Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner star in Hulu’s “Difficult People,” debuting this August. (photo by Ali Goldstein)
Amidst a constant stream of jokes about Bradley Cooper, Kevin Spacey, Alan Cumming, and Mandy Patinkin yesterday, Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner introduced their semi-autobiographical Hulu series to the crowd at the second annual Vulture Festival. Amy Poehler, one of the half-hour comedy’s executive producers (alongside Klausner and Louie‘s Dave Becky), joined the real-life BFFs for a fast-talking hour of conversation about mining one’s own life for material, the New York comedy hustle, loving Yentl and Wendy Williams, and what to expect from the star-studded series about getting in one’s own way, which premieres this August.
Because Difficult People involves Klausner and Eichner playing roles similar to themselves (albeit more like decade ago, before both broke through), the irreverent comedy of the show is the comedy of their banter. Watching them seamlessly flow in and out of wildly un-PC conversation, both on stage and on screen, is to see their UCB training working overtime. If you’re not a fan of how these two crack jokes about pop culture and trash-talk celebs in real-time on Twitter (some plotlines revolve around the hazards of this, in fact), then Difficult People is likely not for you. But from Poehler’s perspective, the distinctly NYC show’s “really specific tone” is not only an asset, it’s what drew her to the project. “”I would binge-watch the shit out of this show if I weren’t involved with it,” Poehler boasted.
“Young audiences can sniff out inauthenticity,” she said, adding that she “can’t go into projects anymore without them having that real voice.” Praising Klauser specifically, Poehler said that she’s “starving for television that has women in it,” noting that there are a lot of young girls and a lot of couples on TV, but not grown-ass ladies. (Broad City, also produced by Poehler’s Paper Kite Productions, received hearty shout-outs throughout the hour, though it’s debatable if the bawdy hit isn’t in the young woman category.) Klausner’s mantra remains, “Is it good for girls?” (Eichner’s is more like, “Would this hurt Andie MacDowell?”).
Something else to appreciate in Difficult People: a bevy of guest stars, weaving in and out of reality and fiction. Folks like Amy Sedaris, Seth Meyers, Debbie Harry, Fred Armisen (playing Billy’s brother), and Kate McKinnon (who appears as a sober magician) play characters, while other famous pals/foes — from Martin Short to Broadway legend Mark Shaiman to Bravo boss Andy Cohen — appear as themselves in loosely autobiographical scenarios about negotiating fame with oftentimes humiliating results.
Klausner noted that her dream role is as nosy neighbor on literally any show, while Poehler joked about guest-starring on Game of Thrones (“I’m about to say something douchey: I read all the books”). But for Billy on the Street star Eichner, Difficult People is something of a dream role because it allows him to show off his more classically trained acting chops. In other words, it shows “where his anger comes from.”
One source of his notorious crankiness: the fact that he’s often compared to a “hairy Bobby Flay,” or a young John Larroquette. But Klausner, ever the bestie, assured him that she’d “fuck the shit out of Larroquette.”
Difficult People premieres on Hulu this August.