Eric Andre’s comedy is not for the faint of heart or the sensitive of stomach.
The star of Adult Swim’s, “The Eric Andre Show” rose to fame by horrifying guests with stunts like pretending to eat his own vomit and hiding dead squid under chairs, not to mention jumping through walls and demolishing his desk.
In his Netflix stand-up special “Legalize Everything,” Andre uses his abilities as a provocateur to take aim at everything from the Constitution, the war on drugs and, in a particularly well-timed bit, police brutality.
He also devotes a substantial portion of the set to his identity.
The son of a Black Haitian father and a white Jewish mother, Andre describes himself as “Blewish” (Black and Jewish).
“My dad looks like Arthur Ashe, and my mom looks like Howard Stern,” he jokes. “And that is why I look like Ernie from ‘Sesame Street.’”
Andre brings his unconventional style to two of the most conventional topics in male Jewish comedy: his atheism and his mother.
“I love being a Jew,” he says. “Long lineage, Sigmund Freud, Larry David, I love that sh--. I just don’t wear the hat or read the book.”
He even talks about the Torah and takes on the question of kosher food laws.
He reveals himself to be a mama’s boy at heart when he tells the story of how he finally convinced his mom, “a 700-year-old Jew,” to smoke weed with him at his house in Los Angeles.
“She can’t inhale, she looks like Dizzy Gillespie the whole time,” he says before doing an impression of her technique.
When Andre is not talking about his pride in his Jewish heritage or his relationship with his parents, he is staying on-brand with absurdist jokes and plenty of obscenity.
The special opens with footage of him dressed as a police officer and offering drugs he “stole from the evidence room,” to passersby. The first third of the show consists of anecdotes about various drug-induced shenanigans, like having a breakdown at Coachella after blacking out on Xanax and missing a performance by a Tupac hologram.
He humps walls, invites an elderly couple to disrobe onstage and concludes the show with some (almost) full-frontal nudity.
At first glance, it seems he is simply trying to shock and disgust audiences as much as possible. But it soon becomes clear that there is a method to the madness.
The underlying thesis of the special is, well, “Legalize everything,” including drugs and sex work. Comedy about highly politicized issues can veer into preachy TedTalk territory when performers think having an opinion about legalization or policing is the same thing as having a tight 10.
Andre’s over-the-top flailing, screaming and sweating allows him to avoid this pitfall. This is especially apparent when he mocks the canceled police show “Cops,” for its decision to pair reggae music with footage of police brutality.
“This is an institution invented by white, heterosexual, Christian businessmen! And if you don’t fit that description, it is my job to subjugate and oppress you, motherf------! For I am your judge, jury, and executioner!” he screams, eyes popping as he mimics a police officer shooting the body of a suspect before abruptly breaking out into a rendition of “Under the Sea.”
His fixation on bodily functions also lends itself to an incisive rant about the country’s Puritan origins. He implores audience members to empty their Diva Cups onto the grave of John Calvin, the religious patriarch who routinely ordered people executed for premarital sex.
“He was, like, the original incel,” Andre explains, referring to the online subculture of “involuntarily celibate” misogynists.
The bit is funny and unexpected. Who goes to a standup show anticipating a Colonial history lesson? It also fits seamlessly into Andre’s crusade against the prudish vestiges of Puritanism in American culture.
The comedian deserves credit for his ability to stay true to his style while etaining the element of surprise. But audiences who are more horrified by LSD than by injustice should stay away. JN
Sophie Panzer is a staff writer for Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, a Jewish News-affiliated publication.