How Eric Andre introduced his raucous prank comedy to Netflix’s ‘Unhealthy Journey’

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Comic Eric Andre loves nothing greater than to seize another person’s actuality and bend it towards absurdity.

For practically a decade, his Grownup Swim anti-talk present “The Eric Andre Present” has served up 11-minute barrages of cringe-inducing chaos and frenetic surrealism. When you ever attend certainly one of his notoriously wild birthday events, you may see him get body-slammed by means of a desk by a Mexican luchador or end up chatting with aged nudists he employed to mingle with the group.

Each now and again, actuality bites again — and a 12 months in the past, it delivered Andre a doozy.

Simply days earlier than his prank-comedy movie “Unhealthy Journey” was set to premiere on the 2020 South by Southwest pageant in Austin, the World Well being Group declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic, bringing the world to a grinding halt and throwing Andre’s movie, which he had spent 4 years bringing to fruition, into limbo. As a lot as he appreciates an unpredictable twist, he was not joyful about this one.

“It was extremely miserable,” Andre, 37, mentioned in an interview over Zoom from his dwelling in Los Angeles this week. “We didn’t know what was going to occur. I used to be consuming White Russians in my bathrobe for a month, throwing rooster wings at my TV display screen, all bitter.”

Fortuitously for Andre, Netflix swooped in and picked up “Unhealthy Journey” from Orion Footage. The movie is about to start streaming on Friday, opening Andre to an viewers far past the stoned school college students and comedy nerds who’ve so far made up a lot of his fan base. “They’re type of the very best venue on the town,” Andre mentioned of Netflix. “Now the film is dubbed and subtitled in 60 languages for his or her 200 million subscribers worldwide. It’s an enormous silver lining to the corona fallout.”

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 “Unhealthy Journey.

(Netflix)

Within the anarchic custom of movies like “Borat” and “Unhealthy Grandpa,” the hidden-camera comedy follows finest buddies Chris (Andre) and Bud (Lil Rel Howery) as they journey throughout the nation so Chris will be reunited with the woman of his goals (Michaela Conlin). Tiffany Haddish co-stars as Bud’s escaped-convict sister Trina, as do quite a few harmless bystanders who’re unwittingly roped into the pranks that Andre concocts alongside the way in which, whether or not it’s sticking his hand in a blender at a smoothie store or getting sexually violated by a gorilla at a zoo.

Translating Andre’s punk-rock, Dadaist type of comedy right into a coherent movie was no simple feat. In 2013, when Andre’s agent first advised he meet with “Jackass” producer Jeff Tremaine about making a prank-based film, he and his writing companion Dan Curry pitched a string of disjointed concepts akin to what he had been doing on his present.

“We have been like, ‘It simply needs to be a bunch of crazy-ass pranks’,” Andre mentioned. “However what Jeff had realized from ‘Unhealthy Grandpa’ is should you’re going to deliver an viewers throughout 90 minutes of footage, you want a narrative. You want to respect the rules of feature-length filmmaking and have a tried-and-true archetypal story with sympathetic characters that you just put money into emotionally.”

Having by no means written something with an actual narrative, Andre threw himself into studying learn how to craft a screenplay. “I spotted I didn’t know jack s— about story writing, so I actually had to return to highschool. I went to Robert McKee‘s ‘Story Seminar’ at a lodge by the airport. I learn [the screenwriting guide] ‘Save the Cat!’ I did all that.”

Eric Andre's "Bad Trip" landed at Netflix after the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the original release plan.

Eric Andre’s “Unhealthy Journey” landed at Netflix after the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the unique launch plan.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Occasions)

Finally, Andre and his collaborators, together with longtime “Andre Present” director Kitao Sakurai, settled on a easy buddy-comedy road-movie formulation. “We type of used ‘Tommy Boy’ and ‘Dumb and Dumber’ because the template for our story,” Andre mentioned. “We realized we wanted a very easy, recognizable plot — and, in actual fact, the extra type of clichéd and iconic the tropes have been, the higher it was.”

