scratching the shit out of my eyes every time I’d take them out. It’s impossible to put contact lenses in and not scratch my eye with these fucking Edward Scissorhands claws on my fingers. I was also trying to lose, like, 20 or 30 pounds but it didn’t happen. It was fucked and there was no way.
What was the reasoning behind the weight loss?
I wanted to look sick, but it’s hard to write comedy while trying to lose 30 pounds. I started out eating less and less. I would eat one meal a day on the weekend, and just a lot of fish and salad, and I was so lethargic and tired and loopy. It was fucked and there was no way. Like, Christian Bale in The Machinist, he just had to walk around all sickly and be in pain, but he didn’t need to produce or write comedy. [Laughs.] Plus, most of my body is under my suit and you wouldn’t even notice, so I gave up on that. It was fucking hard. I give props to any actor who can do that Dallas Buyers Club shit.
How does your current hair compare to last season’s perm?
It was fun having the perm but that hair is a lot of maintenance. I was constantly getting burned by a flat iron. It’s really hard being a black woman. [Laughs.] Eventually I had to chop it off. I tried to get away with not cutting it off and I looked like Michael Jackson’s mugshot. I looked like James Brown right when he got pulled over on PCP. This is what it does if I just don’t do anything—knots up a little bit. I’m like The Weeknd with Down syndrome. I’ve also never grown out this gross cheek hair before. I always cut it 'cause it’s like 12-year-old pubic hair on my face.
Did you ever consider faking any of this in post-production?
No. I want it to feel as real as possible, so when we’re pranking people in the street they’re like, "Oh fuck, this is a real crazy person." As soon as you act crazy in the street, people are like, “Are you for real doing this or are you fucking with me?” If you give them any little [hint], if they see makeup or some costume-y thing you would do for television, they’d go, “Oh!” And now I’m on TV more, so they’d go, “Oh, yeah, I recognize you. You’re doing a bit.” And I’d get called out. So, even with the celebrities, I was peeing in jars and leaving them all around the green room and the stage and putting dates on my urine jars. When you’re pranking people, people can smell fake.
It’s definitely not “fake” what they’re smelling right now.
[Laughs.] Yeah, no. It’s real! We were in New York when it was hot out, so not only did people think I was nuts, but they were getting hit with waves of body odor.
Which is more difficult: pranking celebrities or people on the street?
It’s definitely more stressful on the street, 'cause I’m like, "This guy could punch my lights out."
Like the guy who freaked out because you touched his pizza with your microphone?
Yeah, that guy was pissed. I don’t know why we didn’t include this: The guy whipped out his dick at me. As a joke, I was like, “Man, I want to suck your dick right now!” He’s like, “You should suck my dick!” The anger hormones were still raging in his brain and he couldn’t switch to comedy on a dime like I was. So he fucking whipped his penis out and he had all these weird scabs all over his hands, and I was like, I don’t want this guy to touch me, let alone punch me. He was really gonna punch me. He was pissed. But we got him to sign a release. We had a PA chase him down, like, “Can you sign this release?” He’s like, “Fuck you! Fuck that!” The PA said, “We’ll give you 50 bucks and a slice of pizza.” And he’s like, “Hey man, you can keep the pizza. I like you guys. No problem.” He signed it right away.
Did the police intervene after he tossed your mic and it hit their squad car?
No. We got out of there. The police were confused, and most of the crew went down a perpendicular street, and then someone from the sound department waited a beat and went and grabbed it. But I think the police were like, “Do I want to get involved in that?” Maybe not. [Laughs.] I’m actually surprised the police didn’t get involved, because we got into trouble this season.
I am legally advised to not talk about it… [Laughs.] I got in some trouble. I got nine stitches too. One hospital visit and one police visit.
“I tried to grab Flavor Flav’s penis and he tried to kill me.”
As for the celebrities, they and their reps agree to do the show, so they must have some sense of what to expect, right?
They have no idea what the fuck is going on, and this season I don’t even meet them before filming. Previous seasons, I’d meet them in the green room beforehand, but now I’m meeting them for the first time on camera, so they’re really in the dark. The show’s out now, so people can research it, but we purposefully try to book guests that do not watch Adult Swim. We interviewed, like, a dance mom from a reality show. Reality people are good, because they don’t do a lot of research.
Maybe that's why Lauren Conrad from The Hills famously walked off last season. What are the best reactions you’ve gotten from people this season?
We’ve had more people than ever ask, “Can I leave now? Can I get out of here?” [Laughs.] When I sweat, I get really smelly. And we’re releasing cockroaches and rats and all this vermin under the desk, under the chair.
Who do you have on this season?
Roy Hibbert, Jack Black, A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown, OG Maco, Nocando, Open Mike Eagle, Go Dreamer, Ariel Pink, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, T.I. We got Dennis Rodman, who is fucking crazy. We had Stacey Dash, who’s lost her marbles. Hannibal [Buress, who plays André’s talk show sidekick] couldn’t be in all 10 episodes 'cause he’s busy as shit, so we made a Hannibal robot for a couple of the interviews.
Who was the craziest guest? Rodman?
No, it was Flavor Flav. We had him on and he flipped the whole show. He was impossible to shake. He, like, did the show back to us. I was like, “I can’t do anything. Take it away, Flavor Flav!” He was unflappable. The only time I got him to freak out is when I tried to interview his penis. We had a sound guy come up and pretend he was about to adjust his mic and he grabbed Flav’s dick, and he was like, “Get the fuck out of here! I’m gonna punch you!” I was like, “Is it OK if I grab your penis?” I tried to grab his penis and he tried to kill me. We had a bathtub built into my desk, so I ripped the desk away, got naked, and took a bath in front of him.
Along those lines, the crew is currently working on a mechanical dildo that’s supposed to bust through your desk. Are all the show’s gags planned?
There’s a blueprint or a map, like we want to get all these gags and these beats, but while we’re shooting we’re riffing around that as, like, a pathway. Hannibal riffs; all of Hannibal’s golden moments are completely improvised. The best stuff always comes out of the improv.
What are your inspirations for the show’s public access vibe?
I’ve always been obsessed with bad, awkward television and bad public access. Before YouTube, it was a treat coming across that stuff. When I moved to New York, I used to love watching public access late at night. There’s a guy named John Kilduff, who does this thing called Let’s Paint TV. It’s like a public access show on YouTube. That was a big inspiration.[Grabbing his laptop, André plays a YouTube clip in which Kilduff paints, exercises on a treadmill, blends drinks, and takes calls simultaneously.] It’s a slow burn but the whole time he’s doing it he’s trying to stay positive and these Latin gangsters keep calling up, like, “Fuck you, homes!” and hanging up on him. We had John on the show. It’s really good.
Is that where the inspiration for Killer Mike and Action Bronson battle rapping on treadmills came from?
Maybe subconsciously, not directly. We’re always just trying to figure out how to take the guests out of their comfort zone. I just thought it would be funny to have fat rappers on treadmills freestyling. We talked about putting Rick Ross on a treadmill but somebody had worked with him and they were like, he’s so fat that even him walking around, he has a hard time. So, yeah, a treadmill would kill him. We don’t want to kill anybody.
Do you have aspirations to one day do a mainstream late-night show?
I don’t think I would do a straight late-night talk show, like a Tonight Show kind of thing. But I’m open to whatever is done well. I don’t have any agenda. I’m not like Fugazi—I’m not trying to be just so punk rock until I die. Whatever is funny is good.