If you aren’t familiar with it, The Eric Andre Show is a post-modern talk show starring Eric Andre and Hannibal Buress, two comedians who are either parodying a late night show or trying to escape one.
In its description of the show, Hulu describes it as the “most manic and unorthodox late night talk show ever made,” calling Andre “inept and bipolar” and Buress “his apathetic co-host.” The AV Club says “what most distinguishes The Eric Andre Show is its disintegration.” MediaLife Magazine, in a furious review, calls it “slapdash, noisy, annoying and not funny.” IndieWire, in a review of its fourth season, calls it “some beautiful chaos.”
But the review that still haunts me and informs my entire viewing of the show is one on IMDB, titled Is This Comedy? The author, diesixdie, describes the experience of The Eric Andre Show with such troubling precision and insight that it has informed my view The Eric Andre Show ever since:
“We seem to be viewing some sort inescapable closed universe containing nothing but an endless slightly nightmarish talk show. It feels like a bad dream, half remembered. It feels like there’s some unspeakable horror lurking just off-camera that the people on-stage can see, but, we can’t, and they can only stay safe by pretending to ignore it.”
This season, the show’s nightmare elements have only magnified and escalated. Zombies crawl from the floor. Crewmembers fall from the ceiling. Andre’s desk gives birth to a baby desk. Cockroaches and snakes emerge from the set, frightening the celebrities who have, for some reason, agreed to an interview.
The show still opens with scenes of Andre trying to destroy the entire set, only for it to reassemble itself the moment he collapses with exhaustion.
But there is one question that troubles me as I watch this: what’s actually happening here? What is the in-universe explanation for what we are seeing? Which is what lead me to my interpretation, another layer upon the IMDB review I cited above:
Hannibal Buress is not a victim of The Eric Andre Show universe, but its mastermind.
Here is my evidence:
Hannibal does not participate in destroying the set
The first thing leading me to this conclusion is that Hannibal always enters the set immediately after the set has reassembled itself. He arrives calm, collected, with his usual air of detached amusement.
Hannibal seems comfortable and aware of both himself and his surroundings
He often has to remind Eric of what is happening next: do the monologue, welcome the next guest, ask a question, tell a joke, and so on.
A good inspection of their differing approaches to the environment can be seen in their interview of Jimmy Kimmel:
Hannibal is free to leave, while Eric is not
Hannibal arrives after the opening and occasionally entirely leaves the set, with one recent example being when he replaced himself with a robot named Hannibal 9000 who helped interview Breaking Bad‘s Raymond Cruz.
Hannibal’s air is detached and confident while reality disintegrates around them
Eric Andre spends a lot of his time on The Eric Andre Show suffering and struggling. He often ends interviews by destroying the desk he destroyed earlier in the episode.
Hannibal Buress, meanwhile, either laughs, applauds, or makes a calm off-beat comment.
It is also notable that while Eric Andre takes his antics into some bizarre prank-style shorts, you rarely see Hannibal join him for these.
In the episode entitled The Hannibal Buress Show in Season Three, we see further suggestions that Hannibal holds all the power.
In the fifth episode of the third season of The Eric Andre Show, Eric gets into a car accident and Hannibal has to host the show.
We learn that Hannibal is wealthy with a nice house while Eric leaves in a dingy apartment with just a mattress. We additionally see what happens when Hannibal runs the show: he destroys the set with a handgun and machine gun. Then, after telling one joke during his monologue, he receives an award for “Best Talk Show Host.”
Is Hannibal the master of the Eric Andre Show universe?
All of this – beginning with the IMDB review and informed by years of viewing Eric Andre from the “they’re trapped in a terrible universe” lens – has lead me to believe that, yes, The Eric Andre Show does exist in a self-contained nightmare of a universe but that Hannibal is exempt from this nightmare, because he is in control of this world.
I realize that no one asked for this fan theory, but it’s the one I have for you. Not the one you need right now, but the one you deserve.
Now go watch an episode of The Eric Andre Show through this lens and tell me if it works as much as I think it does.
Update: I was challenged in the comments below as having lifted this theory from elsewhere. I haven’t seen this theory anywhere else – did not “steal” it – but I have found one that suggests Eric is in Hell and Hannibal is the Devil. You can check that theory out here.