If you haven't caught one of the promos by now for Funny or Die's new game show on Fuse, you'll definitely want to scroll down and remedy that. Hosted by NYC comic Billy Eichner (who's been propelled to Internet stardom by his hilarious viral videos, especially his man-on-the-street Q&As with ambushed New Yorkers), the aptly named Billy On The Street will feature the star doing what he does best—harassing real, unsuspecting pedestrians for their thoughts on all things music and pop culture.
This time, however, there's something to be gained by those who turn a corner to find Eichner's mic shoved in their face: cash. It won't be easy, though; contestants must endure several fast-paced rounds of trivia before they're able to take off with their earnings, and that includes the host's twisted, final "subjective round" in which they must agree with Eichner's own opinions on pop culture matters to win. With the series premiering tonight at 11 p.m. on Fuse, we decided to turn the tables on the comedian and ask him a few questions of our own. Keep reading and get to know the man behind the mic.
Written by Lauren Otis (@LaurNado)
You're a native New Yorker, so you've likely been running into other crazies on the street since birth. Do you have any personal favorites?
Yes, I once saw Julia Roberts—she was on stage acting in a Broadway play—it was terrifying!
Ever encounter that special brand of drug addict who'll unleash the same story again and again over the years? Like the guy with meth teeth in the Village who continually claims to have "left his items for a photo shoot" back in Brooklyn?
Oh yes. I have numerous times been approached by the same person on a different night telling me that they just got stuck in New York and need money for the train. But I'm in no position to judge as I often run up to people with a camera and start screaming about Pitbull and Meryl Streep.
Your man-on-the-street-style interviews have become a big viral hit. Can you tell us a bit about their origins?
They first started out as a series of videos I would show as part of a stage show I did in New York, a live late-night talk show I hosted called Creation Nation. But then I had a one-man show at Upright Citizens Brigade last year and the videos became part of that show as well. That show was called Billy Eichner Goes Pop!.<strong></strong>
Where did the inspiration stem from for that video series? Was there an argument one day about something pop culture-related and a decision to consult a stranger that made for a good laugh?
Actually, the original idea was inspired by how self-obsessed young writers and performers are when they move to New York. I wanted to satirize that by taking my headshots to my Korean dry cleaner and asking her which she liked best, as if it was something everyone should have an opinion about. Eventually, that idea morphed into running around Manhattan and asking about celebrities and pop culture in general. And then Funny or Die contacted me and here we are!
So how did the game show with Fuse come to be? What was the meeting like when you guys decided on the show's layout—especially that final subjective round?
Funny or Die loved the idea of turning my videos into a game show. We shot a sample version of it which they funded. Then we pitched that to networks, including Fuse, which was very passionate about the show from the beginning and ordered 12 episodes right off the bat. The idea for the subjective round was one I had from the beginning that I brought to it and developed with Funny or Die. We've developed it more since joining forces with Fuse. It leads to a lot of insanity on the show!
In a video you filmed for fashion week, you walked right up to André Leon Talley and asked him if he heard about Diane von Furstenberg having the shits. Did you recognize him before you approached? And did you suddenly find yourself getting self-conscious about your ensemble?
Of course I recognized him! I'm no fool. He's a New York icon! But I'm not really one of those gay guys that thinks a ton about clothes. I've been wearing the same hoodie since 2002.
He'd probably make a lot of people nervous. Has there ever been an interview subject you've found yourself intimidated by?
I don't really get nervous unless I'm interviewing other performers that I look up to. For instance, Joan Rivers does a segment with me on Billy On The Street and, although she is literally the nicest person I've ever met, she's a comedy legend, so that was insane, and very exciting for me.
Who's another celebrity that might have the power to make you shaky?
You're pretty fearless when it comes to approaching strangers. How does that translate over to your love life?
It translates pretty effectively. Whenever I hook up with someone, I put my mouth right near their ear and I start screaming about Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Your back and forth with the pedestrians in your Billy On The Street promo is very entertaining. What exactly causes you to zero in on the people you pick? Are there certain things that draw you to them?
I often find that the more I try to predict who will be funny, the less right I am. You really never know who's going to be opinionated and want to talk to me. So we really just go out there, start walking, start filming and see where the day takes us. What you're seeing on the show is exactly how we filmed it. People can't believe it's real, but it is!
You clearly have plenty of characters to work with here in New York City, but what encouraged you to film the show on these streets as opposed to another major city?
Well, I grew up in New York and I'm a die-hard New Yorker. New Yorkers are the greatest and they give as good as they get. Plus, I love the diversity in New York—I have fans who don't live here that always notice the diversity of the people I encounter, and I love that. I think it would be fun to shoot in other cities, too, but New York is where it's at.
Don't come to my city and shop at a bakery just because you saw it on Sex And The City in 1999. I don't go to your farm in Iowa and start building baseball fields like in Field Of Dreams.
We've noticed you have a particular affinity for 23rd street. Care to explain?
Yeah, it's funny. I don't really know, but that neighborhood [Chelsea] always has a lot of great characters—and is a very diverse neighborhood as well. So it's always fun to film there and we get great contestants on that street!
Do you ever reflect back on any of your interactions and wonder if you were a little hard on cerain passersby?
Not really! I'm a heartless beast! Just kidding.
You hated pretty hard on some people outside Magnolia Bakery in one of your videos. Have some bad experiences there?
Look, don't come to my city and shop at a bakery just because you saw it on Sex And The City in 1999. I don't go to your farm in Iowa and start building baseball fields like in Field Of Dreams.
You also seem to have a particularly frightening effect on Asian women. They always seem to run away the moment you appear. Why do you think that is?
I don't know! I love Asian women and I wish they loved me back! I am on a personal quest to remedy this. I plan on starting a new version of the Joy Luck Club.
You've made your love for Meryl Streep well known in your video series. Would you say she's your favorite actress? And who do you find unbearable to watch?
She's definitely one of my favorites, obviously. I just feel so bad for poor Glenn Close, who will have to lose another Oscar to Meryl this year. Her arch nemesis from the 1980s! The whole thing's a nightmare. I can't bare it. In other news, I think Queen Latifah needs to go away and be a bus driver or something.
Since the promos began airing, have you experienced a lot more people running up to you as opposed to having to chase strangers down?
There's been a little of that, but only a handful of times. It's a different dynamic when people come up to me, but it's actually fun cause they're game for anything and ready with all kinds of insane opinions about me, my show, celebrities, everything. Again, New Yorkers are the greatest. I can't get enough of them. I love them. Even when I'm screaming at them in the face.
What's been your most memorable on-the-fly Q&A?
Oh boy, there have been a lot. Recently, a semi-toothless homeless man and I got into a full-on argument about—what else—Meryl Streep vs. Glenn Close! And he preferred Glenn Close and I was screaming at him, but he wouldn't back down and held his ground. It was insane, shocking even to me, and one of my favorite moments in the first season for sure.
Any final words?
Sure...watch it on Fuse! If you're into pop culture, I think you'll enjoy it. And if not, you can tweet me about how much you hate it. That's what people do now!
Written by Lauren Otis (@LaurNado)