This undated publicity photo provided by Fuse shows the Queens-born comedian, Billy Eichner. On his weekly show, “Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street,” the comedian quizzes pedestrians by asking irreverent questions, “Does Lady Gaga look like an ostrich?”, or by rattling off a list of celebrity names and having players confirm if they’re “Dead or Boring.” Prizes range from a dollar bill to a ream of paper. (AP Photo/Fuse, Kareem Black)
NEW YORK (AP) — Imagine walking to work on the streets of [auth] New York and finding yourself in front of a camera being asked pop culture questions by a kinetically insane game show host.
It could happen if you run into Billy Eichner.
On his weekly show, “Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street,” the comedian quizzes pedestrians by asking irreverent questions — “Does Lady Gaga look like an ostrich?” — or by rattling off a list of celebrity names and having players confirm if they’re “Dead or Boring.” Prizes range from a dollar bill to a ream of paper.
There’s just one caveat: some of the answers are subjective, and must conform to the host’s opinions. Eichner began the man-on-the-street-style game show on YouTube, but last year Fuse picked up as a weekly television series. It airs every Friday night.
Recently, the Queens-born comedian sat down with the Associated Press to talk about the show and his fascination with Meryl Streep.
AP: Running up to New Yorkers on the street isn’t always a safe thing to do. Have you ever felt threatened?
Eichner: Nine times out of 10 people are game. You know, pardon the pun. But they are. They might not want to participate, they might just walk past me, but they’re not angry. Once in a while I’ve had a handful of occurrences where people get angry. An old lady slapped me across the face really hard. You know, people sort of like, shake the camera — you know they do that Sean Penn thing where they’re like, ‘Get out of my face.’ … It’s never gotten crazy but verbally it gets heated and that’s what’s fun about the show.
AP: Last season was pretty funny, how do you plan to step up your game this time around?
Eichner: This season’s a nice mix of real people on the street and celebrity guests. Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph and Rashida Jones, Debra Messing, a lot of people. Zach Quinto. It’s a lot. Andy Cohen. Rachel Dratch. It’s really great people.
AP: This season papa comes home, your Funny Or Die founder Will Ferrell. What do you have planned?
Eichner: Will plays a game with me called, ‘Would Drew Barrymore like this?’ and I run down a list of things and he has to tell me whether or not he thinks Drew Barrymore would like that and I tell him based on my objective opinion whether I think he’s right or wrong based on my vision of what Drew Barrymore would or would not like. And then we play a game with him called ‘Scream for an American Girl doll’ and it’s him versus these 7-, 8-year-old girls on the street and they have like a scream off to see who can win this American Girl doll and it’s pretty funny.
AP: What else do you have in store for your celebrity guests?
Eichner: Playing all kinds of games. Rachel Dratch was on our show last season. She played a game where she had to name 20 white people in 30 seconds and she couldn’t do it. She had a meltdown. She just panicked and couldn’t do it. So we brought her back to redeem herself this year and she runs our first ‘Billy on the Street’ obstacle course, which is really fun. It has a special theme I can’t talk about but it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen, I’ll say that.
AP: Do you consider yourself a new wave game show host?
Eichner: (Laughs) Maybe. No. I’m a comedian for the most part. I like talking to people to get their reaction, and yes I do ask them question like a game show host. But the correct answer is more about my opinion than fact. So then no.
AP: Tell me some funny things that you do?
Billy Eichner: I like to go up to really straight looking dudes and say, OK, if I held a gun to your head and you had to have sex with one guy who would it be? Like, is it Brad Pitt? Who could you make it happen with if absolutely necessary? I like to push people’s buttons a little bit. Sort of get past their comfort zone and also see what comes to their mind when they don’t have much prep time. That’s’ what’s fun about the show. You get people’s initial gut reactions to things. I went up to a guy I think this was in the first or second episode this season in Times Square and I said, ‘Sir, name one celebrity you hate for a dollar’ and he’s like, ‘I hate Richard Gere.’ And like, Richard Gere is who this person says? You couldn’t write it. It’s so bizarre. I love that.
AP: Is your Meryl Streep fascination real?
Eichner: Ummm, yes. I got into an argument with this street guy over Meryl Streep last season. He kept calling her Meryl Streak. Like she’s a porn star. She’s not a porn star. She’s just the greatest actress ever. She won Oscars. Who did he like? Glenn Close. He said she was new millennium or something and Meryl Streep was just old school. He was wrong. Glenn Close was in “Dangerous Liasons” a hundred years ago.