The Cringe Prank Comedy genre is evolving. When MTV’s Jackass first introduced its series of gut-busting, pain-inducing stunts, the format involved a loosely compiled sequence of unrelated bits. Many imitators followed, employing the same basic formula.
Now, however, there are plots — first introduced with Team Jackass’s 2013 comedy Bad Grandpa, and continuing with this week’s Netflix release of that film's unofficial follow-up, Bad Trip, which introduces the bonkers, subversive shock-jockery of Adult Swim mainstay Eric Andre (The Eric Andre Show) into the equation.
The hidden-camera film — which was originally supposed to open in theaters last spring before the coronavirus pandemic pushed the release back a year — finds Andre and co-star Lil Rel Howery stunting their way from Florida to New York with a premise that involves Andre stealing a car from Rel’s escaped-convict sister (Tiffany Haddish) to chase the woman of his dreams.
Fans will be more interested to hear that Bad Trip is the most bats*** movie of the year, with outrageous stunts involving a Chinese finger trap and the two male leads’ (prosthetic) members, a sex-crazed silverback gorilla having his way with Andre, exploding cars and more shenanigans — all leaving unsuspecting civilians-turned-movie extras in disbelief.
In an R-rated new interview, Andre tells us about his long journey to bring Bad Trip to the screen — and why Howery quit after Day One (before coming back), which also directly led to an intrigued Haddish joining the madness.
Yahoo Entertainment: The most obvious comparison for Bad Trip is a Jackass with a story, so Bad Grandpa, but you’ve also been using real people in pranks on The Eric Andre Show for years now. Did that feel like a pretty natural extension then, to take it to this feature-film format?
Eric Andre: That's kind of how it came about. Bad Grandpa came out in 2013 and we were working on Season 2 of The Eric Andre Show, and my agent called me and he was like, “You should meet up with [Jackass co-creator and Bad Grandpa director] Jeff Tremaine. You do hidden-camera pranks all the time. Why don't you talk to him and figure out if there's like a Bad Grandpa-narrative prank movie that you can do under his guidance.” And a quick seven-and-a-half years later it’s coming out [laughs].
What did Jeff bring to the table in helping you build off your own foundation?
He taught us everything. We were just coming in with the craziest balls-to-the-wall pranks that we could think of, but he was like, “You’ve really got to have a story for it to be a movie. You’re not going to get across 90 minutes of footage if it’s just a bunch of random pranks. It doesn’t matter how funny the pranks are.” So he really helped us crack story and with just like the fundamentals of filmmaking, which is a different art form than an 11-minute Adult Swim late-night talk show. He knew a lot of prank tricks, too. Jeff was like our Master Splinter. He went through so many trials and tribulations with three Jackass movies and Bad Grandpa under his belt. He had two decades-plus more experience than us. So he was our shepherd. He was our guiding light.
You said you had this list of balls-to-the-wall prank ideas. Was there anything on there that was even too crazy for him?
No, we live for too crazy. Sometimes stuff is too expensive, or illegal [laughs]. But only if it feels mean-spirited, that’s the only time we cut things for creative reasons. Usually stuff gets cut because it’s illegal or expensive.
You got some heavy hitters involved to co-star with Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish. Did they need any extra convincing to join given how crazy things were gonna get?
Well, Rel almost died his first day, and it was the first hidden-camera prank ever filmed. A knife got pulled out on us when we went into a barbershop with the “Chinese D*** Trap,” you know, joined at the d***.
Wait, that was Day 1?
That was Day 1. That was Day 1 of production and Day 1 of him ever filming a hidden-camera prank. And the guy almost murdered us. So Rel basically quit the movie. He was upset, rightfully so, stormed off, quit the movie. He told his reps, “This is too dangerous for me. I want out.” And he also called Tiffany Haddish, just as a friend, just to vent. He was like, “I'm doing this Eric Andre movie, it’s a prank movie. We almost got killed today. I can’t take this s***. It’s really stressful.” She ended the call. She called me a few minutes later, and she was so intrigued that I almost got Rel killed, “Yo, you almost got Rel killed while filming?” I said, “Yeah, I feel bad.” And she goes, “Yo, I want to be in your movie! I live for that s***!” I was like, “Consider it done.”
So they had a night and day reaction to it all. Rel was worried for his life every time we filmed because he had PTSD from Day 1. And then Tiffany was so intrigued by a near-death experience that she elected herself as the sister character. And it was kismet because the actress that was supposed to play Tiffany’s role had just dropped out because she had a scheduling conflict with a television show she was doing. So that was casting from the heavens.
Speaking of the knife guy, he must’ve signed a waiver, though? Because you guys do show his face.
You know, the more pissed they are, the more relieved they are once you reveal it’s a prank. So that guy was actually pretty cool once we revealed it. He was like, “Awww, you got me. I almost killed you!”
Did you have moments of tripper’s regret on this? Like, “Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t have done this.”
