Lil Rel Howery Explains Why He Almost Quit the Eric Andre Prank Movie 'Bad Trip' on the First Day
"Dude, what are we doing? What did I sign up for?"
Published Mar 25, 2021The coronavirus pandemic may have derailed the theatrical release of Eric Andre's Bad Trip, but the prank film will finally land on Netflix later this week. It's been a long wait, and for co-star Lil Rel Howery it feels like a big secret is about to be unleashed.
The comedian, who has found well-rounded success as an actor (in films like Get Out and television like the criminally underrated The Carmichael Show) and stand-up comic (achieving mass acclaim with 2019's HBO special Live in Crenshaw), always wondered what it would be like to take part in the prank film genre.
As he tells Exclaim!, it was fun but it's something he hopes to never do again. In fact, he nearly quit on the first day. Still, he says Bad Trip is one of the funniest movies he's ever done.
Bad Trip was directed by Kitao Sakurai and also stars Tiffany Haddish — who joined the project when she found out that Lil Rel nearly died on-set.
Read more about the absurd hijinks of the movie below. Bad Trip hits Netflix on March 26.
Did you ever have any hesitancy to do this film? Or were you instantly on board?
You know, it was funny. It wasn't until we did the movie. After the first day, I was like, 'Okay, what the hell did I sign up for?' But up front, I didn't. Eric is my friend. And I'm a fan of prank movies, which is crazy, so it's one of those things where I always wanted to see if I can do it. After doing it once, I don't have to do this again. But it was really fun. It's really one of the funniest — and I'm straight up about this — it is one of the funniest movies I've ever done. And especially way comedies are now. I think this movie is gonna really have a huge impact on just the comedy community, as far as films go. What we bring, it's just really funny.
It's just pure laughing. I didn't find myself thinking too much, which is a nice feeling to have. I've heard you say this before — after the first day you were like, 'Shit, what did I do?' What was it about the first day specifically?
Well, you know, for that particular prank we did— it was the Chinese dick trap thing. Yeah, first day. We went to a barber shop. They sent us into the wrong barber shop. The security wasn't there. The cameras weren't even there. So the way this dude reacted with the rage. We were like, 'Can you help us?' And he lost it, right? He looked like he was looking for a gun. He couldn't find a gun. He grabbed his barber knife and chased us out the barbershop. He was about to literally stab us before on the security literally did this Wesley Snipes Blade and just jumped in front of the guy. It was crazy. I fell to the ground, I scraped my elbow and my knee. That was the first day and I remember I just left. They didn't wrap me. I just walked out and walked to the hotel. I could have gotten arrested because I had the fake dick out my pants. I'm just walking with all of this going on, went to my room, called my family and I called Tiffany [Haddish]. And I was like fuck, I am done. I didn't know until later that, after I called Tiffany, she called Eric like, 'Yo, did you almost get Rel killed?' He was like, 'Yeah.' She's like, 'Yo, I gotta be in this movie.'
So that's when she signed on from there? That is amazing. So walk me through the day-by-day. How much was planned? And were you planning specific jokes or specific ideas? Or how much of it was just pure chaos?
Well, it was a lot of chaos. But there was a lot of story to it, too. I think that's what makes this a brilliant process is that, even though we're pranking people, we still had to make sure the story lined up. So that's what makes it unique. That's why, if you do a movie like this, you have to stay in character. I think this is the longest I've had to stay in character of any project I've done. Just because that's the only way this works. You have to believe, you have to really become whoever you're playing. I think the bus scene was a prank, but we were doing story. The pregnancy test was us talking really loud on the bus in front of people we don't know. But they're all sitting there like, 'Why are these people being so loud?' It's a conversation prank.
So you had specific beats that you wanted to hit to keep the story going.
Yep. We had to do a lot of that. And I know Eric talks about this all the time. But that was one of the things he had to adjust to, because everything for him was like, 'Let's just do craziness.' But it's like, no, we had to make sure the story was grounded too.
That sounds so complicated. You said you had to stay in character all the time. Were there times you broke character?
It's funny. There were only a couple of times I almost broke. I kind of broke one time. In J.R. Crickets. When Tiffany was looking for us and we kept going back into that restaurant. One of the dudes stood up like he was being tough and then, I was me. I got popped out of Bud. I was like, 'Man, you better sit yo tall ass down.' I was literally about to fight this dude. Like, 'What the fuck you talking about?' And then he calmed down because he thought my character was soft but then I popped out my West Side Chicago kid. Like, 'What the fuck did you say?' And then they were like, 'Rel, please calm down, please.'