With the story offering narrative construction, the problem then turned determining learn how to stage pranks that will not solely ship Andre’s model of mayhem but additionally serve to advance the story. “We didn’t need the movie to turn out to be a mishmash of random pranks; we all the time needed there to be a thread to it,” mentioned Sakurai, who directed the movie. “Within the writers’ room, we might provide you with a very humorous prank by itself then reverse-engineer it to suit into the story of what the characters have been doing.”

The method was usually arduous. Quite a lot of pranks, like a sequence through which Chris will get drunk in a cowboy bar and loses management of himself and his gastrointestinal system to the horror of the confused patrons, required an elaborate setup upfront. At different instances, Andre must improvise in character with somebody for upward of an hour to be able to coax the particular person to say what was wanted to advance the plot.

It is also downright harmful. “There’s all the time, like, this primal concern,” mentioned Andre, who has been arrested and injured in the midst of doing pranks on “The Eric Andre Present.” “You’re going into an unpredictable state of affairs, coping with fully unpredictable individuals, and the specter of violence is all the time there.”

Early within the shoot, Andre and Howery had a knife pulled on them by an enraged enterprise proprietor as they tried to drag off a prank through which their penises have been supposedly caught collectively in a Chinese language finger entice. “I actually left and mentioned, ‘I’m completed. I’m not doing this film’,” mentioned Howery, who first met and befriended Andre years in the past on the stand-up comedy circuit. “I walked straight to my lodge nonetheless in my character garments — that’s how mad I used to be. It was my children who satisfied me to maintain going. I informed them what occurred they usually thought it was hilarious.”

Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery in a store

Andre and Howery in a scene from “Unhealthy Journey”

(NETFLIX)

On the entire, although, Andre mentioned he tried to strike a extra playful tone along with his pranks than, say, Sacha Baron Cohen, who has intentionally got down to skewer the small-mindedness and hypocrisy of his targets in “Brüno” and the 2 “Borat” movies. “We confirmed Sacha an early minimize of the film,” Andre mentioned. “He laughed and mentioned, ‘, my films are set as much as expose s—y, wealthy, white oligarchs. And your film reveals the wonder and the humanity of working-class individuals and other people of colour’.”

In particular person, Andre comes throughout as calmer and extra grounded than his in-your-face, dials-cranked-to-11 persona may counsel. As a lot as it might shock his followers, he even practices transcendental meditation. “I keep in mind I as soon as went to get a bánh mi sandwich in Toronto and this man got here as much as me and he was so confused and dissatisfied that I wasn’t like bouncing off the partitions and destroying the whole lot that he began like punching me within the again,” Andre mentioned. “I simply wish to order a sandwich and he’s hitting me as exhausting as he may, like ‘Why isn’t my toy working?’”

That mentioned, whereas he considers himself extra of a merry prankster than a political bomb-thrower — and has at instances signed on to extra mainstream initiatives just like the sitcom “Don’t Belief the B— in Residence 23″ and the 2019 remake of “The Lion King” — Andre is conscious that his work has the potential to offend some sensibilities, a rising concern amongst comedians within the period of cancel tradition.

“Sadly, anybody with web entry can take any joke, re-contextualize it and strip all of its context and its intent and type of use it for their very own advantage signaling, which is posing as activism but it surely’s truly the passive-aggressive cyberbullying of the week,” Andre mentioned. “Generally it’s righteous and justified — it’s the entire spectrum — and that’s what’s robust. However so far as my comedy, I can’t perform as an artist or comic and make inventive selections and fear each step whether or not I’m going to offend any person. I’m all the time going to offend any person. However I can relaxation simple at evening as a result of all of the comedic selections I make are by no means to harm anyone or be abusive.”

The streaming launch of “Unhealthy Journey” arrives at a time when film theaters are slowly coming again to life. Andre says he’s not prepared to return simply but. “I’m not going be within the first wave again within the theaters, however ultimately I’ll,” he mentioned. “I believe I type of wish to go to a bar first. There’s one thing unhappy about consuming in my home on a regular basis.”

Within the meantime, if audiences embrace “Unhealthy Journey” the way in which he hopes they are going to, Andre says he’d like to do one other prank movie, even when his rising fame requires him to extra fastidiously disguise his id subsequent time.

“Haircuts and clothes go a good distance,” he mentioned. “I’m not anxious. However I believe that’s like Champagne issues. And I’d cross that bridge once I received there.”

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