I’ve always been a fan of the absurd. I spent most of my high school Saturday evenings sprawled across living room floors with friends watching terrible ’80s horror movies like House IV and kids movies like Going Bananas. Whether it was a woman fighting a demon-posessed talking pizza or a dwarf in a monkey suit crying and muttering incoherently while hugging an 11 year-old boy, we loved the uncomfortable but amazing feelings elicited from watching these scenes. The clips were not weird by intention, but they served as inspiration for a whole genre of weird media. A genre currently undergoing a renaissance in the later half of 2014.
The Eric Andre Show is a case in point of this current coming out party. Andre’s Adult Swim-produced, 10 minute long “talk show” features a relatively straight forward format of an opening monologue, man-on-the-street bits, and interviews with celebrity guests. However, the content of the show is anything but standard. In fact, I had such a hard time finding one weird moment to define the series that I was forced to create the collage of screencaps below:
The show begins with a unique-to-each-episode opening of Andre destroying his set. His sketches include a contest with co-host Hannibal Buress to see who can hold the most strangers’ babies, Andre opening a fake smoothie shop in New York at which he plunges his hand into a blender, and this footage of Andre handing out Klan Hoods and “White Power” signs at a Tea Party event. He hosts celebrity guests like James Van Der Beek and Steve-O, but Van Der Beek is forced to participate in some sort of doppelganger prank (above) and Steve-O is asked about the impact of falling gold prices on the American economy.
For a long time, Andre’s show existed in relative obscurity. Airing at midnight on Sundays and presenting content that makes most people walk away feeling uncomfortable can do that to you. However, Andre is moving on up from the limits of late night stoners’ living rooms into the more mainstream arena of prime time stoners’ living rooms. His new season will feature big name guests along the lines of Jimmy Kimmel, Wiz Khalifa, and Seth Rogen, while an increased budget is allowing for stunts like this one in which Andre destroys the exhibits in a crowded art gallery.
The Eric Andre Show is not alone in its ascension from being too weird to watch to too weird not to. Perhaps most notable of all in the recent wave of weird media is Too Many Cooks, also produced by Adult Swim. The short, which originally aired unlisted between infomercials in the wee hours of the morning, is one of the most enthralling and strange pieces of content to make it onto televisions around America.
Made to imitate an opening cast introduction to an 80s sitcom along the lines of Full House, Too Many Cooks goes on seemingly forever (11 minutes). The first few minutes are laughable as they poke fun at the stereotypical set of characters we come to expect from the cookie cutter shows that took over television in the 80s and 90s. Things devolve quickly from there: a serial killer chases a sorority girl through the set of the show, a grandmother introduced at the beginning of the clip morphs into an owl, and Smarf the cat/puppet bleeds out on the kitchen floor while reaching for a mysterious red button. It’s weird.
There are dozens of other bits of weird media coming to light in recent weeks. Tim and Eric, whose Abso Lutely Production Company is largely responsible for innovation in weird content, recently released this commercial for Totino’s Pizza Rolls that caught fire on Twitter and Facebook. The /r/DeepIntoYoutube subreddit is entirely dedicated to bringing the unwatched to the masses, digging up gems like Potion Seller (a guy alone in his room portraying a knight attempting to buy a potion and also the potion seller who refuses to provide it) and this episode of iCarly re-enacted by adult men (if you can watch all 23 minutes I will buy you a beer).
While these bits of weird media are entertaining, hilarious, and viral on their own, they’re actually accomplishing something much more important. We’ve been programmed to expect the exact same plot lines, formulas and characters in the shows we watch. By breaking so many of the rules we’ve become accustomed to, Eric Andre, Tim and Eric, and the team behind Too Many Cooks aren’t just thinking outside the box, they’re destroying it.