GQ Hype: It’s the big story of right now.
It’s not often that the MTV Video Music Awards make waves in the political sphere, but, thanks to Billy Eichner, such was the case for this August’s ceremony: the morning after, Washington DC site The Hill was one of many outlets to blare Eichner’s podium comments about “ homophobes on the Supreme Court.”
Eichner, the co-writer and star of the upcoming Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy Brittle, had been scheduled simply to introduce Panic! At The Disco and then head out on his way. Instead, he shouted into Newark’s Prudential Center, “I need you all there on Sept. 30,” citing the Brittle release date, “because we need to show all the homophobes like Clarence Thomas and all the homophobes on the Supreme Court that we want gay love stories.” The crowd screamed in approval.
“[MTV] had no idea I was going to say that,” Eichner tells me a few days later, over lunch at cozy Los Feliz spot Little Dom’s. “But I knew that MTV [execs] had seen Brittle, and I knew they were very supportive, and that’s why they wanted me on. I didn’t think they were going to be angry about it. But I was surprised by the [positive] response from the crowd—because they weren’t being prompted, because it wasn’t scripted. So it was very organic, and they were just so enthusiastic about speaking out about LGBTQ rights.”
In person, Eichner is more subdued than you might expect from someone you’ve watched dangle a microphone in a stranger’s face to ask if he wants to have a threesome with Jon Hamm. (Such chaotic moments made the hilarious New York guerilla comedy Billy on the Street Eichner’s most beloved work to date.) Wearing a faded Provincetown t-shirt and glasses, Eichner speaks deliberately, taking careful bites from his meal of rice balls and a tuna salad. At times, the pressure of the forthcoming release seemed to be evident. “I want people to love [the movie],” he says, when I ask about his current emotional state. “I want the box office to be decent. I don’t know how much control I have over that. I’m doing the best I can. I’m not Ryan Reynolds.”
Eichner is also known for his comedic roles on shows like Parks and Recreation and Friends from Collegebut his VMAs audible is emblematic of the way politics has influenced how he thinks about his work as of late. Brittle is the first studio-released romantic comedy featuring a gay couple to debut in theaters, with an entirely LBGTQ+ cast, and Eichner is aware of the significance. “I remember [President] Biden, years ago, saying that Will & Grace probably did more for gay rights in America than certain activists—and activists obviously did a ton and they did the hard work—but there’s also some truth in that [sentiment], too. That’s the power of culture, and that’s the power of Hollywood.”