Eric Andre is a purveyor of nihilism. His surrealist talk show, The Eric Andre Show, ran for four seasons on Adult Swim, during which time he terrified and disgusted guests, prompting both The Hills’ Lauren Conrad and rapper T.I. to walk off the set mid-“interview.” He shocked Jack Black (literally, electrically) and had Seth Rogen don Velcro to jump and stick to a Velcro wall — that turned out not to be made of Velcro at all. He had his “co-host,” comedian Hannibal Burress, stand uncomfortably over every guest who attended, because his set — which he destroys at the beginning of every show and appeared to be made mostly of cardboard — contained only one extra chair.
He “deconstructed,” as he likes to say, the talk show format.
Andre was born in Boca Raton, Florida to a Haitian father and an Ashkenazi Jewish mother. (Joan Rivers called his life “backwards” in that he grew up in Boca and later moved to New York: “Most Jews go New York to Boca.”) And though he’s often used interviews (in which he’s the subject) as a venue for absurdity by remaining in his Eric Andre Show persona, sometimes he talks about his real self and identity. For some reason, people have seemed baffled by his Jewishness (maybe because he’s also black, which unfortunately makes a lot of white people balk at people of color’s Jewishness).
Across his media appearances, Andre has identified as Haitian, black, Jewish, an atheist, and a “class clown.” Since his new Adult Swim show, Mostly 4 Millennials (kind of like The Eric Andre Show but produced/co-written instead of hosted by Andre) recently debuted and he’s set to appear in The Lion King movie alongside Beyoncé and Donald Glover, let’s take some time to get to know Andre better through the iconic moments in which the comedian/satirist/producer reveled in his Jewish identity.
1. The time he made a “payos” pun on Twitter.
To promote Mostly 4 Millennials, Andre tweeted, “Tonight we PAYOS it forward with #diversity and #bravery!” Like most words he says regarding his TV shows, it’s irreverent and nonsensical, but it’s still a bad pun, and bad puns can be pretty good.
2. When he got in bed with Joan Rivers.
Andre met his match in Rivers. “I loved you on Fashion Police,” she said as they sat in bed together during her In Bed With Joan YouTube series in 2013. “You didn’t care — he wasn’t wearing socks, he took his toes and stuck them in his mouth while we were trying to have a real discussion with him.” Unlike most who interview Andre, she dug the way he eschewed “polite” television conventions.
Rivers, after all, was no stranger to making people uncomfortable (RIP Joan). Maybe that’s why Andre got uncharacteristically real with her, revealing how he comes from “like four generations” of atheist/agnostic Jews and how some of his relatives had died in the Holocaust. After talking for a while, Rivers said, “You have to look behind the crazy hair and ugly face and the skinny body and the kind of bad odor — somewhere in there is truly a nice Jew.”
Rivers kept going back to Andre’s Jewishness during their interview, probably because it’s something they had in common. “Do you think of yourself as a Jew?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m so neurotic,” Andre replied. “I’m like Larry David on the inside of this. You should see me on a [first] date… I’m swallowing involuntary… I’ll go to the bathroom every five minutes, I have napkins piled up because I’m drying my hands off, I’m reading the Torah, lighting a menorah…”
3. That time he ate at Zabar’s with someone else’s bubbe.
In an Elite Daily video in which chef Jonah Reider goes food shopping with his ex-girlfriend’s mother (whom he refers to as “Bubbe”), Andre joins them for a snack at Zabar’s, a well-known, upscale Jewish deli in New York.
In between eating ice cream and lox, Andre said to Bubbe, “You would get along with my mom” after the two agree that the ice cream they’re eating can’t really be non-fat like its label claims.
“My mom’s like, You’re not the only celebrity in the family. There’s a lot of famous rabbis,” he continued. “I go Ma, nobody knows these rabbis from like hundreds of years ago. She’s like, Yes, they do. Look ‘em up.”
4. When he owned his black and Jewish identity on Conan.
Andre was in full form O’Brien’s talk show, attempting to share his host’s microphone and asking whether the mug he was given consisted of oatmeal (what Andre used as fake vomit to make Lauren Conrad walk out of his show, incidentally).
“You have an interesting background, Eric,” Conan tells him, in the form of a question. “Your mom is Jewish and your dad is Haitian.”
“I’m Blewish,” Andre responded. “Black and Jewish, black and Jewish, black and Jewish, black and Jewish.”
5. That time he was “neither a hit nor a miss” with an audience in Tel Aviv on the first night of Passover.
This past March, Andre performed for a crowd in Tel Aviv on the first night of Passover. An article from The Jerusalem Post goes into more detail, but one of the key moments consisted of Andre’s “heavy-metal inspired rendition of ‘Dayenu,’” which he finished with, “I don’t know who the fuck ‘Enu’ is, but if ‘Enu’ came back to life tonight we’d fucking kill him!”
6. …And the few Passover invites he got thanks to his performance.
“Killer set tonight. Happy Passover. Let me know if you want to chill on that Kosher Kush,” one person tweeted at Andre after his March 29 set.
Another Twitter user wrote to Andre, “My parents loved the troll and they want you to come to Passover Seder.”
Scroll down for some other Passover greetings directed at Andre on Twitter.
7. When Larry King visibly brightened at the mention of Andre being Jewish.
King was having a tough time interviewing Andre. Then at one point, they talked about their shared Jewish heritage, and King visibly brightened… if only for a fraction of a second before Andre started trolling the veteran talk show host again.
8. The fact that he’s going to star alongside Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson in an upcoming animated series.
This isn’t necessarily a Jewish thing, but I think fans of Broad City, which follows the (mis)adventures of two young, Jewish women in New York, would be pleased to discover that Jacobson’s getting the starring role in Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s new animated series, Disenchantment, coming to Netflix this summer. Jacobson will play a heavy drinking princess in medieval times who has a “personal demon” played by Andre.
Bring it on.
Header Image via Eric Andre on Instagram.