Watch one episode of The Eric Andre Show, and you’ll see just how much comedic chaos one man can bring into the world. A master of jokes and pranks, Eric Andre spends his screen time interviewing celebrities and celebrity impersonators, shocking innocent civilians, partaking in what producers describe as “deranged” man–on–the–street segments, and wreaking havoc in the studio.
Bad Trip, a recent Netflix release starring Andre, as well as actors and comics Lil Rel Howery, Michaela Conlin, and Tiffany Haddish, challenged Andre to produce and stick to a narrative storyline—rather than just unrelated jokes. The film follows best friends Chris Carey, played by Andre, and Bud Malone, played by Howery, as they travel from Florida to New York in order to meet up with Carey’s high school crush Maria Li, played by Conlin. Along the way, hidden cameras capture increasingly absurd pranks the cast plays on the public. The result is an adrenaline–inducing, entirely unpredictable comedy.
In line with his on–screen persona, which likely reflects his real–life demeanor, Andre is known to be anything but cooperative in real–life interviews. However, Street had the opportunity to interview him, Howery, and Conlin in a Zoom roundtable event, where he provided some insight into what happened behind the scenes. In true Andre fashion, he still brought some mischief to the event: At one point he changed his Zoom background to a screenshot of another interviewer, and later to a photo of Carole Baskin.
Andre cited Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine, and Sacha Baron Cohen as his “comedy forefathers,” with some of these comics even helping brainstorm on set. His own brand of absurd humor differentiates him from his inspirations, however. Andre stated that he's excited that Bad Trip is the first hidden–camera prank movie with a cast that consists entirely of people of color—making it a significant milestone in the comedy world.
Andre also touched on the process of getting comfortable doing hidden–camera pranks. “My organs used to sweat from nerves,” he says.
However, Andre’s been doing this kind of thing for years. He spoke on how Howery and Conlin were the ones truly “thrown into the fire pit,” quite literally going “from zero to a hundred."
According to the cast, Howery’s first hidden camera prank was a scene involving a Chinese finger trap. Let’s just say that fingers were not the objects stuck in the bamboo tube. He and Andre entered a barbershop to ask for help, and the shop owner pulled a knife on them. “He almost got murdered on his first day,” Andre says while chuckling.
As for Conlin, Andre and his fellow producers dragged her to a mall for her audition. They had her pretend to beat up director Kitao Sakurai in front of several clothing store clerks. Conlin and Andre cracked up while reminiscing. They didn’t even film said audition—they just wanted her to see what it felt like. She did so well that she got the part immediately.
Producing Bad Trip further pushed Andre to expand his skills beyond his usual comfort zone of off–the–cuff comedy. In order to understand and utilize storytelling principles for the first time, he had to go back to school: He and his writers attended Robert McKee seminars and read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, as well as Syd Field’s Screenplay.
With the narrative underway, it was time to focus on the main event—the pranks. When asked about balancing shock factor with the morality of pranking unsuspecting bystanders, Andre pinpointed the fine line between “good bad taste” and “bad bad taste.” Of course you want to be provocative, but dancing on the edge can often lead to being unethical.
“Comedy is a game of millimeters,” he says, “so you’re always checking in with your barometer—but there’s never malicious intent.” Conlin chimed in to say that the prankees were typically kind and helpful, both during and after the pranks. Giggling, she shared that one woman whispered calmly in her ear that “everything will be okay.”
Even more hilariously, a diner scene that made it into the final cut depicts Andre and Howery sitting at a table and chatting up their waitress. She ends up giving them relationship advice, saying that she’s “slept with all different genders and genres,” and essentially recounting her entire sexual history.
Though the majority of the prankees you see in the movie are randomly selected, unsuspecting strangers, there were a few willing participants on set. Conlin, Andre, and Howery made it very clear that in a scene where Conlin’s character, Maria, beats up a blind man, he’s not actually blind.
“He was a very strange stuntman who was blessed with his own special set of skills," Andre says.
If this famous cast was constantly interacting with new people, how did they not get recognized? Howery says it was rarely an issue, especially since Andre tends to pick the right parks. He avoided his demographic of college kids and skateboarders, and instead opted for “40–and–up moms who had a long day.” He also mentioned that they changed their looks, which helped a lot. Howery’s “mustache and civil–rights–attorney hair” as his character, Bud Malone, strayed far from his everyday drip.
Even when they did get recognized, the cast played it cool. Howery shared that during a prank at the zoo, a woman approached him to say that he looked a bit like Lil Rel Howery. “Yeah, I get that all the time,” he replied. “Anyway, what’s going on with that gorilla?” It totally worked.
Staying in character is absolutely crucial for these kinds of pranks. If you waver for even a second, the prank fails, because you’re relying on the prankees to be utterly shocked. If they suspect that something is up, their reactions won’t be raw.
Andre says that the sheer pressure forced him and the cast to commit to the act, and they hyped one another up throughout filming. Without giving too much away, there’s a scene wherein a gorilla does unspeakable things to Andre’s character. According to Andre, Howery stood with the onlookers, saying things like “Oh my god—my friend’s in peril! Please help him!” The two would “ping pong emotions back and forth” to really convince the audience.
As with any comedy, the funniest scenes are the bloopers; the closing credits showcase several of them. Because the crew did have to stick to a storyline, some of the pranks just didn’t fit into the narrative. Fortunately, they plan to release some of these extra scenes later on, giving us even more to look forward to. As a bit of a spoiler, Howery explained his favorite scene that didn't make the final cut: Andre’s character pretended to be possessed by the devil, and they brought in a real priest to exorcise the demon out of him. Howery kept cursing every time the priest gave him Bible verses to say, and the priest grew increasingly frustrated with him. Howery says, “It was insane. The guy really thought he was doing it. He probably saw it on T.V. and said, ‘I’m gonna become a priest.’”
Bad Trip was released on Netflix March 26, so be sure to catch a glimpse of the hysterically out–of–control journey. Buckle your seat belts and hold on tight, because it’s going to be a wild ride.