Eric Andre isn’t for everyone. His Adult Swim show, the aptly titled The Eric Andre Show, is a mix of surrealism and public-access nonsense, with Andre acting as both host and instigator. It makes sense, then, that when The A.V. Club asked him to pick the things that most consistently make him laugh, he went with some pretty oddball choices. While some tried-and-true classics like The Simpsons made the cut, Andre’s list veers left almost from the get-go, ending with a bang on one of the weirder European music videos we’ve ever seen.
The Eric Andre Show’s fourth season premieres Friday night, August 5, on Cartoon Network.
Eric Andre: Wonder Showzen is one of my favorite shows of all time. When I first saw it, I thought it was so funny and new and original and edgy and insane and subversive. I didn’t know comedy could do that. It redefined what I thought you could do with a TV show.
It was also very visual. I don’t think comedians take advantage of the fact that television and film are visual mediums. [Creators Vernon Chatman and John Lee] just had an artistic eye, and merged their artistic eye with comedy. Half the shows on Comedy Central are just multi-cam blue sets, and they kind of look like game shows from the ’90s. It’s like, “Why do such a bland corporate aesthetic when the sky’s the limit with what you can do?”
The A.V. Club: It’s interesting to watch Wonder Showzen now and think about the fact that it aired on TV 10 years ago, when this kind of subversive weirdo stuff just wasn’t making the rounds as easily.
EA: The stuff they got away with on that show—the fact they had an episode brought to you by patience, and it got halfway through a super-slow episode and then they just start playing the episode backwards, purely to just test the audience’s patience? It’s so fucking crazy what they were able to get away with.
And their pace—it was the fastest-paced show I ever saw, except for that “Patience” episode, which, by design, was painfully slow. I never saw a show so fast. You see a lot of sketch variety shows where each segment is one joke that they repeat over and over and over again, and the sketches are always three or four minutes too long. Wonder Showzen was one of the first shows that realized each sketch, each segment is essentially one joke, and, once you know what the joke is, it’s time to move on. I just had so much respect for that, like, let’s not have any ego about whatever sketch or segment we come up with. Let’s hit the joke once and move on to the next joke and just keep it where we have as many jokes per square inch as possible.
AVC: The In Living Color sketch you put on your list does that hit-it-and-quit-it thing well.
EA: Yeah. Like I said, a sketch is one joke. They shouldn’t really be more than a minute, two minutes. There are some shows where the sketch goes on for five minutes. It’s like, “I get it! I’m already bored. I did like the joke, but I don’t anymore, because you went on too long.” I love that In Living Color sketch, too, because I love how meta it is—it’s a sketch deconstructing another comedy show. It’s super funny.
AVC: You put The Simpsons on your list. Do you favor a specific era of The Simpsons? A specific episode? Or is it every episode, every week?
EA: I just grew up with it. The first season came on when I was 5, 6 years old, and the show evolved as I was growing up and got funnier and funnier and, by the time I was in 12th grade, they were at their funniest. That’s when I saw the Mr. Sparkle episode, which is the hardest I’ve ever laughed in my life. They’re just like the Bible to me as far as what the high-water mark of comedy.
AVC: That show’s consistency is pretty amazing.
EA: Yeah, its consistency of what comedy can do and what comedy can be.
Growing up with that show shaped my worldview.
AVC: What do you mean by that?
EA: Before The Simpsons, I was 4 years old, so I don’t know exactly what I was thinking before that. But I don’t know, [the people that worked on The Simpsons] just had good taste. They knew how to execute absurd jokes.
I think part of it is the fact that they were kind of the first of its kind—there weren’t a lot of cartoons for adults. People forget at the time that The Simpsons started out, it was controversial—the fact that they said “hell” and “damn” in a cartoon was a lot. America was in an uproar. Bill Cosby spoke out against The Simpsons and there was this kind of evangelical, right-wing sect that was against The Simpsons. Fox was a new network at the time, though, so they were going to take risks.
