SXSW: Billy Eichner brings ‘Billy on the Street’ to SXSW – for a second, at least

Metro goes to SXSW 2014

Comedian Billy Eichner is back with a third season of his irreverent guerrilla quiz show, “Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street,” debuting March 12 at 11pm EST on Fuse. To celebrate, he’s in Austin, Texas, for SXSW — for as little time as possible, he assures Metro.

So this is my first time going to SXSW.
Oh good, I hate it! (laughs) I’ve been there once. I mean, Austin is amazing, I just think I need to go to Austin when it’s not SXSW to really experience it. That said, you do need to go, and everyone goes and there’s just a lot happening. I’m glad we’re doing our event on Monday, when it’s a little more chilled out. That first weekend, you know, it’s basically like New York and L.A. and Chicago, everyone converges on Austin. It’s a lot, it’s hectic.

Billy Eichner quizzes unsuspecting New Yorkers on "Funny or Die's Billy on the Street."
Billy Eichner quizzes unsuspecting New Yorkers on “Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street.”

How often do you run into people who just expect you to be in character like that?
Um … every day, all the time. (laughs) And you know, I totally understand it, and I’m happy to report to them that I’m not that way all the time, that it’s a character, obviously, and no one could live that way. I’m glad, though. I think it’s a compliment. Sometimes I think that people are disappointed, even journalists. Sometimes I’ll show up for an interview and I can tell they’re a little disappointed. It’s almost like they wanted to be on “Billy on the Street” rather than just talk to me about “Billy on the Street.” I’m certainly not offended by it, but that said I am not that guy in real life. I’m just your average gay Jew. What can I tell you?

Have you ever put together a compilation of people saying “no” to your requests?
You know, I don’t think we’ve ever done that, but it’s a really funny idea. Lord knows it happens all the time. Especially in New York. Everyone’s, like, getting somewhere. You know, they’ve got somewhere to be.

How is New York as a setting for the series?
I think this is a very New York show in terms of the energy, and we rely on and celebrate this sort of classic, eccentric attitude. That manifests itself in different ways depending on who you’re talking to, but still there’s a very specific New York energy and sensibility that show thrives on. I don’t think you could do it in L.A. There’s no sort of buzzing core area. I would like to branch out — whether it’s on this particular TV or on another show — where we see what happens when we take this persona out into the world beyond New York, whether that’s other cities or small towns or who knows what? Put “Billy on the Street” in the rainforests and see what happens! It’s probably going to be mostly running, me running around by myself or taking a nap near a tree.

The show does involve a lot of running.
Yes, I burned a lot of calories. I needed to point out that between Season 2 and Season 3 I lost a lot of weight. That was the only point of me signing on to do it again.



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