“The goal was to make the funniest, laugh-out-loud movie as possible, that just happens to be about a gay couple”
Billy Eichner is usually the one asking the questions. The openly gay comedian came to fame with his award-winning, 2011-2017 truTV show, “Billy On The Street,” where he accosted strangers on the streets of Manhattan, often with an A-list celebrity at his side. Eichner would interrupt someone in the middle of a jog, an errand, or daily commute to ask a groan-inducing question or play a silly game. Most New Yorkers did not recognize either Eichner or celebrity sidekicks like Chris Evans, Will Ferrell, Mariah Carey, or Sarah Jessica Parker.
The tides have turned. Eichner, in a few short years, has gone from class clown to a polished (dare I say very good) actor, writer, and all-around mensch—and ascended to celebrity A-list status himself. In 2019, he starred as the voice of Timon in the Disney live-action remake of The Lion King, and also voices Timon in the upcoming live-action sequel.
But that’s not all. Currently, Eichner is writer, producer, and co-star of Bros, a new romantic comedy about two commitment-phobic gay guys in a relationship—Eichner and costar Luke MacFarlane. MacFarlane, who came to fame playing in schmaltzy Hallmark Channel movies, is another openly gay (not to mention very good looking) actor; indeed, all of Bros’ writers, producers, and all of the lead and supporting actors (including Amanda Bearse) identify as LGBTQ (with the exceptions of director Nicolas Stoller and producer Judd Apatow.) As they put it, Bros is the first ‘almost’ all gay, lesbian or trans major motion picture.
“My day hasn’t even begun,” Eichner said in an interview. He had just arrived in San Francisco, where it was the ungodly hour of 7:45am, upon returning from the Toronto International Film Festival, where Bros debuted to great acclaim.
“The goal was to make the funniest, laugh-out-loud movie as possible, that just happens to be about a gay couple,” Eichner explained. At 44, he is old enough to remember growing up during a time when gay-themed movies had limited releases and smallish audiences.
“I went to see a lot of them,” he recalled. “All Over the Guy, Jeffrey, Trick, Edge of Seventeen, Go. But it felt like it was something I did in private. It felt like it did when I was hiding a magazine [for secrecy at home].”
Bros is written for contemporary audiences—straight, gay, and everything in between (my words)—who are unfazed by scenes and situations that would have seemed controversial even 10 years ago. And, given the talent behind the project and the early buzz, it could be the first gay romcom to become a mainstream box office smash.
Particularly with director Nicolas Stoller and producer Judd Apatow on board. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Bridesmaids, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Neighbors … Judd and/or Nick are responsible for some of the funniest movies during the past two decades,” Eichner enthused.
One of the most charming aspects of Bros is a pivotal scene filmed in Provincetown. “Provincetown is maybe my favorite place on earth,” Eichner said. “It’s as far out on Cape Cod as you can get. Being able to film in Provincetown added so much style to the classical romantic story. The town has a rich, gay history but is beautiful, sexy, and fun. It is so welcoming to everyone that Nick [Stoller, the director], who is straight, and married with three kids, takes his family there every summer. It is also the first place that we began filming.” The production was shut down in between filming for over a year and a half due to COVID-19.
Is there any romance going on in Eichner’s life? When I asked him for a funny story about a first date, he laughed and said, “I’m still waiting to go on one. But, seriously, I met a guy that worked for a cannabis company. He showed up as high as he could be. And of course he was hungry. I should have just called it a night then. But we went out and all he could do was eat. There wasn’t any conversation. But I don’t know if that is funny, or just weird.”
There’s a musical moment in Bros that may surprise some Eichner fans, but shouldn’t since he’s a great singer and studied musical theater in college. His love of music predates his bar mitzvah, which he describes as “Broadway meets pop music.” “I had a life-sized, airbrushed Madonna standee from her ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour,” he recalled. “And a standee from [the Broadway musical] The Phantom of the Opera. I even sang ‘Lean On Me.’”
Eichner’s singing talents are displayed in Bros, however briefly. “I don’t want people to think Bros is a musical,” he said.
Indeed, Bros is not a musical, at all. It is a comedy that is going to go down in history, in a great way.
Tim Nasson has been writing movie reviews and interviewing celebrities for major publications around the nation for over 35 years. Among them, The Patriot Ledger, Middlesex News, Boston.com and The Chicago Reader.