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Seth Meyers on the Secret to Billy Eichner’s Success

Billy Eichner Seth Meyers New York
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For Variety’s latest issue, we asked Seth Meyers to write a tribute to Billy Eichner, one of 50 people to make our New Power of New York list. Here’s why Eichner, the star of truTV’s “Billy on the Street,” represents a new generation of movers and shakers that capture the best of Manhattan. For the full list, click here.

Billy makes it look easy. Just take a microphone and a camera crew and run around New York talking to people. How hard can it be? Well, I did it with him once, and I can tell you it’s incredibly hard. We spent hours running around the city while I watched his brain make split-second decisions as to who would be a good mark and who wouldn’t. (Something I learned: He never talks to anyone who looks like they want to be talked to.) He was armed with both hundreds of prewritten, perfectly worded questions and an incredibly quick improv mind that could come up with them on the spot (a personal favorite from our day together: “Miss, you’re a lesbian — are you watching ‘Orange Is the New Black’?”) Two things remain ingrained in me from that afternoon: severe foot pain and an undying respect for Billy Eichner and his craft.

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I’ve been aware of Billy for a long time. And ever since Amy Poehler showed me the first video of him sticking a mic in the faces of the unwitting, he’s just been getting better and better, honing his skill set. And when the day came for him to have his own show, he churned out piece after piece of unforgettable comedy, from the silly (“Do Gay People Care About John Oliver?”) to the silly and profound (“Immigrant or Real American?”) to the joyous (“Christmas Carol Ambush With Amy Poehler!”).

And much like Julia Roberts’ character in “Pretty Woman,” he’s not just great on the street! He’s an (expected) delight in “Difficult People” and an (unexpected) terror in “American Horror Story.”

And so I love Billy as an actor, a writer and a host, but most of all I love him for showing us that New York is still full of the most interesting people in the world if you’re just willing to take a day walking around and yelling at them.

Iveta Karpathyova for Variety

Seth Meyers is the host of “Late Night With Seth Meyers” on NBC. Read the rest of our New Power of New York list.