No, I don’t ever regret it. You want things to go south. We’re in the business of mining for those reactions. So Rel is like, “Oh my God, I almost died.” Me, I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to have so much fun in the editing bay looking at this footage.” I’m looking for like extreme reactions. So I was happy at the end of that day.
So there was never a moment you feared for your life?
Oh no, I did. I feared for my safety. I almost got stabbed. We definitely had a big security meeting the next morning about what to do and what not to do. But I knew that I was getting good footage, getting usable footage. ... A prank going south to me is when the people you’re pranking just don’t react or they know it’s a prank. If someone’s really invested and really that riled up, that’s a good day of shooting.
It’s actually surprising how many of the people you prank end up being really cool about it. Or did you just leave out the a**holes?
No, we want the a**holes. I mean the a**holes make for good reactions. The rules of this movie are different than the rules of The Eric Andre Show where in that I can just be criminally insane for 11 minutes and nothing matters because there’s no narrative burden. You just want it to be absurdist and surreal and nonsensical by design. That’s kind of the aesthetic. The movie has to be narrative. There’s different rules, there’s different principles in filmmaking and feature-length filmmaking. You have to empathize with the character, sympathize with the character, sympathize with their plight, invest in their journey.
So because of that, the pranks are a little bit more sympathetic. They were more “Help me! Help me!” pranks. There were more pranks where I was in peril, begging people for help. … But yeah, at the end of it, yes I was surprised how many good Samaritans were out. That was actually really heartwarming to see how many people were really just helpful and how much humanity is in the movie.
It definitely briefly restores your faith in humanity, until you, you know, turn on the news or open Twitter again. It did seem like it wasn’t until the penises came out that people got really mad. Were those the biggest triggers?
Yeah, me and Rel with our penises stuck in a Chinese finger trap really, really triggered people [laughs]. Who would’ve thunk?
In another scene, your clothes are vacuumed off at a car wash. Between The Eric Andre Show and this, have you found that you actually enjoy getting nude in public?
I do. I’m kind of over it, though. ’Cause now people like just request it like every television appearance. I think it’s kind of lost its shock value. But, yeah, when you're doing pranks, you’re just trying to think, “What is the most shocking thing I can do in public that will like elicit a reaction no matter what? Like can guarantee a reaction and yield high results.” And public nudity and French kissing priests go a long way.
You mentioned how the pranks here put you in peril. In one scene, it appears you’re getting penetrated by a gorilla when accidentally trapped in its cage at the zoo. Is that the most demeaned you’ve ever felt?
No, I think I’d feel a bit demeaned in every prank. I think life is a demeaning prank.
What can you say about shooting that?
I actually didn’t have a lot of faith that the people were going to buy the gorilla costume as real. I was like, “I don’t know if the people we’re pranking are going to buy this.” And it was one of our first pranks. I also couldn't look up to see if they were, I knew I just had to commit, but a lot of the time, my face is kind of buried in the dirt. So I just was going off their sounds while committing to my performance and hoping that it would work. But once I got up and out of the cage and saw how invested they were, I was like, “Oh, this is a banger.”
How do you psych yourself up for the crazier stunts? You’ve talked about having a few drinks before you go on late-night shows to calm the nerves. Did you have a similar ritual on this?
I really can’t even drink through the process or I’ll be too tired or hungover. I’d say eating very healthy, making sure I have proper sleep hygiene. I meditate twice a day. This is like a marathon, these kinds of shoots. So you really have to take care of yourself. Meditation is a big one. I’ve learned this, I just know that the more uncomfortable and stressed I am before and during shooting, the more pleasure I will experience in the editing bay. And at the end of the day, that edit, that footage, lasts forever. So that uncomfortable feeling is fleeting, but the footage, the capturing of that moment is eternal. So I just gotta remind myself that before I jump out of a passenger van connected at the d*** with Lil Rel Howery.
Off topic, but there was a fan movement to have you replace Ellen DeGeneres on her own talk show after some pretty heavy behind-the-scenes drama was exposed there. The petition has over 110,000 signatures. What was your reaction to that, I think you were on board?
I'm completely on board and I’m waiting for NBC to do the right thing and call me.
I did read a headline this morning that said The Ellen DeGeneres Show has lost a million viewers after her workplace toxicity scandal. So maybe they do need to shake things up over there.
They can continue calling the show Ellen, you don’t even have to change the name. But I’m the host.
You will be the new Ellen.
Eric Ellen DeGeneres Andre.
Would you co-host or is this strictly a solo thing?
Oh no, Ellen, you’re out, sorry. You… spread… bad vibes at work. I don’t even know what you got in trouble for.
From the reports it was a whole lot of toxicity going on. But it wasn’t just her, I should say, it was some of the producers there.
Yeah, I mean, I will remember birthdays. I will make eye contact with interns. I will undo the damage that monster put us through. The hell!
Bad Trip is currently streaming on Netflix.
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