Who’s the “host with the most” in 2015?
The most injuries? Jimmy Fallon! The most dramatic transformation? Stephen Colbert, from rightwing blowhard to late-night liberal who reportedly alienates Republican viewers.
But when it comes to the host with the most insane set of skills, the choice is clear: Billy Eichner, the titular Billy of “Billy on the Street” (10:30 p.m. Thursdays on truTV, with new episodes running through Dec. 31).
No other TV host can keep up with the 37-year-old New Yorker, and I mean that quite literally. He describes his series as a game show, but it is so much more than that. He runs down New York streets at breakneck pace, accosting passersby with pop culture questions that are ridiculous, rude and ribald. Prizes are awarded (although one woman rejected a Presto deep fryer). He persuades celebrities to engage in bizarre banter and run nutty pop-culture-themed obstacle courses that might include running through a throng of white people patting themselves on the back for embracing a show with a black lead character — part of a quest to become mayor of “ShondaLand,” the production company responsible for “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Along the way, Billy hollers, he shrieks, he creates encounters that are more absurd than the Theater of the Absurd.
“Miss,” he calls to a dour middle-age woman, “Put yourself in Demi Lovato’s shoes.”
She gives him the stink eye and replies, “I don’t want to.”
One of Billy’s signature games is “for a dollar,” where real people who answer a question get a real dollar. Sample question: “For a dollar, would you have sex with Paul Rudd?” The real Paul Rudd ran alongside Billy during this game, prompting one woman to tell the actor, “I’m sorry you’re being paraded around like this.”
Rudd has plenty of A-plus-list company, including Sarah Jessica Parker (this Thursday) and Oscar-winner Julianne Moore, who got this greeting from Billy: “What on earth are you doing on this show?” Then he made her play a game he called “Hummus or Nipples?” He’d name a famous person who either publicly ate chickpea dip or had a nipple exposure, including Rihanna (the latter) and Viola Davis (the former).
Clearly, he does not worry about the Politically Correct Cops. In a game called “LaTina Fey,” Billy asked the Emmy-winner to name 20 Latino actors in 1 minute. She only got 19, then collapsed in a heap on the sidewalk. Her prize if she had succeeded: potholders embroidered with lines from the movie “Brokeback Mountain.”
As to the question of what on earth are all these famous people doing on a basic cable game show —maybe they prefer it to sitting on a couch and being asked dull questions about their next big project.
Billy, you are the host with the most guts, the most endurance (he even has a trainer to keep him in shape for his street runs), the loudest voice and the most inventive approach to interviews. Would I watch your show for a dollar? Heck, I’d pay you a dollar to let me watch!
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