The very word bears nightmarish images of crossfit and forced veganism. “Liberals, snowflakes, unpatriotic.” There may be no generation in history that has faced as much scrutiny and hatred as Millennials.
As a result of this relentless condemnation, they are typically not a proud group of people. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see Millennials make fun of their peers, or rant about how they were born in the wrong generation. Others, however, have spent years defending themselves, frantically trying to justify their beliefs to older minds. And out of this conflict, a new breed of human beings, unlike any other, was born. A group of people that will mock your elderliness before they let you knock their youth.
I’m talking, of course, about Generation Z.
Gen Z is the latest generation to be named, with birth years ranging from 1997-2012. This means that anyone from elementary school to college is part of that group (including me), and experts are still trying to figure out what makes them unique.
According to Pew Research Center surveys, conducted in the fall of 2018, they are the most progressive and diverse generation yet. Compared to other living generations, they’re on track to be the most educated, the least patriotic and the most disapproving of Donald Trump.
But there is one factor that has shaped their identity more than anything else ─ Generation Z is the first generation to have never known a world without smartphones.
Born at a time that has already accepted the Digital Era, some of them have been using smartphones since before they could read. They’re experts at navigating the internet by the time they’re 12. Thus, they’re exposed to more voices, perspectives and ideas in their adolescence than others will be in their whole lives. Absorbing all this different information from any corner of the world has made them as understanding as they are politically radical.
While parents lose sleep worrying about the new threat of cyber bullying, Gen Z is perfecting it. They’re growing up in a lawless land where every train of thought is attacked and sensationalized. There’s nothing sacred on the internet. The result of all these harsh memes and fierce opinions is a breed of humans who are somehow both violently stubborn with their beliefs, and unable to take anything seriously at the same time. It’s a crazed group unlike any other and it’s so full of contradictions, it doesn’t even really make sense.
This is the essence of Comedy Central’s “The Eric Andre Show”: Politically charged, senseless and erratic.
The absurdist talk show satire made its debut in 2012. Hosted by then-newcomer Eric Andre, and co-hosted by comedian Hannibal Buress, the show pushed the limits of surreal comedy from episode one. With a structure not unlike “The David Letterman Show” or “The Tonight Show,” it begins with an intro, moves to a monologue and shuffles between guest interviews and real-life skits. Only, everything goes wrong.
The show is so fast-paced and seemingly random, it feels like they shot enough footage for a one hour episode and then crammed it into 10 wild minutes. There is absolutely no logic to any moment, and the second you feel like you know what’s going on, Andre is already on to his next stream of consciousness, or body-slamming into his desk.
For the majority of Season 1, just about none of the guests were who Andre said they would be. In the Reese Witherspoon episode, Andre brought out what was clearly a Black man in a wig. There was no acknowledgement of this, nor attempts to make any clever commentary on Reese. The bit was hilarious because it made no points.
Besides absurd, ridiculous and downright disturbing, Eric’s style of comedy might also be described as intimidating. He’s always in control, and even when he brings out comedy greats like Seth Rogen, Jack Black or Jimmy Kimmel, they’re visibly uncomfortable and sometimes even pissed off. They can’t keep up with Eric, and he’ll barely even let them speak (a huge rule-breaker for talk shows).
All of this is precisely what makes him so appealing to Gen Z, and virtually nobody else.
Growing up on the internet, you’ll quickly find that there is an online community for just about any kind of quirk or strange passion imaginable. Therefore, Gen Z isn’t as scared as past generations to be different than those in their physical circle. When you’ve grown up in a digital world that encourages self-expression, your enemy is going to be those that try to hold you back in the first place. Older people, mainstream society, suburban life, country life, anything that is close-minded and simple. This is the status quo Gen Z wants to disrupt. They want to tear up the floorboards of American life, and this is Eric Andre’s mission statement.
The only people Eric lets in on the joke are the ones our country looks down on. The recurring character “Russell Brand” is a skinny shirtless man who strums an awful-sounding banjo. He’s the kind of guy suburban parents tell their children not to make eye contact with when they’re visiting Time Square. His presence is a celebration of weirdness for the sake of being weird, and it’s fantastic.
Between interviews, Eric will do real life “pranks” in the city and capture people’s reactions. They’re reminiscent of YouTube pranks, often whose morality is subject of discussion. Are they all in good fun or just plain rude? Well, Eric’s pranks are beyond rude. They can range anywhere from dropping cake on people in the subway to straight up robbing jewelry stores. But Eric doesn’t care if he’s being a jerk, because disrupting normal people who are just trying to go about their day isn’t an unfortunate accident. It’s the whole point.
With so much access to worlds outside of reality, my generation refuses to tolerate the one we live in. We want more than what’s become accepted as good, and we’re not willing to negotiate. We are also far more likely to make fun of Boomers on TikTok than to actually try to reach an understanding with one. But you know what? I’m proud.
The country is run by old white men who think that climate change is natural and homophobia is a legitimate belief. These are not issues that deserve thoughtful conversations. They’re wrong. Gen Z isn’t here to justify itself. It’s here to tell the country that the way they’ve been doing things isn’t cutting it, and if they don’t like it, too bad.
I wasn’t born in the wrong generation. I’m right where I belong.
Daily Arts Writer Ben Servetah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.