Comedian Billy Eichner on Hell's Kitchen, Parks and Recreation, and his Emmy nod
The streets of New York are funnier with Billy Eichner on them. The Queens native employs a unique brand of comedy on his game show, "Billy on the Street," in its third season on Fuse. Microphone in hand, the energetic comedian yells questions to unsuspecting pedestrians at random. No person is spared as he asks everything from "Who's more interesting - Taylor Swift or a napkin?" to "Any thoughts on global warming?" The contestant's impromptu answer always manages to surprise and entertain his rapidly growing fan base. We sat down with the Hell's Kitchen resident after his new season premiered at the Beacon Theatre on March 4th.
You're a true New Yorker, growing up in Forest Hills and attending Stuyvesant High School. Do you go back to visit your alma mater?
I don't back to visit, but I liked it. I called on my best friend in the audience last night. He's one of my best friends since Stuyvesant. I still have friends I went to high school with. I made that video about Forest Hills a few years ago, "Forest Hills State of Mind," which was directed, edited and produced by friends of mine from high school.
You live in Hell's Kitchen. What are your favorite places there?
They're building a Kiehl's in Hell's Kitchen. I don't know if it's open yet, but I'm a big Kiehl's fan as a bourgy gay person. There are so many great restaurants there now. The Greek Kitchen on 10th Avenue, I really like that place. There's a really fun new gay bar called Atlas Social Club. It was opened by a group of people, some of them I know, including Anderson Cooper's boyfriend, Ben. I love going to see theater. There are also places like Bar Centrale where a lot of the Broadway people hang out. Honestly, I just order a lot of SeamlessWeb. I'm busy. [Laughs]
Did you ever fear for your life on the job?
Fear for my life, no. Do people get pissed off? Sometimes, yeah. Like an old woman once slapped me across the face. People get mad; they might shove the camera in kind of a Sean Penn way. Has it gotten a little edgy? Yeah, sometimes. But you'd be surprised how few times considering how many people I speak to.
What's your filming schedule like?
We have a really scattered schedule. This season was unusual because I ended up getting cast on "Parks and Recreation" which films in L.A. "Billy on the Street" obviously films here, so there was a lot of back and forth.
Who's a dream celebrity you'd still want on your show?
Well, you know I have my ongoing Meryl Streep obsession. I was on Andy Cohen's show with Meryl. Andy played Meryl the clips of me screaming about her in the street. And I got to watch her reacting to that in real time, which was very surreal. I think she was scared for a second. She could not have been lovelier. She took pictures with me and gave me a big hug and kiss afterwards. I would still love to have her on the show, on the street with me. I would love to have Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert. Those would be three great ones.
Do you ever get backlash for what you say?
I mean these days anyone can write anything on the internet. So you literally get every opinion. Every day I get, "You are a genius. This is the funniest show I've ever seen." And then I get a tweet saying, "You are the worst. You're so obnoxious." Someone tweeted today, "That Billy on the Street guy should be killed." You get everything. If someone's offended, don't watch the show. I think compared to what's on TV, this show is not offensive. If you're going to have a problem with this show, you're probably in the wrong century.
You were nominated for an Emmy. Where were you when you found out?
I was in bed. It was like 5:30 in the morning in L.A. I got a text from Funny or Die's publicist saying, "You were nominated for Best Game Show Host." And I was like, "Is that even a category?" She had told me three months before they were submitting me and I was like, "Oh, yeah. OK, fine." I didn't even think about it. It was really surreal.
< The man to the left is obsessed with Meryl Streep.