Five questions with Billy Eichner

Posted 12:51pm on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012

Billy Eichner

NEW YORK -- Imagine walking to work on the streets of 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 it up as a television series. It airs at 9 p.m. Fridays.

1 Running up to New Yorkers on the street isn't always safe. Have you ever felt threatened?

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 -- they do that Sean Penn thing where they're like, "Get out of my face."

2 Last season was pretty funny. How do you plan to step up your game this time around?

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.

3 This season, Papa comes home, your Funny Or Die founder, Will Ferrell. What do you have planned?

Will plays a game with me called Would Drew Barrymore Like This? 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 a scream-off to see who can win this American Girl doll.

4 Do you consider yourself a new-wave game show host?

[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 questions like a game show host. But the correct answer is more about my opinion than fact. So then, no.

5 Is your Meryl Streep fascination real?

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 Liaisons a hundred years ago.

-- John Carucci, The Associated Press

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