Then the gorilla scene, I was trying not to laugh cause the aunties were going crazy. They were grabbing me, they were so scared. I was trying not to laugh, 'cause they were so into it. And the things they were saying were hysterical. Right by the gorilla, it was just crazy. What they were saying — I felt like I was really with my aunties. Like I know that's how they would react, so I had tears coming down my eyes. It looked like I was crying for my friend. But it was really me crying laughing.
I've always wondered with things like : do people just not know comedy? I mean, I would recognize if I saw Lil Rel and Eric Andre and Tiffany Haddish walking down the street.
Well, it's the pacing of it. If you make these pranks go fast, they don't have time to recognize. Because there's a lot happening, right? The pacing has got to be what it is. As long as you're doing that, you good. That's what I like. They don't have time to think about it. They just know something crazy happening.
You've done a lot of things since you shot this movie and you're popping off in all different directions. What has it been like knowing that this movie is going to come out in 2021?
It's been fascinating. I've been more excited for people see how crazy this movie is. It's almost like a secret. You can't wait for people to see what the secret is. And which is why I think Netflix is a great home for us. I think it's one of those movies people are going to watch more than once. You're gonna be like, I watched it, but let me see this again, because this is crazy. I think that's that's what I'm actually fascinated by, to see the Netflix impact. I've done other films and I've got other movies coming out this year, but that Netflix effect is a whole other thing.
Something else I'm always curious about with movies like this is, what are the scenes that didn't work? And what are the ones that went wrong?
Some pranks don't work and then you just get the best out of those pranks. It was stuff they couldn't put in the movie because it didn't match with the story. You know, we had an exorcism scene where Eric is possessed and we had a real preacher come. They're going to release that anyway, just as a bonus thing. It's so funny, but it doesn't go with the movie. It was so hysterical. The preacher really thought he was doing some shit. It was almost like, that's why he became a pastor. Like, 'Ooh I hope I get an exorcism one day.' He was so into this shit. We had the walls moving, it was the craziest thing. I'm cursing, 'Get the fuck out my friend!' He's like, 'Don't curse like that.' It was insane. It was the craziest thing I've ever experienced. But the cockiness of this dude was the craziest. I feel like he went to his congregation maybe the next day like, 'Hey, I am the best preacher of all time.' He was so insane. I can't wait to release that.
And then a couple of the drivers… The funny thing was, one of the Uber drivers we had when Eric is shocked by the thing left, and then producers called Uber to go somewhere and it was the guy again, and that's how we got him to sign a release. He had told his wife that he killed somebody. So he left, he'd been riding around with his conscience for a week that he killed somebody. You've been riding around with that on your heart?
That's another thing I've always wondered with these kinds of movies. Do you ever feel guilty and wish you could tell the person that it was just a joke?
I only felt like that one time. It was when I did the Porta Potty thing. Those were dates for Bud. One of the girls, I feel like he she really liked him a lot. We ate spaghetti together and it was like a real date and I felt terrible. I think she fell in love. But fuck. I mean, it's a prank. I felt bad about it. She was laughing, but she was still like, 'So are we gonna go out again?' Like, no, I was a character. But I felt bad though. To this day. I still feel bad about it.
I guess if you're falling in love with a fictional character that's maybe something's wrong with you there.
Well, she didn't know. I mean that's good acting right? She didn't know it was fiction. She thought she was on a date. Once again, I know when I dive into characters what it is. She would have been a perfect girlfriend for Bud. Bud found love in this movie.
Outside of this being a prank movie and having its narrative, this is also a great road trip movie. You were friends with Eric before this, but what was it like to go through this experience? You must have a deep bond that no one else could possibly have.
A bond, and I'm a fan of Eric Andre. When me and Eric met, we were both NBC StandUp for Diversity finalists. That's how we met. We were part of that first group when NBC first started doing it years ago. And we became friends. It's so funny because it was like me and him and Michelle Buteau. Like we were all a part of that… just to see what everybody has done. But Eric was crazy to me. I watched him on stage, like, 'Yo, this dude is insane.' And then, as much as I'm his friend, I love his show. I love The Eric Andre Show. That's one of my favourite shows on television. So I was just down to do whatever he wants to do. His birthday parties are insane. But at the same time — it made us closer, but I also almost hated Eric. It was crazy. It was like, 'Dude, what are we doing? What did I sign up for?'