Billy Eichner

Billy Eichner

Boisterous comedic personality Billy Eichner took the DIY approach to his craft from early on, often creating his own shows to star in, rather than wait around to be cast in someone else's project. The New York native had an energy and volume that couldn't be contained, even as a child. His parents allowed him to test the waters of show business, resulting in a small but memorable appearance on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975-) when he was 12 years old, playing one of John Goodman's sons. Though the appearance was far from glamorous, it didn't put Eichner off from performing in the slightest. He would go on to major in theater when he enrolled at Northwestern University in 1996. After graduating, Eichner returned to New York. Within a year, he and four friends from college found themselves itching to put together their next creative outlet, and they collaborated on an off-Broadway musical entitled "I Sing!" in which Eichner starred in 2001. Additionally, Eichner decided to continue his education, this time in the form of improv classes which he took from the famous Upright Citizens Brigade. He would go on to complete the UCB's rigorous theater program before getting the urge to collaborate with some other like-minded performers on yet another project. This time, he and friend Robin Taylor put together a live variety show called "Creation Nation," which combined stand-up comedy, scripted sketches, interviews with celebrities, and original musical numbers. The show went up in the basement of the independent book store the Drama Book Shop in 2003 and soon gained a substantial cult fan base, which followed the show even as it moved from one location to another. SNL's own Rachel Dratch came to a performance and was so entertained that she bonded with the cast after it was over, going out drinking with them and ultimately agreeing to appear in an upcoming performance. "Creation Nation" also featured video segments written by Eichner and directed by his friend Benjamin Salka, which helped Eichner develop his talent for man-on-the-street style interviews. He began being offered more opportunities as the show began to wind down around 2007, such as when Radar Online commissioned the comedian to produce a series of satirical segments that same year. Eichner was even cast in a talk-show pilot alongside legendary comedian Joan Rivers in 2006 called "Joan Rivers' Straight Talk," though the series wasn't picked up. Nonetheless, Eichner still had the drive to create his own projects, and he parlayed his street-interview persona into a web game show called "Billy on the Street," which found him surprising largely unimpressed New York pedestrians on the sidewalk to quiz them on pop culture facts. Eichner's trademark manic scream when surprised pedestrians took too long to answer quickly became the comic hallmark of the series. The improvised game show was picked up by the comedy website Funny or Die and he began shopping it around to TV networks, hoping it could find a place in television. In the meantime, Eichner starred in a one-man off-Broadway show at the UCB Theater called "Billy Eichner Goes Pop!" in 2009. Finally, in 2011, "Funny or Die's Billy on the Street" (Fuse, 2011-2014) was picked up by the cable network Fuse, elevating Eichner's visibility almost overnight. He was soon offered a recurring role as easily exasperated city employee Craig Middlebrooks on the hit Amy Poehler series "Parks and Recreation" (NBC, 2009-2015), as well as a voice acting appearance on the animated series "Bob's Burgers" (Fox, 2011-). Eichner was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host in 2013. While continuing "Billy on the Street," Eichner began starring in his first situation comedy, playing a version of himself on "Difficult People" (Hulu 2015-) opposite fellow comedian Julie Klausner.