It doesn’t Matter: Eric Andre and Absurdist Comedy

The idea of absurdity as described by Thomas Nagel seems to be rather nihilistic. He purports that people seek out grand organizations or ideas to help themselves feel like they are “part of something bigger.” This, in turn, provides them with personal fulfilment that they could not acquire on their own. He argues that people will find this purpose and fulfilment even in places where it does not truly exist even when they no longer have any good reasons for doing it[1].

This line of thinking is one that permeates throughout the comedic landscape. Nihilism and the absurdity of life have played a major role in comedy since its creation and it presents itself in many different forms. If there were one show that could truly be called a pioneer in absurdist comedy it would be The Eric Andre Show. A sketch/talk show, the show is full of ridiculous interviews and vignettes in which many insane and seemingly random events occur much to the chagrin of the interviewee.

In this particular interview, Eric Andre uses several different techniques to demonstrate the absurdity of various aspects of modern day life. Firstly and most obviously is in the way he speaks to Jesse Williams. He ignores social norms and question Williams very directly about topics that would normally be considered too private for a publicly aired talk show, thereby creating the diversion from the audience’s expectation as described by Nagel.

Another great example of this diversion comes at 1:05 when Andre proceeds to read a series of swear words and slurs before explaining he’s auditioning for a Tourette’s movie. Not only did he break social norms by using swears and slurs in front of a guest but he is also mocking a health disorder, something never done in polite society.

This is not the only example of nihilism on the Eric Andre show but it does demonstrate how the Eric Andre show generates comedy by breaking social convention.

[1] Nagel, Thomas. “The Absurd.” The Journal of Philosophy 68, no. 20 (1971): 716-27. doi:10.2307/2024942.

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