You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

From Billy On The Street To Bros: The Complete Evolution Of Billy Eichner

The List 11/5/2022 Krista Maria Piccotti
Billy Eichner's at FX's © DFree/Shutterstock Billy Eichner's at FX's

Billy Eichner is a beloved gay Jewish comedian, actor, producer, and writer from Queens. He started his comedy career by literally telling jokes on the street. Some of his credits include film and television appearances from "Park and Recreation," to "Angry Birds," to his most recent movie, "Bros." Eichner has transformed from a struggling actor and comedian to starring as a beloved character in a Disney movie and becoming a household name. Eichner has been open about his sexuality throughout his career and has shared his passion for political activism with his "Glam Up the Midterms" campaign.

Whether you know Eichner from "Billy on the Street" or as Craig Middlebrooks from "Parks and Recreation," you'll probably recognize his over-the-top persona and unique voice as a comedian and writer. However, he also has had opportunities to ground himself in more serious characters. Billy Eichner has paved his way into the spotlight, but not without encountering many twists and turns along the way.

Billy Eichner Grew Up In Queens, New York

Billy Eichner at his Bar Mitzvah © Instagram Billy Eichner at his Bar Mitzvah

Billy Eichner grew up in Queens, New York, with his parents Debbie and Jay. Debbie worked with a phone company and Jay was a tax auditor. Eichner describes his family to People as being very supportive of him. He recalls, "The way they encouraged me and just believed in me, that gave me a confidence to feel like I could go after my dreams." His parents encouraged Eichner to follow his passion by taking their pop-cultured-obsessed son to see some of his favorite singers, including Tina Turner, Madonna, and Barbara Streisand. 

In an interview with Kelly Clarkson, he described his bar mitzvah. He wasn't super religious but planning the party meant everything to him. His bar mitzvah theme was Broadway-meets-pop-music featuring a life-sized cut out of Madonna and "The Phantom of the Opera." The tables at the party were named after his favorite pop stars and Broadway shows. 

Billy Eichner went to Northwestern University, where he studied theater in hopes of becoming a Broadway actor. ET Canada quotes Eichner as saying, "I never even considered myself a comedian ... I was a theatre kid growing up in New York. I just wanted to do Broadway and off-Broadway. I was a really good singer, I wanted to do musicals." Eichner starred in the live comedy show "Creation Nation with Robin Lord Taylor. In a Vanity Fair interview, he explains how "Creation Nation" was the beginning of "Billy on the Street." However, Eichner's very first television role involved an appearance on "Saturday Night Live" playing one of John Goodman's children in a comedy sketch.

His Show, Billy On The Street, Helped Him Get His Start

Billy Eichner promoting © YouTube Billy Eichner promoting

"Billy on the Street" stars and is executively produced by Billy Eichner. The comedy game show follows Eichner on the streets of Manhattan asking random people pop culture questions. Some famous games on the show include "For a Dollar" and "Quiz in the Face." "For a Dollar" involves Eichner asking multiple people questions about pop culture, from opinion questions like "Are you jealous of Beyonce's success?" and lightning round questions like, "Name three white people." 

Eichner's "Quiz in the Face" segment has him quizzing one person on the street with multi-round multiple-choice questions. Sometimes on the show Eichner hits the streets with a celebrity, and asks questions related to the celebrity or their work. In a segment called "Death Rogen," Eichner walks around the streets of Manhattan with Seth Rogen, asking people if they knew that Seth Rogen died before revealing that Seth Rogen is next to him hiding behind a camera.

"Billy on the Street" started as a taped segment used in his live comedy show, "Creation Nation." When YouTube came along, he uploaded "Billy on the Street" videos onto the platform and eventually they went viral (per Vanity Fair). The Hollywood Reporter recounts the history of "Billy on the Street," which was picked up by Fuse in 2011, TruTV in 2014, and the digital platform Funny or Die in 2018. As host of "Billy on the Street," Eichner has been nominated for three Emmys.

In 2013, Billy Eichner Joined The Cast Of NBC's Parks And Recreation

Billy Eichner as Craig Middlebrooks in © YouTube Billy Eichner as Craig Middlebrooks in

In 2013, Billy Eichner joined NBC's "Parks and Recreation" as Craig Middlebrooks for Seasons 6 and 7. Eichner told Vanity Fair that he didn't audition for the part, and he didn't get it through his agent. Instead, he got his role on "Parks and Recreation" after receiving a direct message on Twitter from Mike Schur, the creator of the show. He told Vanity Fair, "Twitter can be, you know, a horrible anxiety-inducing war zone," but he admitted, "It's also helped me. I mean, I always say I would not have a career without social media in general."

