On Screen: Eric Andre’s Attempt at a Hidden-Camera Comedy

Digital illustration by Reid Alexander.

Welcome back to On Screen, The Augur Bit’s column all about television and film! This time, I’ll be talking about comedian Eric Andre’s new hidden-camera comedy film, Bad Trip.

Directed by Kitao Sakurai and written by Andre, Bad Trip premiered on Netflix on Mar. 26. The film was originally supposed to be released in theaters in March of 2020 and was played at a few film festivals last spring, but its release got delayed for a year due to COVID-19. Bad Trip features Andre as the main character Chris, who travels with his best friend Bud Malone, played by Lil Rel Howery, across the country in search of Chris’ longtime crush, all while being chased by Bud’s escaped-convict sister, Trina, played by Tiffany Haddish. Haddish is definitely the standout performance in the film. Her portrayal of an escaped convict who’s both fleeing the police and chasing her brother feels real and slightly scary, while still remaining funny. 

What’s interesting about Bad Trip is that Andre, Howery and Haddish are among the very few actual actors in the movie. While there are some scripted scenes, most of the action comes from the actors’ interactions with real people who have no idea they are in a movie. Andre and Sakurai’s approach was reminiscent of the style of more established comedians like Johnny Knoxville or Sacha Baron Cohen, who have each made their own pseudo-documentary-style comedies. 

But Andre did not pull off the hidden-camera comedy as well as Knoxville or Cohen have. It’s a very niche form of humor that is most successful when it works toward a broader message. For example, in his 2006 film Borat, Cohen exposes the xenophobia and racism of many Americans by posing as a Kazakhstani journalist travelling through the country. What’s so great about Borat is that it works as a comedy while also giving the viewer a new perspective on American society. What Andre misses in Bad Trip is a broader message like that. While it’s a nice story about two friends, it doesn’t tell us anything worthwhile about the strangers in the film. In Bad Trip, the strangers act simply as another audience, as they are usually just acting in shock at whatever Andre says and does. 

Bad Trip was not a good representation of Andre’s comedic prowess. He’s most well known for his comedy talk show, The Eric Andre Show, where he interviews a different celebrity in each 15-minute episode. Andre takes a more ridiculous and satirical approach to the classic celebrity interview than most talk shows. The Eric Andre Show also includes some sketches, which show just how good of a comedic writer Andre is. He even does some bits with strangers, which work much better than the scenes in Bad Trip because they act as supplemental to Andre’s show, rather than as the main source of the comedy. 

All in all, I was disappointed by Bad Trip. The movie felt comedically weaker than some of Andre’s other endeavors and misused the role of the strangers involved in the film. In most cases, the strangers either watched Andre in disbelief or tried to stop him from whatever he was doing, like in the scene where Trina holds him hanging from a building. 

Yet Andre still deserves credit for even attempting to make a movie in such an ambitious format. He was able to pull off some impressive scenes, such as one in which he gets into a real-seeming car crash in front of multiple bystanders or one where he performs a whole choreographed song and dance in a food court full of strangers. And not all of the criticism should fall on Andre. Some of the lackluster stranger reactions in the film may just be the result of bad luck. Perhaps if Andre had filmed with different people, the reactions would have been funnier, which could have made the movie better, yet still not perfect. Bad Trip is a somewhat amusing movie with some good performances, but it lacked the high-quality humor and deeper meaning that could have brought it to another level. 

My Rating: 5/10

If you like this movie you should watch: The Eric Andre Show; Eric Andre: Legalize Everything; and Borat