Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Breakthrough Jew – Billy Eichner

‘Billy on the Street’s’ Billy Eichner is often described as a "lunatic", but in the insanely crazy funny sense.

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: May 2nd, 2014 in Culture » Society » News

Hot, hip, and heady, the next wave of Jewish artists and influencers has already arrived. This is Breakthrough Jew, your weekly showcase of those on the verge of discovery and ready to be a regular figure in pop culture; setting trends, redefining genres, and simply getting it done-whatever ‘it’ is. These days, it’s not enough to know what’s hot now; you need to catch someone when they’re just starting to simmer.

Featuring those in film, fashion, food, and beyond, we’ll find the story before substance is obscured by style, before hype meets backlash, and before talent and purpose gets lost in a maze of Internet chatter. See an artist in the cozy bar before they hit the amphitheater, dine at a chef’s new restaurant before the line begins, and catch a young writer’s work before the demands of ratings and longevity encroach.

Follow our lead and we’ll follow yours – send us tips or suggestions via email, comment below or tweet us @ShalomLife, as we explore the Jewish landscape for pop culture pioneers.

Name: Billy Eichner

Age: 35

Hometown: New York City

Breakthrough Cred: Creator, executive producer, and star Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street

One adjective that is oft used to describe comedian/actor/writer/ Billy Eichner, is “lunatic”, but in the insanely funny sense. From an early age, Eichner possessed a thirst for fame, not to mention all things pop culture. As a child, he appeared in everything from musicals at his schools, to being an extra on Saturday Night Live.

“I was a fat, gay Jewish kid, but I was always confident. Maybe because I had a good singing voice,” he explained to The New York Times in March.

After graduating from Northwestern University in 2000, Eichner moved to New York, immersing himself in all things theater. With high-hopes of becoming a stage actor, he took classes at the legendary Upright Citizens Brigade. In 2003, he and friend, Robin Taylor were garnering accolades for their critically acclaimed stage production, Creation Nation: A Live Talk Show, which he hosted and wrote, along with Taylor. Said show was billed as, ““a live pop culture drenched variety-comedy-concert-comedy-variety talk show for the next generation”. It became a cult hit, and eventually moved to the Off Broadway theater Ars Nova. Creation Nation’s success led to a talk show pilot on Bravo, similar to The View, but starring Joan Rivers and four gay men. Sadly, the pilot was never picked up, and by 2008, Eichner found himself in the clichéd role of struggling actor.

However, after some earlier success with viral videos, he’d been mulling the idea of man-on-the-street comedic videos. Coupling his adoration of pop culture with comedic timing, and a lunatic’s energy, Billy on the Street was born. The concept was essentially Eichner sprinting through the streets of New York, asking unsuspecting pedestrians absurd questions regarding the Academy Awards.

Find out more about Billy on the next page!

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