Billy Eichner Talks Boston Pop Culture
The comedian and host of Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street will be on the Nantucket Film Festival’s All-Star Comedy Roundtable this weekend.
Billy Eichner is the guy that everybody on the Internet is laughing at right now. Best known as the host of Funny or Die’s “pop culture game show” Billy on the Street—which also airs on Fuse—in which Eichner runs up to bah-humbugged New Yorkers, sticks a mic in their faces, and exclaims things like, “Miss, for a dollar, do you think Prince puts down the moon as an emergency contact?”
Since the show began in 2011, Billy on the Street has hosted a handful of celebrity guests who join Eichner as he runs around imposing on the daily routines of New Yorkers. Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Neil Patrick Harris, and so many more have gotten in on the game. “These guys are great because when they come [onto Billy on the Street], it’s because they’re fans of the show,” Eichner says.
The comedian also had a small role on the most recent season of Parks and Recreation, and as of this year, Eichner will star in a comedy series executive produced by Poehler on USA Network called Difficult People.
This weekend, Eichner will be one of the guests on the popular All-Star Comedy Roundtable at the Nantucket Film Festival alongside SNL alum Jenny Slate and The Kroll Show’s Ron Funches, and hosted by comedian Michael Ian Black. Presented by Ben Stiller each year, the Comedy Roundtable is in its sixth annual edition; last year’s guests included Seth Meyers and Mike Myers.
Here, Eichner talks about the Comedy Roundtable, possibly taking Billy on the Street beyond New York, and his take on Boston pop culture.
What’s your general impression of Boston when you come around to visit?
I love Boston, it’s a beautiful city. I’m from New York, so it’s pretty close by. I’ve been there numerous times, and I’ve always had a great time. A lot colleges, a lot of young people. I’ve gone to Cape Cod a number of times—I’ve been to Nantucket and Provincetown. I love it, it’s beautiful.
What are you most looking forward to seeing when you return to Nantucket for the Comedy Roundtable this weekend?
I’ve been to Nantucket a few times—it’s been a while, though, a couple years at least. I’m excited about the roundtable on Sunday! I’ve never been to the Nantucket Film Festival, so I’m excited to see some movies—they’ve got a really good lineup. My friends Michael Ian Black and Jenny Slate and Ron Funches will be there with me. It’s always great to get together with those guys and talk about comedy.
Your show Billy on the Street is a becoming a sensation. What’s the weirdest encounter you’ve had with a person that didn’t make any segment of the show?
Well, I’ve definitely had a lot of weird encounters, that’s for sure. I hope every encounter is weird in its own way. I mean, I come across so many weirdos and that’s part of the fun. There was once an old lady who slapped me across the face. It was on YouTube, but wasn’t on the show. I asked her something a little bit more sexual than she wanted to deal with in that particular moment. [Laughs.] But you know, I actually enjoyed that, and you know, it wasn’t weird at all! I totally understood where she was coming from, and I think she did the right thing.
Has anyone ever told you not to put them on camera and requested not to be on the show?
Oh yeah, the fun of the show is that you never really know what reaction you’re going to get out of someone. There are people who will stand there and talk to me for an hour if I let them. And they get caught up in it, and they’re really ready to tell you everything they know about Angelina Jolie. And then there are people who are busy and going about their lives and don’t want to be on camera, and they’ll let you know that pretty quickly. What’s fun for me as the host is that some people will say, “Oh no, I can’t, I’m running off…” to wherever they’re going.
So what’s the fun type of person to encounter?
You can kind of tell with certain people—you can see it in their eyes—that they’re scared, but they kind of want to engage. So with those people, I try to feel it out, try to connect with them, and try to get them to stay in the moment with me. It’s very New York to have that reflexive reaction to everything, like, “No. No, I can’t. I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t know who you are. You’re so weird. I’m going about my life. Just leave me alone.” So it’s really great when people break that barrier down, and [I can] have some funny exchange with them.
Have you ever considered taking your show to another city?
Yes, that’s something I want to do. I get a lot of tweets about that. I dabbled in it a bit when I did some segments for Conan [O'Brien]. He sent me to the Super Bowl which was in Indianapolis that year, and he actually sent me to Israel because—it was a long story—but I was following Madonna’s tour around and it happened to open in Tel Aviv. And those ended up being great videos. I think the Super Bowl in Indianapolis ended up being one of my best videos. For Billy on the Street itself, it’s a very New York-based show. I think it’s still really informed by New Yorkers and their attitudes and their anarchy on the streets. That said, I think when I go into future seasons, I can take it out on the road a little bit.
Okay, how about some Boston pop culture questions?
Let’s do it.
In the Superman vs. Batman movie, who would make a better Robin to Ben Affleck’s Batman: Mark Wahlberg or Matt Damon?
Because of their history, Matt Damon.
I love them both. Amy is a friend of mine and she’s a god, so the first one I’d read is Amy Poehler’s.
Who’s sexier: Gisele or Tom Brady?
Well…Tom Brady because that’s what I’m into [laughs]. What if I was really coy and said it depends on my mood.
Which Ben Affleck movie is more embarrassing: Gigli or Daredevil?
Daredevil. Because Gigli is weird and fun and at least watchable.
Which New Kids on the Block member would you most like to be stranded on an island with?
I guess Joey McIntyre. He has that high-pitched voice. So maybe he could sing something that people would hear out in the ocean.
What’s the order correct order: Matt and Ben, or Ben and Matt?
Matt and Ben. It’s traditional.
Which is the better reality TV family: the Kardashians or the Wahlbergs?
The Wahlbergs. I’m really not into the Kardashians. Well, I’d love to see a fight. I feel like Kanye West and Mark Wahlberg would get into some interesting type of scuffle. Is scuffle a word? I don’t know. It’s probably a word in Boston. So let’s end it there.
Here, a “Lighting Round” clip from Billy on the Street: