Billy brought to life on the Street
Eichner diversifying his resumé as an actor
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
Billy eichner bows as a supporting player this week on the second episode of American Horror Story: Cult.