I had first noticed Hulu’s advertisements for season three of The Eric Andre Show early last September between binge watching Adventure Time and reruns of Robot Chicken. How could I miss them? The ads were simple: after a couple of serene seconds of the show’s studio, a distant scream crescendos off camera at a rapid clip and Eric sprints past the camera and launches himself off the guest chair through the set piece suspended above his desk. “Effective” is not quite the word; ”gripping” works better. It didn’t take long for me to find a couple of the show’s painfully awkward guest interviews on YouTube to get a taste of the show, and soon I had consumed the entire first three seasons.
So you can imagine my surprise and happiness last fall when almost simultaneous to discovering his show, I also learned that Eric was coming to Iowa City to perform stand-up at the Englert. I wasted little time securing my tickets and switching my work schedule from night to day to attend the show. Now, my line of work actually takes a prominent role in this story. I work for a hotel in the downtown area, and a couple weeks before the show, the thought occurred to me: “Wait a second; I bet Eric Andre is staying with us!” Sure enough, he was scheduled for a two-night stay, arriving Saturday and departing Monday. I was excited, but my Eric Andre welcoming scheme would not take full form until the day of the show.
Being used to the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, coming in to work at 7 a.m. can be a bit of a challenge. Not that morning though. I was buoyed by the thought of Eric Andre coming to town and the potential of doing something nice for him and, who knows, maybe even meeting him. The first thing I did when I got to work was look at our room availability to see what upgrades were available: king suite available for two nights — upgrade successful!
Next I scanned our list of guest amenities (cheese and wine, champagne and strawberries, etc.) and placed an order to our kitchen to have beer and pretzels delivered to his room that afternoon: a refreshing post-trip, pre-show snack. Winning! Not enough though. My tour de force would come in a creamy, savory-not-sweet, delicately delicious milky treat. I skipped over to the Bread Garden, found the salad dressing aisle and picked out a 16 ounce wide-mouth bottle of Ken’s Steakhouse Buttermilk Ranch Dressing — the significance of which is not lost on any true fan. The bottle would be waiting for him upon arrival, with the following note scratched out:
Enjoy this room upgrade and some wicked Ken’s Buttermilk. We grabbed you the wide-mouth because, you know, a hole’s a hole! Kill it tonight and enjoy Iowa City!
The welcoming scheme proved successful when just minutes after he arrived, Eric posted on Instagram a shot of the ranch dressing on his hotel room coffee table with the following caption: “This was waiting for me in my hotel room. Thank you Iowa City!!!!” As the comments and likes poured in (to date: nearly 700 comments and over 23,000 likes), I went from buoyed to atmospheric.
If the story stopped here, it’d be personally satisfying. Inspiring an Instagram post by a celebrity is fun and is undoubtedly the closest any of my social media activities have ever come to viral status. Coincidentally, though, the morning after the show as I sat in Hamburg Inn waiting for a bar seat to open, in walked none other than Eric Andre. He requested a table and sat next to me. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hey, I enjoyed your show last night.”
“Thanks man, I had fun too.”
“So you’re in town for a couple days?”
“Yeah, my girlfriend is coming later today and we’re gonna find something to do. A buddy of mine from around here suggested Amana Colonies. Any suggestions?”
“Ever been drunk in a cornfield?”
I continued by introducing myself as the one responsible for his room upgrade and the Ken’s Buttermilk. He thanked me and shortly thereafter the manager came over to chat with the celebrity. Minutes later, when he was seated ahead of me, Eric graciously asked, “Hey, weren’t you here first?” A seat at the bar opened up as he said this, so there was no real conflict.
We had two more interactions over the course of our breakfasts, one in which we actually embraced in the middle of the restaurant — it was one of those awkward you step one way to get out of the way, the other person steps that way too and you make a joke about the two-step; we hugged each other as if we meant to and made a scene of it.
Paying my tab, the waitress, who I’d had a bit of a crush on, was impressed: “So you know Eric?” A more enterprising response would have been: “E? Shoot, we go way back!” Instead, I probably just explained how I was a fan and how I worked at the hotel where he was staying.
Now, to the beer. I sent Eric and his girlfriend another amenity when I got to work that day (champagne and cheesecake, I believe) and, later that afternoon, was star struck again when he introduced me to his girlfriend: Rosario Dawson (my female coworkers did not recognize her when he introduced me to her at the front desk; they screamed later when I told them who she was).
They asked me for a couple suggestions on places to hit up (Daydreams, White Rabbit, Raygun, Clinton Street Social Club and The Mill, among a couple others, I think). I watched them as they meandered out. Eleven post meridiem couldn’t come soon enough. When I clocked out, I promise I didn’t go looking for them — I swear.
Walking past The Mill, I spied them in a booth and thought I should say “hi” one more time, because, you know, celebrities like being bothered. After a completely non-awkward “hello” from me, I grabbed a seat at the bar and reveled in eavesdropping on the patrons’ conversations about the celebrity guests.
At some point after the couple left, the bartender guessed the wrong downtown hotel where they were staying. “Well, actually …,” I interjected and then revealed that I not only knew where they were staying but was the one who put the ranch dressing in his room. Verifying the story with a picture of the note I’d scratched out to Eric, the bartender was impressed, “For that, my friend, your beer is on me!”
And that is how Eric Andre — through his fame and my proximity to it — bought me a beer that early, October evening.