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After binge watching the first two seasons in approximately four days, the best thing I could come up with to describe Hulu’s Difficult People is: “Curb Your Enthusiasm, with more B-List cameos, meets a less stupidly offensive It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meets a more diverse Seinfeld meets the best underground trashy celebrity gossip sites that I check daily.” Difficult People co-stars Billy Eichner, host of Billy on the Street, a quiz show filmed in New York City that involves Eichner running up to people on the aforementioned street and demanding answers to things like, “For a dollar, name a white woman!” and storming away screaming about Gwyneth Paltrow when they can’t answer. Billy on the Street is one of my favourite shows, but I can’t begrudge people for finding it difficult. However, Eichner’s brash energy works beautifully in this sitcom collaboration with comedienne Julie Klausner.
Eichner and Klausner star as exaggerated versions of themselves — struggling comedians trying to catch a break in New York City while still finding themselves enamoured with every A-Lister they run into at the industry events they eventually get kicked out of. Billy is single, barely working as a waiter, and slowly running out of places to work out at in his city after banging his way through all the gay men at his local gyms. Julie writes recaps of reality television shows online (sound familiar?) and lives with her square but loving boyfriend, Arthur, and their two dogs, Senator Jelly Beans and Greg. Billy and Julie are exceptionally difficult, and so are the people around them: Billy’s married bosses Nate and Denise (Gabourey Sidibe, Empire) and his co-workers, the “recently” out Matthew and Lola, a transwoman who passionately believes 9/11 was an inside job. Lola is played by actress and trans activist Shakina Nayfack, who also served as a consultant on the show and wrote the majority of her character’s lines.
Eichner and Klausner are both pop culture fanatics and it enriches their production, making watching them gleefully and perfectly recreate iconic scenes from films such as Pretty Woman and Sixteen Candles all the more satisfying. The characters within Difficult People are all hysterical and appreciate being so, and seeing them laugh at their own jokes is far more satisfying than any Chuck Lorre-sanctioned laugh track. “When did comedies just become half hour dramas?” bemoans Billy, all but turning to face the camera and winking at the audience. Difficult People remains punchy and funny throughout each 23-minute episode even when dealing with relatable situations. Or maybe not so relatable ones, like running over David Byrne from the Talking Heads, or forcing Nathan Lane to stick his hand in a toilet for a fake charity. The shows other celebrity cameos are all niche and fantastic and everyone commits to being a weird asshole; Debbie Harry, Kate McKinnon, Amy Sedaris, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nyle from America’s Next Top Model, and even my fave Countess Luann de Lesseps from Real Housewives of New York!
I think I was always destined to like Difficult People because it features a self-sabotaging struggling television reviewer and Billy Eichner yelling. It’s not for everyone; unabashedly a show about relentlessly difficult people, if you find Peep Show or Curb Your Enthusiasm hard to watch, I wouldn’t recommend this. Additionally, if you don’t have even a vague rundown on pop culture from the last 10–15 years you’re gonna get a little lost. I’ll give you a free one: Kevin Spacey’s a fucking creep. The show’s third season premieres this August.