After watching him bring a new character to life this summer on Hulu’s “Difficult People,” the hilarous Billy Eichner is back to the persona that made people stand up and take notice of him on “Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street.”
Despite having moved to truTV, viewers will be happy to know that the show is still the show and Billy is still Billy.
And with a slew of stellar guest stars like Tina Fey, Chris Pratt, Anna Kendrick and more, the season is not going to disappoint.
I stopped by the Funny or Die offices in Los Angeles recently to talk to Eichner about the new season and the success of “Difficult People” with his pal, Julie Klausner.
How are you feeling? Because you have a lot of balls in the air right now so to speak.
Billy Eichner: I do.
Definitely different than two or three years ago when we first spoke.
BE: It feels good. I’m very busy. Right now I’m in this building [at the Funny or Die offices] every day editing “Billy on the Street.” That’s what I do here every day. And that’s what I’m doing and we’re gearing up for the second season of “Difficult People.” They’re writing that now. And I’m doing some movie things and I’m just working a lot.
Even though the show has moved to truTV, it seems like the same show from where I’m sitting.
BE: Yeah, it’s the same show. It was our decision to move the show and had nothing to do with wanting to do a different show. There were other factors involved but we did the season, what we always try to do, which is do a mix of what people want and like about the show and also give them new things. Especially as the episodes go on there are obstacle courses and different personas I’m using a little bit here and there, and it gets interesting.
Because as you’ve said, the Billy in the show is more of a persona than anything else.
BE: It’s a persona that you’re improvising, but to me it’s similar to what Sacha Baron Cohen does or one of those guys. It’s not a traditional character. You don’t approach it the same way you approach “Difficult People” or something scripted, but it’s definitely a persona. That character or that persona reacts differently in situations or when people say things than I would. I will never be approaching people anyway.
I’ve very happy the theme song and opening titles are the same.
BE: Well, “Billy on the Street” has the best theme song of all time. So, you can’t improve on it. And I wrote it and you can’t improve on it. That’s my take. That’s my opinion…when we were thinking of a theme song the first season it just kind of came to me. I like the “he’s making dreams come true” line, because I’m doing the opposite of that. I’m just giving people a hard time. But I just think that’s funny.
I’ve lived in New York, so what neighborhoods do you typically hit and which neighborhoods do you know are not going to be as good?
BE: Yeah, we’re in Chelsea a lot. It’s just a good mix of people. It’s not too far uptown and not too far downtown. There are tourists, but it’s mainly real New Yorkers and so we’ll go to that. It’s just a very diverse neighborhood: gay, straight, black, white, young, old. There’s elderly people. There’s students. There are schools there. There’s a meth clinic so that works out well, right by Madison Square Park. So, you get a good mix of yuppies going to Shake Shack and people coming down off of heroin. So, that’s good. We never go to the Upper East Side. It’s too quiet and they don’t talk to you. Like, the straight white dudes on Wall Street won’t talk to you so we don’t go down there very much. We’ll hit up Times Square if it’s bad weather because it’ll always be crowded. We don’t tend to focus on tourists necessarily. We like real New Yorkers just because I think the show is a lot about New Yorkers.
When you are shooting “Billy” do you think about each episode or is it really just shooting a bunch of stuff and then you come in and edit away?
BE: We shoot everything and then I edit. I watch everything and then I edit it. It’s a horrifying process. No sane person would do it, but unfortunately it’s the only way to do this show. Because it gives you the most options and you don’t know what’s going to be good. It’s an improvised show, how do you know? And you have to watch everything, because what I’ve learned is that things that feel funny on the street sometimes aren’t and things that you completely forgot even happened when you watch it back you think, “Oh, my God, I didn’t even remember that. That’s so funny.” So, you have to film a ton, you have to watch everything and then cut it down. It’s a nightmare.
And you do it all yourself?
BE: Well, I have editors that I work with, but I’m right next to them every second, which I’m sure they love.
In the first episode of “Billy” you have a pretty passionate kiss with someone…
BE: I do. This is serious. It’s my first onscreen kiss. I had to film my own show in order to have an onscreen kiss, although it’s not necessarily with my number-one choice.
The last time I talked to you was right before “Difficult People” hit, and now that it’s aired what are you hearing from people?
BE: For the most part, I think the reaction was really, really strong. My only gauge is the people I know personally on social media. And I think we did really well. I think for me personally, I’m thrilled for Julie. She’s been working on “Billy on the Street” since the beginning. I know she’s a genius and I’m glad that other people now are seeing that. Sometimes it takes being on camera for people to recognize that. Just the way that funnier guy got behind me in “Billy on the Street,” Amy Poehler got behind Julie and I’m really, really happy for Julie because she really deserves it. She’s really the smartest, funniest person I’ve ever met.
And on a personal level, it was really nice for me to play a multidimensional person and still be able to be funny. It's kind of a dream show in a way because it's hard to find a funny show. There are very few legitimately funny shows. Not everyone may get the jokes on "Difficult People," but it's a funny show if you're the audience that it's meant for. And I get to play a multidimensional person. I'm not just screaming, ranting and raving. There's a family and boyfriends and friends and career issues, and that for me is great. I mean, I started out as an actor and I went to Northwestern and did that whole theater thing, and that's still what I like to do. So, "Difficult People" is a nice change of pace for me.
“Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street” airs Wednesdays at 10:30pm on truTV.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.