With an Emmy nomination this year for his short form web series Billy on the Street, comedian Billy Eichner is celebrating both his third Primetime nod from Academy, and his third iteration of the show, since it returned as a web series late last year.
But short form online isn’t a new home for Billy on the Street. It’s where it was originally born, and it remains an ideal vehicle in an era of constant phone-watching and YouTube consumption. The Billy concept has stood the test of time too—it’s been going for 15 years. Back in 2004, when Eichner realized he could show short videos during his live sketch comedy show in New York, he began taking his act to the street and shooting it. Once uploaded to YouTube, the viral videos ushered in the TV show. Thus, bringing it back to the web has seemed only fitting, and, given this latest nomination, it seems the Academy agrees.
First airing on television via Fuse TV in 2011, UCB alum Eichner had honed his own special brand of renegade game show. In something that felt like a hybrid between stand-up and a trivia quiz, he’d take his larger-then-life persona outdoors in New York and spontaneously stop passersby to ask them satirical pop culture questions. Among his most popular skits were ‘Amateur Speed Sketching’, and ‘For a Dollar’, in which contestants had to answer a single question correctly to win—you guessed it—a dollar.
After three seasons, the show moved to TruTV for a two-year run, earning itself two Primetime Emmy nods and a daytime nomination.
That television version came to an end when Eichner chose to focus on other aspects of his career. When he announced his departure from TruTV in 2017, he said, “Billy on the Street will be back. But we’re shifting gears a bit.”
Eichner currently has a Judd Apatow-produced Universal comedy in the works and has previously done a stint on American Horror Story: Cult, and Apocalypse, starred as Timon in Disney’s remake of The Lion King and has an upcoming role in the holiday film Noelle with Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader and Shirley Maclaine. Eichner had also turned his attention to headlining Netflix’s Friends From College and partnering on another project with Funny or Die (which produces Billy on the Street).
But with short form, Eichner was able to keep Billy on the Street alive, while handling other projects. Eight episodes in partnership with Lyft Entertainment were made available via Eichner’s social media and YouTube as, in this iteration of the series, he was joined on the street by celebrities, including Emma Stone, Tiffany Haddish, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Saturday Night Live star Kate McKinnon, and more.