How Eric Andre brought his raucous prank comedy to Netflix’s ‘Bad Trip’

Comedian Eric Andre loves nothing more than grabbing someone else’s reality and bending it to the absurd.

For nearly a decade, his Adult Swim anti-talk show “The Eric Andre Show” has served up 11 minutes of chaos and frenzied surrealism. If you ever attend one of his notoriously wild birthday parties, a Mexican might slam him against a table. fighter or chat with old nudists he hired to blend in with the crowd.

Every once in a while, reality recedes, and a year ago, it gave Andre a surprise.

Just days before his joke-comedy movie “Bad Trip” premiered at the 2020 South by Southwest festival in Austin, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, bringing the world to a standstill and released Andre’s film, which he had spent four years bringing to fruition, Limbo. As much as he appreciates an unpredictable twist, he wasn’t happy with this one.

“It was incredibly depressing,” Andre, 37, said in an interview with Zoom from his home in Los Angeles this week. “We did not know what was going to happen. I was drinking white Russians in my bathrobe for a month, throwing chicken wings at my TV screen, all bitter. “

Fortunately for Andre, Netflix swooped in and picked up Orion Pictures’ “Bad Trip.” The movie is scheduled to begin airing on Friday, opening Andre up to an audience far beyond the drugged college students and comedy nerds who have thus far made up much of his fan base. “They are the best place in town,” Andre said of Netflix. “Now the film is dubbed and subtitled in 60 languages ​​for its 200 million subscribers around the world. It is a great ray of light for the consequences of the crown. “

Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery sit on the hood of a pink car

Eric Andre as Chris Carey and Lil Rel Howery as Bud Malone in “Bad Trip.


In the anarchic lore of movies like “Borat” and “Bad Grandpa,” the hidden camera comedy follows best friends Chris (Andre) and Bud (Lil Rel Howery) as they travel across the country so Chris can meet up with the girl of his dreams (Michaela Conlin). Tiffany Haddish co-stars as Trina, Bud’s runaway convict sister, as do numerous innocent bystanders who unknowingly get caught up in the pranks Andre makes up along the way, whether it’s reaching into a blender at a smoothie shop. or being raped by a gorilla at a zoo.

Translating Andre’s punk-rock and dadaist comedy style into a coherent film was no easy task. In 2013, when Andre’s agent first suggested he meet with “Jackass” producer Jeff Tremaine to make a joke-based movie, he and his writing partner Dan Curry pitched a series of disjointed ideas similar to what had been doing on his show.

“We thought, ‘It has to be a lot of crazy jokes,’” Andre said. “But what Jeff had learned from ‘Bad Grandpa’ is that if you’re going to take the audience through 90 minutes of footage, you need a story. You must adhere to the principles of feature film making and have a tried-and-true archetypal story with caring characters that you emotionally invest in. “

Having never written anything with a real narrative, Andre dedicated himself to learning how to write a script. “I realized that I didn’t know anything about story writing, so I really had to go back to school. I went to Robert McKee’s “Story Seminar” at a hotel by the airport. I read [the screenwriting guide] ‘Save the cat!’ I did all that. “

By Eric Andre "Bad trip" landed on Netflix after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the original release plan.

Eric Andre’s “Bad Trip” landed on Netflix after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the original release plan.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Ultimately, Andre and his collaborators, including veteran “Andre Show” director Kitao Sakurai, settled on a simple buddy comedy road-movie formula. “We used ‘Tommy Boy’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber’ as a model for our story,” Andre said. “We realized that we needed a really simple and recognizable plot, and in fact, the more clichéd and iconic the tropes were, the better it was.”

With the story providing a narrative structure, the challenge became figuring out how to stage pranks that would not only deliver Andre’s brand of chaos, but would also serve to advance the story. “We didn’t want the movie to become a hodgepodge of random jokes; We always wanted it to have a common thread, ”said Sakurai, who directed the film. “In the writers room, we would come up with a really funny joke on its own and then reverse engineer it to fit the story of what the characters were doing.”

The process was often arduous. A series of pranks, such as a sequence in which Chris gets drunk in a cowboy bar and loses control of himself and his gastrointestinal system to the horror of confused customers, required elaborate preparation in advance. At other times, Andre would have to improvise in character with someone for more than an hour to persuade the person to say what was needed to move the plot forward.

It could also be downright dangerous. “There’s always, like, this overriding fear,” said Andre, who has been arrested and injured in the course of making jokes on “The Eric Andre Show.” “You’re getting into an unpredictable situation, dealing with completely unpredictable people, and the threat of violence is always there.”

Early in the shoot, an enraged businessman threw a knife at Andre and Howery while they tried to make a prank in which their penises were allegedly stuck in a Chinese finger trap. “I literally walked away and said, ‘I’m done. I’m not making this movie, ‘”said Howery, who met and befriended Andre years ago on the stand-up comedy circuit. “I walked straight to my hotel still in my character clothes, that’s how angry I was. It was my children who convinced me to keep going. I told them what happened and they found it very funny. “

Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery in a store

Andre and Howery in a scene from “Bad Trip”


In general, though, Andre said that he tried to put a more playful tone with his jokes than, say, Sacha Baron Cohen, who deliberately set out to skewer the meanness and hypocrisy of his targets in “Brüno” and the two Films of ” Borat ”. “We showed Sacha a first cut from the movie,” Andre said. “He laughed and said, ‘You know, my movies are designed to expose rich, sexy white oligarchs. And your movie shows the beauty and humanity of working-class people and people of color. ‘

In person, Andre is calmer and more grounded than his face-to-face persona, dials-to-the-11 might suggest. As much as it may surprise his fans, he even practices transcendental meditation. “I remember once I went to buy a bánh mi sandwich in Toronto and a guy came up to me and was so confused and disappointed that I was not like bouncing off the walls and destroying everything that started as a punch in the back. “Andre said.” I just want to order a sandwich and he hits me as hard as he can, like ‘Why isn’t my toy working?’ “

That said, although he considers himself more of a lighthearted prankster than a political bomb thrower, he has on occasion signed on to more mainstream projects such as the sitcom “Don’t Trust the B – in Apartment 23″ and the 2019 remake of ” The Lion King ”- Andre is aware that his work has the potential to offend some sensibilities, a growing concern among comedians in the era of cancellation culture.

“Unfortunately, anyone with access to the Internet can take any joke, recontextualize it and strip it of all its context and its intention and use it for their own signaling of virtues, which masquerades as activism but is in reality the passive-aggressive cyberbullying of the week, ”Andre said. “Sometimes it is straight and justified, it is the whole spectrum, and that is the difficult part. But when it comes to my comedy, I can’t function as an entertainer or comedian and make creative decisions and worry at every step whether I’m going to offend someone. I will always offend someone. But I can rest easy at night because all the comic choices I make are never to hurt anyone or be abusive. “

The streaming release of “Bad Trip” comes at a time when movie theaters are slowly coming to life. Andre says he’s not ready to go back yet. “I won’t be in the first wave back to theaters, but eventually I will,” he said. “I think I want to go to a bar first. There is something sad about drinking in my house all the time. “

In the meantime, if audiences accept “Bad Trip” as he hopes, Andre says he’d love to make another prank movie, even if his growing fame requires him to disguise his identity more carefully next time.

“Haircuts and clothes are very useful,” he said. “I’m not worried. But I think that’s like champagne trouble. And I would cross that bridge when I got there.”

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