Longtime fans of Eric Andre and his brand of anarchic, ranch-friendly comedy might be surprised by his new hidden-camera movie Bad Trip, which premiered on Netflix on March 26 after a year-long delay. While the semi-scripted comedy puts Andre (and his game co-stars Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish) at the center of ridiculous The Eric Andre Show-esque public stunts, it isn’t just a 90-minute onslaught of pranks; there’s a method to the madness—in the form of a loose road trip storyline—and an unexpected amount of heart. In essence, Bad Trip is a story about friendship, putting longtime pals Chris and Bud (Andre and Howery, respectively) through the ringer, testing their loyalty with gorilla attacks, high-speed car accidents, and one indestructible finger trap. Along the way, real, unsuspecting people lay witness to their antics, and Bad Trip’s funniest moments come from bystanders’ natural reactions to what’s unfolding in front of them, whether that’s with genuine concern and sweetness, or with a knife.
“The movie shows the Good Samaritan nature in people,” Andre told The A.V. Club, commenting that Bad Trip’s jokes are never at the expense of its unaware non-actors. But that doesn’t mean that everyone reacted to Andre and Howery with a sense of level-headedness—as it turns out, one stunt in particular almost got them killed. “That was Rel’s first day of filming... So, Rel was like, ‘I quit! You’re going to get me fucking killed. This is reckless!’” That’s just one of the surprising things The A.V. Club learned when Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery took us behind the scenes of some of Bad Trip’s biggest comedic set pieces. Below, the actors break down some of the movie’s boldest pranks and reveal how they (along with director Kitao Sakurai) pulled them off, all while not getting recognized by fans.
Early on in Bad Trip, Andre’s Chris beaks out into a full-on musical number at a mall to profess his love for longtime crush, Maria (Michaela Conlin). The moment is meant to be disruptive and annoying, but most bystanders react with a bewildered amusement, and one particularly memorable old man goes so far as to make excuses for Chris: “He’s in love!”
A movie is a different medium than an 11-minute Adult Swim show. In a movie, to get an audience across 90 minutes of footage, your character has to be likable. You have to empathize and sympathize with the lead.
Near Bad Trip’s midpoint, Chris and Bud make a drugged-out detour at a grocery store, only to wake up the next morning with their dicks stuck in either end of a novelty finger trap. What ensues is a frenzied attempt to escape, enlisting nearby people for help, including an enraged barbershop owner who pulled a knife on the duo on their first day filming together.
The first day was when we almost got murdered. So, when that happened the first day, it was like—I remember calling my whole team. I called Tiffany [Haddish]. I was like, ‘I’m afraid for my life! I’m an actor!’ That’s the first time I ever called myself an actor. [Laughs.]
—Lil Rel Howery
An earlier pit stop sees Chris and Bud cutting loose at a bar called Electric Cowboy. Chris eventually gets so drunk he falls off the bar, and another prank involves a steady stream of fake urine. Andre and Howery admitted that drunk non-actors only made things more unpredictable, and shared that there was a safe word to keep things from getting too out of hand—if only Andre could remember it:
So, it turns out this guy [at the bar] owned like a chain of strip clubs or something. He was dressed like a Russian mobster. We saw him come in the bar, and he sat down and was loud and talking shit. And I could just tell he was trouble in the best way.
One of Bad Trip’s most ambitious stunts has Andre’s Chris sneaking into an exhibit at the zoo for a photo, only to be attacked (and then some) by an angry gorilla. For safety—and other obvious reasons—the gorilla was an actor in a costume, meaning the crew had to go the extra mile to make sure zoo-goers believed it was real. For the scene, Howery played a crucial role, helping coax reactions out of people, and getting them to buy into the absurdity.
While [Andre’s getting attacked], I had to make it real. They had to believe it, the emotion part of it. And they bought into it, man. Like that’s one of the only times I tried not to laugh. To them, it was real, it was crazy. It looked like I’m crying, but I’m really crying laughing.
—Lil Rel Howery
No matter where they were, Andre, Howery, and Tiffany Haddish always ran the risk of being spotted by fans. After years of doing pranks for The Eric Andre Show, Andre knew the secret to going unrecognized: Know your audience.
We had it down to a science, basically, like we would make sure that we were pranking people over 40. I mean, that goes a long way. But most of my fans skew younger. But, you know, we’d get busted every once in a while.
Hot on Chris and Bud’s trail most of the movie, Tiffany Haddish’s Trina finally catches up to them at a New York art gallery. After a quick squabble inside, Trina takes Chris to the roof where she dangles him off the side—conveniently located across from people in line at a taco truck. Andre explained how a hidden rig kept him safe, and revealed how they’d often get unsuspecting bystanders to Bad Trip’s filming locations.
As they’re all ordering tacos, I quietly snuck off the roof [in the rig] and Tiffany’s mimicking like she’s holding me. As soon as we’re in position—which only took like 10 seconds—I yelled for help. So everybody turns around and it’s like the shocking, jarring thing.