When we last spoke to Eric Andre, the actor-comedian told us The Simpsons remains one of the funniest things on TV, which is why he wanted to voice a character on the long-running animated sitcom. The good news is that Andre has landed a gig on a Matt Groening show—he’s joined Simpsons vets Josh Weinstein and Bill Oakley for a send-up of the fantasy genre and Medieval times on Disenchantment.
Andre voices Luci, an incongruously adorable demon who has nothing but bad advice for Bean (Abbi Jacobson), a hard-living princess who refuses to go along with any of Dreamland’s conventions, including an arranged marriage to a buffoon (voiced by Matt Berry). As Weinstein tells it, over the first half of the first season, Luci’s affection for the buck-toothed royal—and tolerance of their similarly frustrated companion, Elfo (Nat Faxon)—creates a huge conflict of interest for this teeny harbinger of doom.
The A.V. Club sat down with Andre and Weinstein at the 2018 Television Critics Association summer press tour to talk devilish influences, Weinstein’s “extreme” past, and blowing off the LSATs.
The A.V. Club: The Simpsons is basically set in the present day, while Futurama takes place thousands of years from now. Disenchantment is a riff on the fantasy genre, but it’s look is inspired by the Middle Ages. Did going to the past just seem the natural place to go for your next project?
Josh Weinstein: Yeah, we make a joke about it, but it was the obvious good choice.
AVC: Has the setting been more or less liberating for an animated series?
JW: It’s more freedom because you can do stuff like—we have a thing where it’s the birth of entertainment. There’s this line from Luci [Eric Andre’s character] that’s like, “Entertainment is going to be the destruction of masses. Let’s clap along.” So, you can do jokes like that but it’s also… The Simpsons has gone on for 30 years. Futurama went on for, I guess it was seven seasons total, but this is totally fresh. This is a totally new genre and world, so that gives us complete freedom.
Eric Andre: It reminds me of—there’s a little bit of Mel Brooks’ History Of The World influence in here, too.
JW: That’s really true.
EA: Because in the French Revolution scene in the History Of The World, the guy’s about to get his head chopped off at the guillotine, and then he’s like, “Any last requests?” And he asks for anesthesia. “What do you call it, when you get the numbing? Anesthesia?” And the guy goes, “It hasn’t been invented to medical science yet. Kill him.”
AVC: There’s a lot of anachronistic humor here. Early on, you have this priestess character—
JW: She’s the Arch Druidess, but honestly, there’s no reason you would know that.
AVC: It’s great because you can see her basically improvising a whole religion, right there on the spot.
JW: I’m obsessed with history, and that’s just the type of stuff we want to do here. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Lord Of The Rings, but I’m obsessed with history, especially Medieval history. So, for us, it’s a chance to do stuff that you couldn’t do in Futurama. In The Simpsons, we only got to do it with Mr. Burns and Grandpa, but now we totally get to go full old-timey.
AVC: The Simpsons and Futurama have some great female characters, but Disenchantment’s Bean feels like your first female lead. What was behind that decision?
JW: Originally, in the very early stages, Elfo was going to be the main character because he’s an elf, and you have this fantasy setting. But I thought it’s not as interesting as having a young woman in a patriarchal kingdom who has all of these frustrations put upon her and how she’s going to break free. But her life is also based on a lot of people, both women and men, that I grew up with. You know, we drank too much, and we were kind of facing the world, and we didn’t want to do what our parents told us and what society said. But at the same time, we didn’t know what we wanted to do. And it’s corny, but in the end, you at least have your friends.
But it was also such a great challenge, because there’d never been a female lead for a Matt Groening show. But it was important to have a number of female writers, because I’m an old white guy, and it shouldn’t be up to just me. That wasn’t the only reason we hired people like [Gravity Falls’] Shion Takeuchi, who’s very talented. I like to think I’m sensitive, but it would be awful for [the male writers] to presume that we could write Bean perfectly. But we just love that she is like that. We also took a lot from Abbi [Jacobson] when she came in—a lot of Abbi informed the character.
AVC: You also mentioned in the panel that your writers room is pretty inclusive, that it’s fifty-fifty. What’s the breakdown?
JW: I mean fifty-fifty agewise.
AVC: There are a lot of different age groups, so what do you mean by fifty-fifty?
JW: Well, we’re not there yet. We have a writing staff of 10, not including Matt and me. Three are women [Ed. note including Takeuchi, M. Dickson, and Jeny Batten]. Ideally, it’ll be fifty-fifty, but it’s not. I would say it’s a pretty good diversity across the staff, but it’s not ideal yet.
AVC: Bill Oakley is writing on the show, and you guys have obviously been working together for a long time. What’s your favorite Simpsons episode that you co-wrote, and do you have a favorite Disenchantment episode you worked on?
JW: I’d say my favorite one that we produced—we didn’t write it—is the Poochie episode. I just love it. That was written by David Cohen.
EA: Oh, David Cohen did that one?
JW: Yeah. And that’s one of the—on The Simpsons, scripts are usually rewritten, but that’s, like, 75 percent from his first draft.
EA: That’s awesome.
JW: He’s that good a writer. Naturally, he’s working on Disenchantment, too.
EA: Who created Poochie? Was that a collective?
JW: It was a collective. It was a collective thing.
EA: That’s my favorite.
JW: I could go on about it, but I know this isn’t a Simpsons interview.
AVC: I don’t think anyone will ever not want to hear about Poochie.
JW: Well, the whole thing was partly based on this thing—okay, [network] executives were not allowed to interfere with the show, but once a year we’d have a courtesy meeting with the president of Fox, and they were like, “Hey, maybe The Simpsons could have a new teenager, ’cause there’s no teenagers. So, wouldn’t that be cool?” That’s the whole thing—Roy and Poochie were our snarky responses. Like, “Here you go. Here’s the new character, that’s totally in your face.”
EA: “Hey, Roy.” “What’s up Mrs. S?” [Laughs.]
JW: [Laughs.] Yes. Yes. I love Roy. That’s totally—
EA: Roy is the best. Roy is almost one notch above Poochie in some sense.
JW: Yeah, Roy is the secret Poochie. And Roy is one of David Cohen’s best friend’s names. That’s how he named him. That’s my all-time favorite Simpsons episode. But okay, for Disenchantment, you know what? I love all the episodes, obviously, blah blah blah. But episode nine is probably my favorite. I can’t reveal anything yet because these are serialized stories, and that episode is very canonical, and big things are revealed. Stuff really starts to come together. Really, episodes eight, nine, and 10 are very big and emotional episodes. Episode nine was written by Shion Takeuchi from Gravity Falls, who was one of my favorite writers when I worked there. I hired her and Jeff Rowe [also from Gravity Falls]. But yes, episode nine, to me, is particularly great, though I can’t say what happens.
AVC: Well, let’s talk about Luci then. Eric, you play the literal devil on Bean’s shoulder, which seems kind of tailor-made for you.
EA: I know. It’s a role I was born to play.
AVC: When we last spoke to you, you said you would love to voice a character on The Simpsons, and this is getting you pretty close.
EA: It’s crazy, but I just got an email from my agent, and look, I never book these things. I’ve auditioned for cartoons a handful of times, and I never booked a single one. But I saw Matt Groening’s name on it, and I was like, “I have to at least send a voice memo.” And then I got a call back, and I was like, “Whoa. That’s never happened.” And I walked in the room, and it was Josh and Matt, and I was like, “Whoa. You guys make cartoons.”
JW: But we were like, “Whoa. This is the guy who did one of the funniest auditions we ever heard.” We played your audition over and over again.
EA: That’s awesome. I’d love to hear it.
JW: We would just invite people into the room and say, “Come on, you’ve got to listen to this.”
But Luci’s a tricky character to make really funny and not like a typical demon. But Eric did it, and we were delighted with it. Only once we got Eric, Abbi, and Nat’s auditions and spliced them together did we feel, “Oh, now we’ve got a show.” Because they all just worked together from the start.
AVC: The three main characters are on intertwining journeys: Bean and Elfo are trying to figure out what else life has to offer beyond these prescribed roles. What about Luci? Is there something he’s trying to prove?
EA: He’s, like, in the mail room of hell. He is not high-ranking at all. So this is his coming-of-age story where he’s trying to make a name for himself, but also find his own, I guess, individuality.
JW: Bean, Elfo, and Luci—they’re all around 18, 19, 20 years.
AVC: That sounds especially young for a demon, but I guess it depends on how they age.
JW: Well, that’s one of the—Luci might be 10,000 years old, but he’s young for a demon. I cannot reveal something, but when we meet other demons, they’re millions of years old. So, Bean represents the young person who’s bristling under parental control and the patriarchy, obviously. And so she’s representing that person who’s frustrated and wants to break free. Elfo represents the young guy from, like, Kansas, who’s really sheltered and comes into the big, harsh world. And Luci represents the young guy who’s on his first job. And while he’s outwardly confident, deep down he’s afraid he’s going to screw it up. So there’s a lot of anxiety that Luci hides that comes into play. There’s a big arc about Luci’s job and what he’s sent to do versus what he feels is right to do.
AVC: Early on, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with telling Bean to do the wrong thing.
EA: He’s always instigating!
AVC: Again, he’s the demon on her shoulder, by her side. I think we’ve all had someone like that in our lives: So, what’s the worst advice you’ve ever given and the worst advice you’ve ever taken?
EA: I tell her to kill people, I think, right off the bat.
AVC: I meant in real life.
JW: Yeah, your real life.
EA: Oh, in real life… No, I told Abbi to kill Josh, actually.
JW: It didn’t work. I got out.
EA: He ducked—he has catlike reflexes. No, hm, what’s the worst advice I’ve ever given somebody or gotten from someone? I know it’s out there, and I’m going to think of it on the way home. I’ve received so much bad [advice]. I think the first 10 years of stand-up comedy, all you get is bad advice from bitter, older comics that never did anything. So, gosh, how much time you got? No, wait, it’s my dad—my dad wanted me to go to law school. He was like, “Don’t do comedy.”
AVC: Why was he so against comedy?
EA: Because he was like, “Go to law school.” I studied for the LSATs for, like, a year. I went to Flatbush, Brooklyn, some big, big school in Brooklyn, to take the LSATs. I sat down, I went to fill my name out in the Scantron [sheet], and then I just took my pencil and broke it in half, and I got up and I walked out. I was, like, 22, 23.
JW: There are a number of people on the show whose parents wanted them to be lawyers. In fact, Rich Fulcher, who’s both a writer and actor and is one of the funniest guys ever, he actually went to law school, and then he had to pretend to his parents that he was working on a law job when he was actually doing comedy.
JW: So, there’s a lot of people who are like, “You need to be a lawyer.” And you’re like, “No, I want to write jokes.”
AVC: It sounds like it worked out in the end.
EA: Only if you think we’re funny.