Director: Kitao Sakurai
Date: March 26, 2021
R | 1 hour 24 minutes
Eric Andre, Lil Rel Howery and Michaela Conlin sat laughing during a college roundtable Zoom interview March 17 as they recalled the insanity that went into the making of their movie “Bad Trip.”
Even without their fellow cast member Tiffany Haddish, the trio was able to tell the story of the film’s creation and all of the bumps in the road that came with it.
The movie — which debuts March 26 after more than a year of pandemic-induced delays — is a long-form version of what Andre (“The Eric Andre Show”) has done best in the past. It stretches the absurd, off-the-cuff comedy of his Adult Swim show into a 90-minute format and adds a plot to try to contain the chaos.
Andre’s comedic style has been fittingly likened to jazz since he initially attended Berklee College of Music where he played double bass and graduated with a BFA in 2005.
The pranks are erratic in nature and tend to go with the flow of the story, which follows Andre and Howery on their road trip to an art showcase in New York where Andre’s character plans to ask out his high school crush.
However, there are a few things that set him apart from other hidden camera comedy giants, notably one that Andre was quite proud of: a diverse cast.
“I’m excited that we’re the first all people of color cast to do a hidden camera movie,” Andre said as a seriousness came over him — a stark contrast from the goofy, open nature he displayed in the rest of the interview.
Aside from the makeup of the cast, there were some other differences between “Bad Trip” and other hidden camera comedies — its genre, tone and experience of the cast among them.
Despite Andre consulting Nathan Fielder (“Nathan For You”) before the movie was filmed and screening the movie early for Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat,” “The Dictator”), he sees himself as a different type of beast in the same genre.
“I take a ton of inspiration from [Johnny Knoxville, co-producer of ‘Bad Trip,’ Jeff Tremaine, and Baron Cohen], they’re my comedy forefathers,” Andre said. “[But] I’ve got my own brand of absurdity in my comedic point of view.”
Admittedly, and often because of his unpredictable style, the story has a habit of falling to the wayside due to the pranks being so far removed from reality. This isn’t a bad thing, though. It truly speaks to the talent of Andre and the adaptability of his co-stars, something that was put to the test before they were cast.
During the interview, Andre divulged the details of Conlin’s (“Bones”) audition, which consisted of her pretending to attack a director in a mall full of unwitting crowds.
“It is trial by fire,” Andre said. “Nothing really prepares you for it until you do it. … It’s like learning how to swim by throwing yourself in the water and drowning for a second.”
Some might consider “trial by fire” an understatement. In the first scene Howery (“Get Out,” “Judas and the Black Messiah”) shot for the film, he and Andre were chased out of a barbershop by a knife-wielding man. To the knife-wielder’s credit, the two entered the building joined at their prosthetic penises by a chinese finger trap.
But to Howery’s credit, the scene made it into the movie.
“[Howery, Conlin and Haddish are] just as good as any veteran prankster,” Andre said. “They know how to commit under any circumstances and any pressure.”
Luckily for the cast — specifically Andre and Howery, who spent the most time delving into unknown situations for the movie — most of the reactions to their presence were relatively peaceful, and even helpful at times.
Something that many hidden camera movies do, though rarely as well as “Bad Trip,” is find plotlines in conversation with marks (another name for those unknowingly caught in the crossfire of the movie’s antics). People are frequently giving genuine advice to the actors, which helps to create an emotional bond with the fictional characters they’re portraying.
The story is key to getting through the 90-minute runtime, which Andre himself admitted, but it’s moments like these that are likely to get a viewer invested.
“It’s easy to make a prank movie cynical,” Andre said. “We did the opposite. People were genuinely trying to help us out. … People just open up to you if you lay down the charm.”
When it did come to scenes that went beyond just asking for advice, Andre and the rest of the team were mindful that they were working with real people.
“Comedy is a game of millimeters and you’re always checking your barometer,” Andre said. “At the end of the day, we’re trying to make not just the audience at home, but the people we’re pranking laugh.”
“Bad Trip,” rated R, is available for streaming on Netflix.