Eichner’s path to being a comedy celebrity himself was a unique one.
Billy Eichner isn’t in the mood for stupid questions. Surrounded by his press team in the conference room at Funny or Die’s swanky Hollywood office, Eichner is far more relaxed than his television persona has ever been, but I’m still catching him in the middle of a long day of press interviews promoting the new season of Billy on the Street. I have 20 minutes with him before he’s on to the next round of saying probably many of the same things to someone else. Hoping to avoid too many clichés, I start off by asking which question he’s already tired of answering. “Probably the most common question I get is ‘who’s your dream guest?’ That’s kind of annoying because there isn’t one,” he tells me. “Also, people keep pressing whether or not I’m gay when I’ve been very vocal that I’m straight. Just kidding.”
Eichner may feel like the celebrities are incidental, but the promotion for the upcoming season hasn’t been shy about dropping the big names that’ll be showing up, with Tina Fey, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pratt, Sarah Jessica Parker and Julianne Moore among them. Eichner says the bookings come mostly from him, directly asking his friends, people he’s worked with, or famous people he follows on Twitter. “They’re all people I’d heard were fans of the show and then I reached out,” Eichner said. “I knew Chris from Parks & Rec; Tina, I never worked with her but I ran into her at various events and she said she was a fan; I knew Sarah Jessica Parker was a fan so I just reached out. With Julianne Moore, I didn’t know her personally, but we followed each other on Twitter, and I DM’d her a few weeks after she won the Oscar and I knew it was a long-shot but she got back right away and said she’d do it.”
Although the show airs on smaller networks—prior to TruTV, the show lived on Fuse—Eichner and the show’s presence has loomed large in Hollywood and media circles. In 2013, he received a Daytime Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Game Show Host”; 2014 saw him and Seth Meyers in a video segment that played on the Primetime Emmys; and this past year, the show earned a nomination for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program, the famous OSFLAEP. That’s not mentioning his aforementioned memorable role on Parks & Recreation, plus his starring role in Difficult People, which recently received a second season renewal on Hulu.