The Simpsons was pretty experimental at the time, but it attracted a lot of sitcom writers that felt confined by the limitations of live-action sitcoms in the ’80s. The more absurd and surreal and out there Harvard Lampoon and National Lampoon writers that were good couldn’t write for Family Ties. They didn’t have a fun time writing for Diff’rent Strokes or whatever the fucking sitcom jobs were at the time. They could go to The Simpsons, and there were no limitations on animation as far as how absurd it could be. It allowed the writing team way more freedom than the sitcoms that they were competing with.
AVC: You’ve never voiced a character on The Simpsons, right?
EA: No. I wish. It would be a dream come true.
AVC: Maybe someday. The show’s still going, after all.
EA: Yeah, still going strong.
AVC: Why Redd Foxx?
EA: He’s so funny and underrated. When you ask people who their favorite comedian is or favorite African-American comedian, people generally say Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Murphy, or Richard Pryor. Redd Foxx gets left out a lot.
He’s more known for Sanford And Son than his stand-up, but his stand-up was so good and edgy for its time. He’s so likable. It’s relaxing for me to listen to his stand-up. He’s so fucking charming. I loved him growing up and I loved his stand-up and just started listening to more of his stand-up again recently. I have a nostalgia for him.
AVC: He released something like 50 stand-up records, which is crazy.
EA: Yeah, he was so prolific. I love him.
AVC: Do you have a favorite bit of his, or one that comes to mind today?
EA: Oh, man. “You gotta wash your ass” is the best. He also has this ridiculous joke about—I won’t do it justice because it’s got such a long set up—but it basically ends with—well, this guy goes to Alaska and wants to fit in with Alaskans. This Alaskan guy tells him he has to have sex with an Eskimo and fight a bear and then the guy comes back with all these scratches all over his face and bloody and all war-torn and then he’s like, “All right, where’s that Eskimo girl you want me to fight?” Because he had sex with a bear. It’s a guy having sex with a polar bear. [Laughs.] It’s a very stupid joke.
He also has one of my favorite intros of all time. He walks up on stage, and he’s like, “Thank you for those of you that are applauding. Thank you for those of you who didn’t applaud—I hope your dog dies.” It’s a great way to kick off a comedy special.
EA: Bill Hicks is one of my favorite comedians of all time. He was so courageous and brave. I can’t believe he got away with—or sometimes didn’t get away with—the shit he said. He said exactly what he felt and didn’t give a shit about the repercussions. He was just one of the bravest comedians of all time, and his plight is so tragic. He got pancreatic cancer so fucking young. I just love him. All the stuff on Rant In E-Minor—he’s basically on his deathbed literally, but those were his final recordings and he was letting it all out. He’s so smart.
AVC: “Gays In The Military” would be a pretty progressive bit even now, and to think that it was 20-plus years ago is pretty amazing.
EA: I love that bit. There’s such a depressing truth to it. It’s still relevant today.
AVC: This one’s a classic.
EA: Yeah. Billy O—he’s my favorite emotionally disturbed person on television. He’s such a smug sociopath. He’s such a good bad guy. He’s a fucking piece of shit liar. He’s so fake, and he’s such a villain.
It’s just so nice to sneak a peek behind the curtain of his mind. I read recently that his daughter said she saw him drag his wife by her hair down the stairs like a caveman because he’s a fucking abusive pig. He’s a real human piece of shit.
I love that he a) thinks that he’s straight down the middle politically instead of a right-wing nut, and the fact that he tries to act like, “Yeah, I got it all together” while he’s just a pathological liar. It’s cathartic to watch that.
AVC: The way he turns it off and on in the clip is startling. It’s hilarious, but it’s off-putting.
EA: It’s terrifying! He’s like a fucking Batman villain. He’s a terrifying person.
AVC: I’d never seen this clip, but it’s incredible. It was one of those, “What am I even looking at?” things.
EA: I’ve been watching this video religiously since we started The Eric Andre Show. Me and my director would watch it every day. I’m enchanted by that video.
AVC: Why this one? Have you watched the other videos that these people have made?
EA: No, actually, I haven’t.
I don’t know. I’m so fixated on that video. It’s fun because there’s the perfect amount of nonsense in it. I don’t know, I think it speaks for itself. What can I say that it doesn’t?