Like most guests on The Eric Andre Show, I wasn’t fully aware of what to expect when I saw the Adult Swim host live at the Commodore Ballroom last Tuesday.
For four seasons now, Andre and sidekick Hannibal Buress have been freaking out unsuspecting guests with random physical gags and off-colour, often extremely personal questions, breaking the mold of polite talk show banter. The duo rejects slick, contemporary production in favour of public access presentation and inserts deadpan canned applause & laughter.
Mostly B and C level celebrities have walked into Andre’s trap: reality “star” Lauren Conrad even ran offstage after Andre vomited and slurped it back up. (Unbeknownst to her, he just snuck oatmeal into his mouth when she wasn’t looking.) Although the likes of Seth Rogan and Jimmy Kimmel have appeared too, even they had their phone number given away on the air and taint tickled from beneath his seat by a production assistant.
So to what extent was Andre going to be able to bring his prop-reliant program to life, in front of an audience that was in the know?
Immediately after opening comic (and Buress stand-in) Byron Bowers introduced The Eric Andre Show, the dishonourable host literally flew onstage, running and diving through his desk like how he destroys his set at the beginning of each episode. He pulled himself from the wreckage and within a minute had soaked the crowd in milk, graham crackers, and what looked like shredded cabbage. Some fans had enough sense to show up in rain ponchos and black garbage bags. But that didn’t protect them from the odours. “What is that smell!?!” someone beside me asked. To my nose, it was either sweetened or spoiled milk. Then came the Super Soaker that Andre sprayed as he surfed through the crowd. I shudder to think what was in that.
“Shit, we forgot to book a guest,” Andre said when he finally sat down behind his freshly replaced desk. “Who wants to be on the show?” Predictably, the crowd went ballistic, surging towards the stage. “Okay, Duck Dynasty right here,” Andre said, picking out a bearded guy in camo pants. After a series of improvised questions, like asking him to set up a clip from his “new movie” (a cow giving birth), Andre and Bowers instructed Duck Dynasty to expose his ass for a “vaccination.” They prepped their oversized syringes, further instructed him to spread his cheeks, and soaked him with a clear liquid that I assume was only water down (and up) the middle.
Approximately 30 to 40 people crammed onstage at Andre’s invitation. With so many people up there, and with so much cheering, I couldn’t see or hear exactly what was going on. “This is the most casual security I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s too much weed in Vancouver,” Andre said, pointing out the fans’ craziness. “Someone get these maniacs off the stage!”
Between these interactive, often messy antics, the lights went down as remote bits from the talk show ran on several screens. But they were difficult for fans near the front of the stage to see: either those fans had to turn all the way around to look at the small screens on the sides of the venue, or they had to stretch their necks to see the large ones that flanked the stage and faced the back of the venue.
I gathered it was an Eric Andre tradition for fans to bring – or sneak – bottles of ranch sauce into his shows. One fan took up Andre’s challenge to chug ranch sauce for $5. The fan then took the challenge one step further and forced himself puke it up onstage – for free, if I remember correctly. Even shockmaster Eric Andre was amazed, his voice cracking with laughter and disbelief as he spoke. “I’d shake your hand, but I don’t want to get Zika virus.” They settled by bumping forearms.
It later turned out that Andre did book a guest: Winnipegger and The Flash star Paul Anthony. Besides references to Tim Hortons and Terry Fox, I didn’t retain much of this unmemorable bit. I know Anthony agreed to wear a lie detecting shock collar. But not only could I not see Anthony react to getting shocked, I’m skeptical when shock devices or lie detecting is involved in variety shows.
After only 30 minutes since careening through his desk, Andre thanked the crowd and bid good night. An air of bewilderment lingered as fans stood around unsure whether or not the show had actually ended. After a few minutes, they began filing out. A good third or more of the crowd had already left before Andre re-emerged. I had to stand on a chair to confirm what I’d thought when I saw him shirtless saying, “Oh, shit, I dropped something”: like in much of his Instagram page, he was naked with his dick tucked out of sight. He thanked the crowd again and disappeared, just like his dick.
The Eric Andre Show live ran at approximately a buck per minute. Some call him punk rock comedy – an intense, brief blast of energy and insanity – and reasonably so: I’ve paid $10 for a searing 10-minute punk set before. And many fans at the Commodore were clearly fine with this rate, commenting on their way out, “That was the best show I’ve ever seen” and “worth going to the Commodore.” Some fans loved Eric Andre’s flashbang shock-comedy so much, they waited up to an hour inside and outside of the venue to try meeting him. One mulleted fan even attempted to entice him out for an informal meet-and-greet by chugging and puking more ranch sauce. But alas, the worst talk show host in history was on his way to have his way with the next town.