After years of industry-wide whispers, high profile reports are beginning to shatter Ellen DeGeneres’ veneer of niceness.
Former employees recently dished to BuzzFeed News with stories of a toxic work environment replete with microaggressions, racism and intimidation, allegations that have put DeGeneres’ image in jeopardy. But, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is a hit, placing NBC in a difficult position should DeGeneres be cancelled by her loyal audience.
A new online petition suggests an unlikely out: Cancel Ellen, but renew “Ellen” with a new host — supremely subversive comedian Eric Andre.
A Change.org petition asking for “Eric Andre to become the new permanent host of The Ellen Show” has accrued nearly 80,000 signatures. True to Andre’s absurdist spirit, the petition claims — falsely — that fans have been queuing up at NBC Studios, The White House and “for some reason my house too,” chanting: “Get Eric Andre to replace Ellen, keep show format the same. Also don’t change the name!!”
Andre, for his part, is game.
pic.twitter.com/pAvGaK5xLN— Eric Andre (@ericandre) August 4, 2020
Yet it would be a waste to have Andre assume Ellen’s place without some change in the format. Andre’s Adult Swim series “The Eric Andre Show” was, for lack of a licit metaphor, a televised PCP trip. It included crazed man-on-the-street segments in which Andre chugged ranch dressing and held strangers’ hands; he pretended to shoot sidekick Hannibal Buress; he routinely destroyed his set. Andre, in a riff on typical talk show protocol, regularly interviewed “celebrity” guests that looked nothing like the celebrities they were supposed to be standing in for. (See: an overweight, blond-bobbed Arnold Schwarzenegger; a small Asian man and a statuesque white woman as Jay-Z and Beyonce.)
If Andre were to take on DeGeneres’ gig — and it’s highly doubtful he ever will — we imagine the following shakeups.
First thing’s first, Ellen’s onetime DJ, Tony Okungbowa — now speaking up about what he experienced as the at-times hostile nature of the “Ellen” set — needs to make a comeback. Why? Tony’s famously afraid of birds, and one of Andre’s best known segments involves him harassing pedestrians while wearing a bodysuit with a fake bird on his shoulder. Make the bird real, and have Andre bug Okungbowa with it: It’s a formula for success.
What else? Giveaways were never a staple of Andre’s “Adult Swim” slot, but they are a huge part of DeGeneres’ show and its appeal. Andre could go nuts here, we could see him doing something messy like planting open vats of pudding under the chairs in the audience. Given NBC’s deep pockets, we could also see him granting more upscale items like, say, personalized Patek Phillipe watches all engraved with the words “Peppercorn Bing Bong,” after the beloved “Eric Andre Show” character, which is just two people in a horse costume.
Given daytime FCC standards, Andre might not be able to bathe on set, as is his wont, but he will surely find openings to annoy his guests. Where Andre previously antagonized Kelly Osbourne by insisting she was in a fictional band called “The Dazzle Girls” and prompting her to say “F—k the Jews” — both Andre and Osbourne are Jewish — his reboot of “Ellen” might see Andre freaking out Taylor Swift by showing her his secret, explicit back tattoo of her character from “Cats” as Hannibal Buress consumes an entire jar of peanut butter while setting up a cable installation on the phone. (Just spitballing.)
These are just a few of the ways Andre could bring his own brand of calculated toxicity to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” But perhaps the most subversive thing to do — the least expected, and therefore the most quintessentially Andre — would be to change nothing at all. Maybe an Eric Andre “Ellen” looks just like Ellen Degeneres’ “Ellen.”
It would be the twist of the century if Andre, an agent of NSFW chaos, suddenly became the wholesome and beneficent host of a daytime favorite. We just hope he wouldn’t commit too much to the character and marry Portia de Rossi.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com
Eric Andre is game to replace Ellen DeGeneres