About two and half years ago, comedian Julie Klausner sat down to write a spec script. “It was for the show I would want to make if somebody had given me the chance to make any show I could,” she explains to Vogue.com by phone. “I wanted to do some sort of Curb Your Enthusiasm–style, Louie-style show about my life in New York City.”
Klausner based her script on the types of experiences she rants about at the top of her podcast How Was Your Week, “mostly having to do with me acting like an asshole, or someone else acting like an asshole.” She asked her friend and collaborator Billy Eichner—Klausner was already a writer on his show Billy on the Street—to play her TV best friend. He got on board, as did Amy Poehler as executive producer, and the result is Difficult People, a sitcom with two twenty-three-minute episodes available today to Hulu subscribers, that will roll out weekly through September 16.
On the show, the now successful comedians Julie and Billy play the struggling comedians Julie and Billy. Fictional Julie, who lives with her beta-male (he works at PBS) boyfriend Arthur (James Urbaniak) and their two dogs, makes a living writing searingly cruel TV recaps. Fictional Billy, who is eternally single, waits tables—poorly. Some nights they do stand-up, and some days they pursue harebrained get-rich-quick schemes, like bottling the water that comes out of library drinking fountains (Billy: It’s so crisp and cold and delicious!) They’re the type of self-involved, abrasive people who will go to a matinee of Annie on Broadway, and act horrified to discover that there are kids in the row in front of them (Mom in audience: Excuse me, could you please watch your language! Billy: oh my god, I’m so sorry. Miss, miss, I’m so sorry, we can’t do that at all… I paid $ 120. I can say shit if I want to.) It’s funny because Klausner and Eichner are masters of the deadpan delivery, but also because their behavior feels uncomfortably real, perhaps only ten percent more ridiculous and out of touch than how the average narcissistic New Yorker feels entitled to act on a daily basis.
“We really don’t spend time together when we’re not working,” Klausner tells me when I ask if the real Julie and Billy are as close as the TV Julie and Billy. “But the good news is that we’re both workaholics!”
It’s definitely good news for us. Below, Julie Klausner answers our questions about edgy jokes, Twitter filters, and the age of the TV antiheroine (also: basset hounds!).
Your costar Billy just Instagrammed a picture of you guys on a billboard in NYC. How does it feel to have your face on a billboard?
It’s great. It feels really just like a huge relief, to be honest, because Hulu said they were going to promote the show. And they have done that and then some. It’s special to be working with people who do what they say, who put their money where their mouth is.
How would you describe your character Julie to someone who hasn’t seen the show?
My character is someone who is very justifiably bitter about how far she is in life compared to other 35-year-old women. But at the same time, she’s not that self-aware about how she contributes to her own limited success. My character has a boyfriend that she takes for granted, a wildly narcissistic mother. She really loves only one person in the world, her best friend Billy.
You’re playing a character named Julie whose experiences are based on your life. How much of this is you?
I’m definitely more self-aware than the character on the show, less entitled and less confident about being right. There’s no question that the version of myself on the show is way braver; I don’t usually have the courage to say things that piss people off. Also the on-screen version of myself has better hair because she has a hair stylist following her around on set.
There’s a pretty edgy R. Kelly peeing on kids joke in the first episode. Were you worried about how that would land?
I think of that joke as more of a story point than an actual joke. I, personally, Julie Klausner, wouldn’t tweet that joke. I think my character did it on a whim, and the whole point of it is to show that she really has no remorse about things that she says that aren’t very nice.
So your Twitter filter is tighter than your character’s?
Yes, absolutely. I also probably have more followers than she does.
Julie’s boyfriend Arthur is pretty docile. In the second episode, she tries to coerce him into having a man, man, lady threesome with her high school crush. What were you trying to do there?
Well it was important for me to subvert male and female roles. It was important for me to show a version of the same old comedy story, where the lead is usually a guy with a supportive wife who doesn’t have any jokes but is the voice of reason. I wanted to do a version of that thing where that character is trying to convince his wife to have a three-way, and she’s like, eh. . . . This was my twist. It was also important to have a boyfriend who is pretty subservient to me, who isn’t the destination, who is just a third wheel that I take for granted. The traditional model is to have a male comedian in the lead, and to have a beautiful wife who is completely supportive. They tell you to be happy [if you get the part] because she’s likeable. But she doesn’t have the jokes, and when she turns thirty she’s tossed in a pile somewhere.
My character has appetites. She’s hungry. She’s horny. She wants to get whatever she can get out of life, because she knows how unfair life is. She’s not letting anything get in the way of what she thinks she’s entitled to.
Do you see other characters like her on TV?
Yeah, absolutely. I think Lena Dunham is [like that] on Girls, Mindy Kaling [on The Mindy Project], Amy Schumer [on Inside Amy Schumer]. As far as unlikeable female leads who aren’t afraid to behave badly, knowing that’s more fun, that’s Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback.
Do you think we’re in the age of the TV antiheroine?
Someone pointed out to me recently that there are women behaving badly on dramas more than comedies. That may be the case. I don’t really know if it’s part of a bigger trend; I just know I’m lucky I got to write exactly the show and part I wanted.
What am I not asking you about the show?
My character has two basset hounds. I don’t know if anyone else cares about them but I’m an animal lover. They’re the best dogs. They’re so funny. You can’t be in a bad mood with a basset hound. I have a cat so it was nice to make my character a dog person.
Why not make her a cat person?
Because I wanted to work with two basset hounds all the time! It makes me want to get out of bed in the morning. You can follow them both on Instagram: @otis_thebassethound and @marthastale.
The post Comedian Julie Klausner on Playing (a Version of) Herself appeared first on Vogue.
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