Billy Eichner on hilarious on-air persona and success

Billy Eichner on sidewalk adventures and "Difficult People"
Billy Eichner on sidewalk adventures and "Dif... 05:23

For Billy Eichner, running around the streets quizzing complete strangers with random questions and making Hollywood A-listers make a fool out of themselves in public is no sweat.

The star of "Billy on the Street" has gained tremendous success with his energetic persona. He describes himself as a "live-action cartoon character."

"We catch people off guard. The joke to me is that I want to make the average New Yorker going about their day have to deal with my opinions," Eichner said on "CBS This Morning" Friday. "I think that's pretty funny... I literally go and ambush people to talk about Cate Blanchett, and they're on the way to the gym or to work or to catch a bus, and I don't care."

Eichner's loud and energetic persona can be rooted back to his obsession with pop culture as a child, staying up to watch David Letterman as a 5-year-old.

"I was like a fat, sweaty kid growing up in Queens who just was plopped down in front of 'Entertainment Tonight' by my parents," Eichner said. "And I absorbed it all, and this is what came out."

The show is not scripted, and the people in it are not precast - aside from the celebrities he often brings along on his sidewalk adventures, including Letterman, Tina Fey, Julianne Moore, Anna Kendrick and "CBS This Morning" co-host Charlie Rose.

To his surprise, first lady Michelle Obama personally asked Eichner to be on the show to promote her campaign on healthy eating, Eat Brighter!, a collaboration between the White House, "Sesame Street" and the Produce Marketing Association. Big Bird also appeared as a guest on the episode.

"I don't think I ever could have imagined that, as first lady, I would appear in an episode of 'Billy on the Street' to promote fruits and vegetables and would wind up slow dancing with Big Bird in a supermarket," Obama said.

When he got the initial email from Obama, Eichner said he deleted it thinking it was a hoax. His producer called him a couple of hours later to tell him it was indeed the first lady of the United States.

"I think they liked the combination of me and my high energy to help get people's attention," Eichner said.

Eichner is setting his sights on winning an Emmy Award for Best Variety Sketch Series for the show. He's running against some tough competition, including "Saturday Night Live," "Key and Peele" and "Inside Amy Schumer."

"If I don't get that damn Emmy nomination, there'll be hell to pay," Eichner joked. "I'm telling you, I will protest - you've never seen a protest... I just want the nomination. I don't need to win - I mean, I'll win if they want me to."

Eichner has also taken his talents and success off the streets to streaming, with his scripted show, "Difficult People." He plays a struggling comedian who waits tables for a living, starring alongside Julie Klausner, who also plays an aspiring comedian.

"We're very unapologetically ourselves. It's very unfiltered, and I think people find something cathartic about that," Eichner said. "Those people wouldn't function in real life very well, but on the show, people sort of escape through all of that craziness."