Billy brought to life on the Street

Eich­ner di­ver­si­fy­ing his re­sumé as an ac­tor

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Entertainment -

Many view­ers first met Billy Eich­ner in his guise as a manic quiz­mas­ter ham­mer­ing pedes­tri­ans with cocka­mamie pop­cul­ture queries like “When Matt Da­mon day­dreams he’s run­ning for the Se­nate, what state does he imag­ine he’s in?” and “Where were YOU when Kelly Os­bourne left Fash­ion Po­lice?”

Eich­ner’s breath­less Billy on the Street pre­miered on Fuse in 2011, then moved to truTV, where its fifth sea­son hit the pave­ment last fall (and is up for an Emmy as out­stand­ing va­ri­ety sketch se­ries).

Along the way, Eich­ner’s ca­reer as an ac­tor has blos­somed. Now he can be as hard to miss in his TV act­ing roles as he was on the street ac­cost­ing puz­zled passers-by.

He’s co-star­ring in the third sea­son of Dif­fi­cult Peo­ple, the Hulu com­edy where he and Julie Klaus­ner play 30-some­thing besties bond­ing in a snark at­tack on New York and the en­ter­tain­ment world they lack­adaisi­cally are try­ing to break into.

In Net­flix’s com­edy se­ries Friends from Col­lege, he ap­pears along­side co-stars in­clud­ing Fred Sav­age, Co­bie Smul­ders and Kee­gan-Michael Key as a grumpy gy­ne­col­o­gist.

And for some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, this week he bows as a sup­port­ing player on the sec­ond episode of Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story: Cult (air­ing on FX Tues­day at 10 p.m. ET). No spoil­ers here. Let’s just say Eich­ner plays a quirky next-door neigh­bour of se­ries star Sarah Paul­son who keeps bees and likes guns.

Cult takes its cue from the election of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, which it­self con­sti­tutes an Amer­i­can hor­ror story in the eyes of the se­ries.

Trump’s pres­i­dency “is a topic that ev­ery­body’s talk­ing about ev­ery sin­gle day,” says Eich­ner, “but it cer­tainly hasn’t been talked about in this way. To com­bine po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary with the hor­ror and gore that Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story is known for is, I think, re­ally cool.”

To dis­cover Eich­ner off the Street, per­form­ing in roles other than his Billy al­ter ego, is to be sur­prised. And im­pressed. A com­mand­ing fig­ure at six-foot­three with woe­ful eyes and a mouth that seems to al­ter­nately sig­nal pique and wry amuse­ment, he has much more to of­fer than his hys­teric Street per­for­mance.

“I’m not sure peo­ple knew that act­ing was in my bag of tricks,” the 38-year-old Eich­ner says over a quiet cup of cof­fee on a re­cent day off from Cult film­ing. “But no one grows up say­ing ‘I want to do Billy on the Street.’ That was just a funny idea I had, and thank God it got me in the door. But when I was grow­ing up, I wanted to be some com­bi­na­tion of Nathan Lane and John Malkovich.”

no one grows up say­ing ‘I want to do Billy on the Street.’ Billy eich­ner

Frank OckenFels/FX

Billy eich­ner bows as a sup­port­ing player this week on the sec­ond episode of Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story: Cult.

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