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Billy Eichner Gets Super Candid on the Future of His Career & What He Hopes to Bring to Queer Comedy

Billy Eichner knows all things entertainment, whether he's keeping track of which celebrities have an Instagram page (for the record, Emma Stone still doesn't) or he's binge-watching all the best rom-coms.

The comedian skyrocketed to fame for being one of the world's biggest pop culture aficionados, but what makes Eichner's work so entertaining is that he illustrates the fact that most people, unlike him, wouldn't even recognize a celebrity if they saw them on the street.

That's what defines Eichner's viral Billy on the Street sketches, where he runs down New York City streets quizzing pedestrians on random pop culture facts. The series first aired on truTV before certain clips ended up circulating on YouTube, Twitter and now their latest home: TikTok. “I don’t even have a TikTok page, so that’s just fans posting clips,” Eichner said during his exclusive chat with PureWow. “And it seems that every couple of years, it gets discovered or rediscovered by a new audience because it ends up on a new platform. So, that’s been touching actually, it was really lovely to see that.”

But while Eichner's videos became a source of joy for people during quarantine, Billy on the Street isn't exactly a COVID-safe program to shoot. “Billy on the Street is the last type of thing you could shoot during COVID,” Eichner said. And although things are starting to open back up, he thinks he will take a break from the series. “I wanna let everyone [in New York City] get back to normal, you know, without me shouting at them on the streets,” he joked. “So, no plans at the moment, maybe down the road we’ll see.”

While The Lion King actor is letting his much-abused vocal cords take a rest, he's certainly been keeping busy. I had the chance to speak with him as a part of his partnership with the cocktail mixer company Neon Zebra. Their new ‘IRL Again’ campaign is looking at how we will transition back into society, which Eichner is thinking of too as he prepares to shoot a new movie this fall and looks to the future of his career.

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Like most of us, Eichner spent a lot of time on the couch this past year. “I watched a lot of YouTube clips, a lot of late-night Youtube spirals. I was watching old interviews with people and all kinds of random clips,” he said.

But akin to many of his fellow creatives (we're looking at you, Taylor Swift), Eichner also used the time at home to his advantage. The comedian has spent the last few months working on the screenplay for his upcoming romantic comedy, Bros, which is slated for release in 2022.

“I used the extra time to go back and watch and rewatch rom-coms, some that I had never seen, some that I’ve seen many times,” Eichner explained. “I just revisit them and you know, just to help remind myself what’s important in terms of the script and the story we’re trying to tell and the type of rom-com I want to do.”

With Bros, Eichner is the first openly gay man to write and star in a film produced by a major Hollywood studio. When I asked him what he hoped audiences would take away from such a landmark film, he said, “The biggest hope is that people just think it’s funny, that they relate to it, or they’re moved by it.” He also noted, “The cast is gonna blow people away.”

However, Eichner doesn't want his film to only appeal to LGBTQ+ audiences. "I just want people—straight, gay and otherwise—to just have fun and laugh at themselves, laugh at each other... to still be able to relate to the awkwardness and the complications of dating and love.”

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Still, that wide appeal doesn't mean the story will lose its authenticity, which is something Eichner wants to ensure. “I feel like we’re getting this new wave of queer storytelling, which is incredible and a step in the right direction,” he said. “However, sometimes it feels like [LGBTQ+ stories] are meant to appease or not alienate straight people, by getting too specific about our lives, and I understand the reason for that but I think we’re at the point now where we can really be honest.”

As Eichner has often been a very outspoken queer activist, I was dying to know what LGBTQ+ show or movie had resonated the most with him recently. “Oh god, well I've been put on the spot,” he laughed. “There’s a limited series that aired on HBO Max this year called It’s a Sin, which I thought was really really well done.”

It's a Sin, which follows a group of young gay men during the start of the AIDS crisis in 1980's London, is a mix of biting humor and heartbreaking history. For Eichner, it all came back to the authenticity and rawness of the series.

“It’s clearly a series that was written by a gay man, Russell T. Davies, who lived through it, who was able to write about it. Not just the tragic part that we all know about and was very real, but also what it was like living on the day-to-day and finding joyful moments and happy moments,” he said.

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Of course with Eichner, the conversation turned to other forms of entertainment. The comedian revealed that while he spends much of his time on screen, his favorite thing to do is go to the theatre. “I grew up in New York City and I've been going to see shows, big and small, my whole life,” he confessed. “It’s really been crushing—the impact that COVID’s had on the theater community in New York and theater communities all over the country.”

However, Eichner has noticed a positive shift in the city as well. “It’s the best energy I’ve felt in New York in a long time,” he beamed. “I’m not saying there aren’t challenges, obviously, but it’s incredible right now.”

As Eichner prepares for his return to New York, he's also trying to pace himself when it comes to easing back to "normal." “I’m as socially awkward as anyone, even under normal circumstances,” he joked. “There are gonna be a lot of things you feel compelled to do this summer, there’s pressure, there’s FOMO happening already, I can feel it. And you know, you wanna dip your toes in, or even jump in occasionally, but...you don’t wanna burn out either.”

When it comes to his partnership with Neon Zebra, he said, “That’s why I like being part of this campaign, because you know, Neon Zebra is part of that [transition back into social life]. If you’re someone who likes to drink, then a cocktail does help in moderation and it’s something I’ll probably be doing this summer.”

We will definitely be kicking back with some drinks this summer too (while playing Eichner's iconic videos on repeat).

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calfee

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Joel is the former Associate Editor for News & Entertainment and has been reporting on all things pop culture for over 5 years. Before working at PureWow, he served as a...