Students filled Shriver Hall on Thursday Sept. 8 to see alternative comedian, writer and actor Eric André begin the 2016 Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Symposium. MSE’s theme this year is “Facing Fracture.”
Known for The Eric André Show on Adult Swim, along with acting credit on the show Man Seeking Woman on FXX, André’s comedic style is characterized as absurdist and unconventional.
The Buttered Niblets, the University’s only improvisational comedy group, performed a ten-minute opener for André, whose arrival was delayed because he was eating pizza and meditating.
When André eventually emerged on stage, he was met with several enthusiastic fans in the audience who held up large signs with quotes and slogans from his show.
André’s set covered a wide array of topics which poked fun at pop culture, drug use and sexual activity. He did not shy away from controversial humor or language, frequently describing explicit sexual acts and making insulting remarks.
“You think if Paul Walker’s name was Paul Driver, he would’ve walked away from that accident?” André said in one of his jokes.
His set included references and impersonations of numerous other artists and comedians.
“I want to do a character called Andrew Nice Clay who acts like Andrew Dice Clay but is a feminist,” André said. “He’s like ‘Oh! I’m respecting my wife as an intellectual equal over here.’”
André engaged with the audience throughout his act, bantering back and forth with them. André suggested that two hecklers french kiss each other, which they did.
Another audience member drank large amounts of ranch dressing out of a bottle, a bit taken from André’s show. Yelling “Ranch it up!” the audience member then threw the bottle at André, who batted it away with his hand.
André then suggested that students sitting on the balcony towards the back of the auditorium jump or urinate off it.
Not everyone received André’s comedy well. One student left in the middle of the set, citing the lack of Donald Trump jokes.
At the end of his set, André invited an audience member up onto the stage for an interview. After inviting him to freestyle rap, André removed his own shorts and underwear. He then hid his genitalia between his thighs and humped the student. André received a standing ovation.
Students enjoyed André’s material and its unconventionality.
Sophomore Alexa Earls was excited that André’s performance was different from other comedians.
“I believe that comedy is an art form, so you can break all the boundaries,” Earls said.
Alyssa Chalmin, a sophomore, echoed this sentiment and noted how the performance was unexpected
“Eric André was hilarious and brought fresh opinions to everything he talked about,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “He pushed the boundaries in a way that no one expected, and it was a great break from studying.”
Sophomore Lalit Varada noted how André’s interactions with the audience show much people were willing to do as he said.
“André showed how much people are bandwagoners,” Varada said, “They just do whatever they think is cool. André told people to do some pretty dumb stuff and they did so. It was hilarious.”
Austin Dillow, a sophomore, recognized how André’s style of comedy was not for everyone and needed a specific perspective to be enjoyed.
“Watching Eric André was jarring and uncomfortable” Dillow wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “It needed either an understanding of his comedy or the right frame of mind to get the full experience. There definitely were some funny parts but just wasn’t up my alley.”
Theodore Kupfer, a senior programming chair for MSE, found the event to be a success. He explained how the Symposium wished to bring a speaker who would challenge students’ notions of comedy.
“We wanted to bring a true comedian, someone who pushes the boundaries with original, stand-up comedy,” Kupfer wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “His surreal style was a huge motivation behind our inviting him to campus. The Symposium is a forum designed to showcase the most challenging speakers and ideas. We want Hopkins students to confront things that might make them a bit uncomfortable. Whether it’s politics or comedy, the principle stays intact. So yes, he’s brash, has no regard for appropriateness and might make some squirm in the seat. All the better... We’re most satisfied if the audience takes away something from the event.”
Kupfer also noted that the MSE did not know beforehand what André would be addressing in his performance, but allowed him to express himself how he saw fit.
“We were familiar enough with him to know what the general tenor of his humor would be but we had no idea precisely what his set consisted of,” Kupfer wrote. “We gave him full artistic license — and he took advantage.”