According to Business Insider, many of the "Parks and Recreation" cast were already fans of "Billy on the Street," which was airing on Fuse at the time. Working on the two shows simultaneously had Eichner regularly flying between New York City for "Billy on the Street" and Los Angeles for "Parks and Recreation." The character of Craig Middlebrooks became a regular on the show, serving as Donna's counterpart in Pawnee's rival town, Eagleton. Eichner told Vanity Fair that Craig is a more intense version of his "Billy on the Street" persona, and PopSugar describes the character as being known for his "volatile outbursts and passionate opinions." Whether you loved Craig Middlebrooks or hated him, Eichner undeniably brought a unique energy to the set in the show's last few seasons.

He Landed Voiceover Work As Mr. Ambrose From Bob's Burgers

Billy Eichner smiling © Cindy Ord/Getty Images Billy Eichner smiling

In 2011, Billy Eichner landed a role on "Bob's Burgers" as Mr. Ambrose, the flamboyant librarian -- and later cheerleading coach -- of the Wagstaff School. The animated television show was Eichner's first significant recurring role for voiceover work. He told Vanity Fair that his agent repped the creator of the show, which is how he got the role. When Eichner landed the role, he already had a following from doing "Billy on the Street," but he wasn't known in the mainstream, so his agent had to talk him up to get him the gig.

Thus far, Billy Eichner has thirteen IMDb credits from "Bob's Burgers." Eichner told Vanity Fair, "I love 'Bob's Burgers' and I think that character, Mr. Ambrose, the librarian who hates books and hates the kids on some level, is just hilarious." He continued, "Whenever they call me in to do it I'm so pleased, I'm so happy, it gives me great joy to do that role." Mr. Ambrose often is impatient with his students, but provides plenty of audience laughs with his sassy, witty, and often sarcastic remarks.

Billy Eichner Starred Alongside Julie Klausner In The Hulu Original Series Difficult People

Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner at the Deadline screening of © Tara Ziemba/Getty Images Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner at the Deadline screening of

When "Billy on the Street" was picked up for television, Billy Eichner had to throw a crew together -- fast. Eichner explained to Vanity Fair that one of the first people he hired for his writing team was Julie Klausner, as they were both fans of each other's work. After working on Eichner's show, Klausner created "Difficult People" for her and Eichner to star in.

Amy Poehler eventually joined the project as an executive producer, and it aired on Hulu in 2015 for three seasons. EW recounts the show's wonderful comedic guest stars through its three seasons, including John Cho, Kate McKinnon, Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers, Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Mulaney, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. The show follows two aspiring comedians, Julie Kessler and Billy Epstein, who seek success in New York's entertainment industry. They are exaggerated, dumber versions of Klausner and Eichner themselves. According to Deadline, the show's pilot was made for USA, but Eichner and Klausner are both happy it aired on Hulu because of the show's content: "It's impossible to think of this show on USA," Eichner said.

When the show was canceled in 2017, Eichner tweeted, "Yes it's true. 'DIFFICULT PEOPLE' has come to an end. Thanks to many people but above all my friend, [Julie Klausner]. A singular comedic voice & the funniest person I know. I cannot WAIT to see what Julie creates next." Though "Difficult People" was cancelled, it remains beloved by its many dedicated fans.

He Had Minor Roles In Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising And The Angry Birds Movie

Billy Eichner in © YouTube Billy Eichner in

In 2016, Billy Eichner appeared in both "Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising" and "The Angry Birds Movie," playing minor comedic roles. "Neighbors 2" was the first movie in which Eichner worked with actor Seth Rogen. Eichner played the realtor who sells the neighboring house of Mac Radner, Seth Rogen's character, to a sorority and thus chaos ensues. Eichner excitedly and sarcastically wrote on Twitter, "I'm in 2 scenes in Neighbors 2. See you at the Oscars next year!!!" However, the next time these two actors work together Eichner would play a much bigger role (more on that in a bit).

Eichner was also in "Angry Birds" in 2016, though he was not originally cast in it. Eichner explained to Vanity Fair that he felt like every Hollywood comedian was in the movie -- "I'm known for basically being an angry bird, essentially," so how could he not have been cast? Insulted, Eichner took to the streets on his show, "Billy on the Street," where he angrily ranted about how he wasn't asked to be in "The Angry Birds Movie." The creator of the movie saw this episode of "Billy on the Street" and agreed with Eichner that he should be in the movie. Eichner was offered two small roles as Chef Pig and Philip. On Twitter, he wrote, "JUSTICE AT LAST!! Excited to tell u I'm voicing 2 roles in the ANGRY BIRDS movie!"

Billy Eichner Appeared In The 7th And 8th Seasons Of American Horror Story

Billy Eichner in © YouTube Billy Eichner in

Billy Eichner was approached by Ryan Murphy, the creator of "American Horror Story," at an Emmys party. According to Vanity Fair, this got Eichner a meeting with Murphy where he expressed his desire to do more than just comedies and elaborated on his theater experience. He hoped that Murphy would give him the opportunity to step outside of his usual genre, as Murphy has done for other actors. However, it wasn't until a year late that Murphy told Eichner he had a role for him. 

