Billy Eichner is tired of angry tweeting, although he’s very good at it. In the past week he’s ranged from clever and acerbic to earnest fanboy, weighing in on Roseanne’s Ambien defense (“I just took a Claritin and now I’m homophobic”), Trump’s comments on the missing undocumented children (“The man is creating an American gestapo, which is just what his Nazi base wants”), and Mary Steenburgen’s new movie (“Book Club > Fight Club”).
“I think angry tweeting is productive,” Eichner said.. “Social media is a double-edged sword, as we all know. But, I do think it’s been very helpful in terms of the resistance and political engagement … Social media has been a good way to rally the troops, as it were. However, a tweet is not a vote.”
Which is why he called his friends at Funny or Die, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, about taking the tweets to the streets. (Funny or Die produces “Billy on the Street,” Eichner’s crackerjack fake interview show where he shoves a microphone into New Yorkers’ faces and yells nonsensical questions about pop culture). After working with Ferrell and McKay on a few political segments (Michelle Obama once appeared on the show to talk about her Let’s Move! campaign), he thought they might be interested in something bigger.
“I came up with the idea of calling it Glam Up the Midterms, because I thought nothing sounds more boring or more dry or more like a chore than the midterms,” said Eichner. “Let’s take this really boring political event, which feels like an obligation, which most people skip, and let’s turn the optics of it on its ear. Turn into something that feels fun and sexy in a funny, silly way. Not actually sexy, obviously. Let’s glam it up. Let’s make it colorful and fun and make it feel like something that’s as important and as worth looking forward to as the Super Bowl or the next Marvel movie or the Oscars.”
Midterm voting statistics are particularly dismal, especially among young people. Though reports from the 2014 midterms vary, most put eligible Millennial turnout somewhere between 12 and 20 percent. “I looked at that and I was pretty shocked. I knew the number would be low, but I didn’t know it was that low,” he said.
Official White House photo
In his pitch to Funny or Die, he touted his young and eclectic fan base. “There isn’t one particular race or gender or age group or sexual orientation that watches ‘Billy on the Street,’ Eichner said. “But they are united by the fact that they tend to be intelligent people. Because to really get ‘Billy on the Street,’ I don’t mean to just laugh at me screaming. I mean, to really get the satire of ‘Billy on the Street,’ I think you have to be someone with half a brain.”
Eichner debuted “Glam Up The Midterms” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in February, with a video filled with late-night hosts from Conan O’Brien to Sarah Silverman. (Eichner: “Look guys, elections for congress are like my ex-boyfriend: They come once, and then that’s it for two years.”) The campaign also will produce various live events that target hotly contested districts and partner with local young community leaders. So far, Eichner has kiki-ed with the queens of RuPaul’s DragCon and registered voters in San Diego with Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy from “Anchorman.”
“Celebrity activism can be a controversial subject, but I know that we’re well intentioned,” said Eichner. “It’s not about bringing some random famous person to your district coming from L.A. to tell you to vote and then leaving town. We’re going to carve out specific events that will be relevant to that district and we’re going to find hometown heroes, as we’re calling them, to also highlight at these events to help inspire people and encourage them to vote.”