If you’re familiar with Eric Andre, you probably recognize him from The Eric Andre Show. If not let me explain: his eponymous show is like an inverted talk show; instead of going for an hour or two, each episode is 15 minutes. Instead of trying to make the guests feel comfortable, he does the exact opposite. It’s a mix of fast-paced cringe humor and straight up surrealism — in one episode he murders his co-host Hannibal Buress which somehow leads into a Twin Peaks homage — and I’d be lying if I said that was the weirdest part of the episode. So as you can imagine it’s not your typical talk show.
I’d never seen Andre’s standup before so I didn’t know quite what to expect from his first comedy special, Eric Andre: Legalize Everything on Netflix. Was this going to be a live version of The Eric Andre Show, or more conventional standup material? The answer: a little from column A, a little from column B.
Filmed in New Orleans shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and before the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and far too many more Black Americans by police, Legalize Everything is a standup special that by some strange coincidence was released at the moment it was needed most.
First, we haven’t had live comedy shows to see in months and probably won’t again in the near future, so new comedy specials are a welcome rarity right now. Second, the half Black half Jewish (or in his words, “bluish”) comedian Eric Andre has a unique perspective fit for the current era. One of the most biting jokes in the entire special is in the trailer above in which Andre makes fun of how the TV show COPS glorifies police brutality against anyone who’s not white and/or wealthy, all to the tune of the most incongruous theme music possible.
Mild spoilers for Legalize Everything below.
The show opens with a sketch, as many standup specials do these days. This sketch seems straight out of The Eric Andre Show, with Andre impersonating a cop who’s drunk and offering people hits from a giant bong.
Once he hits the stage Andre tackles a wide variety of subjects with his signature frantic intensity: bad drug drips, being mistaken for two men at the same time, bizarre sexual experiences, the horrors of Calvinism in American history, etc.
Throughout Legalize Everything Andre calls out members of the audience for random and uncomfortable reasons, though never devolves into insult humor. In one case he even takes the phone from a volunteer to send text messages. This type of material subverts the expectations of standup comedy — nobody can heckle a comedian who’s preemptively heckling the audience.
Though a couple of the jokes don’t quite land as hard as they might have, everything works here. There’s no question Eric Andre had refined his set by the time this special was filmed and he’s giving it his all in his performance.
Standup comedy is inherently character driven; the comedian is playing a caricature (often but not always of themselves) who tells jokes that speak to the truth of the character in some humorous way. In Andre’s case his caricature is that of an outsider with the energy of a coked-up lunatic who’s armed to the teeth with nuclear truth bombs.
Comedy is also about timing. It’s hard to imagine this special landing at a better time, as Andre squeezes humor out of timely subjects such as America’s racism, poverty, and historical context. Would you be surprised if I told you this special was filmed back in November of 2019? Of course little has changed since then, we’re just more outraged about it now.
I think the audience for Legalize Everything will probably be fairly self-selecting, but even those who aren’t familiar with Andre will likely find solid material to laugh at here — more than can be said for your average Netflix comedy special. If nothing else it’s certainly an hour long spectacle to gawk at.
Personally, Legalize Everything was easily captivating enough to hold my attention, funny enough to make me laugh hard many times, and perhaps most astonishingly, deep enough to make me think — the latter of which are words I can’t believe I’m saying about Eric Andre of all people. There’s no way I give this any less than a perfect score, this is the comedy special we needed right when we needed it.