Eichner was cast in the 2017 anthology series, "American Horror Story: Cult" as Harrison Wilton, and later joined the 2018 series, "American Horror Story: Apocalypse" as Brock (per IMDb). Eichner enjoyed the challenge of doing a different genre, and told Vanity Fair, "[I reminded myself that] my goal here is not to figure out how to make this funnier, which is usually my job, and [with] 'Horror Story,' it's almost the opposite." Since the "American Horror Story" anthology series relies on over-the-top dramatic stories, it was Eichner's job to ground the character to make the story feel real. 

Billy Eichner Worked To 'Glam Up' The Midterm Elections

© Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

In 2018, Billy Eichner led a campaign with the support of the studio Funny or Die called "Glam Up the Midterms" in an effort to use his platform to encourage millennials to vote during the midterm elections. He launched his campaign on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" with a video that featured Sarah Silverman, James Corden, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien, John Oliver, Chelsea Handler, Robin Thede, Andy Cohen, and himself. His goal? To make the midterms fun in order to educate people about when and what the midterm elections are. 

Eichner advertised his campaign on several other talk shows, including "Real Time with Bill Maher" and "Late Night with Seth Meyers." In his talk show appearances and on the "Glam Up the Midterms" website, Eichner emphasized that only 12% of people voted in the previous 2014 midterm election. The campaign's website describes its mission to make the midterms "the sexiest, the most exclusive, the most glamorous event in history!"

 On "Late Night with Seth Meyers," Eichner explained that his initiative would include videos and visits to places to where the midterm elections were particularly contentious. Eichner told Bill Maher that part of his campaign would include performing shows in communities where people must be registered voters to see it. These shows included political activist groups in the community explaining their platforms and what they do. It was important to Eichner that this campaign was considerate of the politics in each community.

Billy Eichner Played Timon In The 2019 Remake Of The Lion King

Billy Eichner Seth Rogen Lion King Premiere © Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Billy Eichner Seth Rogen Lion King Premiere

Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen were hand-picked by Jon Favreau to play Timon and Pumbaa in the 2019 remake of "The Lion King." Eichner described being asked to be in "The Lion King" to Vanity Fair as "surreal." Growing up, he'd wanted to be in musicals, and this was finally his chance. He also worshipped Nathan Lane's Broadway work long before Lane was in "The Lion King." He was a little intimidated by the stakes of the role, but would remind himself that Favreau could have picked anyone, so he must have picked Eichner for a reason. Eichner told Vanity Fair, "My goal with 'Lion King' was just to try to rise to the occasion of both who I was working with and who did it originally and the size and scope and expectation of the movie." Eichner managed to exceed this goal, as far as critics are concerned.

While "The Lion King" did not receive a fresh tomato on the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, critics seem to agree that Eichner and Rogen were the highlights of the movie. As Kate Knibbs wrote in her review for The Ringer, "Billy Eichner's performance as the sassy meerkat Timon is legitimately great. If nothing else justifies 'The Lion King' remake, establishing Eichner as a mainstream actor will." She's not the only one who praised Eichner's performance: Rachel Handler from Vulture wrote, "Eichner runs away with the movie, threading a difficult needle perfectly."

He Wrote And Starred In The 2022 Movie Bros

Billy Eichner at Sydney's premiere of © Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images Billy Eichner at Sydney's premiere of

According to Variety, Billy Eichner is the first gay person to write and star in his own movie with a wide theatrical release by a major studio. It's also the first movie where all the actors in the cast are openly part of the LGBTQ+ community. The movie stars Eichner as a happily single gay man and Luke Macfarlane as his love interest. Both characters are committed to not being in a committed relationship. However, as all rom-coms go, they end up falling for each other.

Eichner brought back "Billy on the Street" after three years of retiring the show to advertise the movie to straight people. Eichner and Paul Rudd chased people on the streets of New York City, yelling at them to see "Bros," sometimes telling New Yorkers that Paul Rudd "demands" they see it. During an interview with Steven Colbert on "The Late Show," Eichner said his passion for romcoms comes from watching Nora Ephron movies such as "You've Got Mail" and "When Harry Met Sally."

Unfortunately, Eichner's movie was a box office flop, despite its high ratings on movie review sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert, whose reviewer enjoyed "Eichner's razor-sharp wit and caustic humor ... and situational comedy as he skewers many aspects of gay dating culture." Amy Nicholson from the New York Times described the movie as one that "charm[s] audiences with a spirited, corny facsimile of life." Regardless, Eichner told EW that he's proud of the movie.

Read this next: Actors Reveal Their Best On-Screen Kisses

AdChoices
AdChoices
AdChoices
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon