Struggling, jaded comedians prove bad company makes for good laughs with “Difficult People”

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Ellie Ritter

Who ever thought being a world-class misanthropic narcissist could be a good thing? Apparently, Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner.

Their original Hulu show, “Difficult People,” showcases just that character. Based loosely on their real selves, the pair play struggling comedians living in New York. Within the first ten seconds of the pilot, Julie and Billy show their unforgiving bitterness when they make fun of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the way into a showing of “Annie,” with Billy saying “I love that he was born during a time when handicapped people still had to wear blankets on their laps” (before disgustedly taunting the family sitting in front of them).

Through its dry, cold sense of humor, Difficult People captures the self-absorbed essence of today’s culture. Julie and Billy make clear that they’re the kind of people you’re supposed to hate – that’s the whole point. At the least, viewers should feel like they know the pair almost instantly. Both are forced to work other jobs while pursuing their high-brow – or maybe just D-list – dreams, and both get shut down as minorities living in a dog-eats-dog world.

With all its relatability, Difficult People still avoids cliches and even displays moments of melancholy, such as when Billy asks – seeing his dreams of stardom slipping away – “When’s it going to be our turn?” In some ways, the show has a typical New Yorker vibe to it, with the characters’ hardened shells and shallow but open minds. Yet it remains irreverent: these are the kind of people who, upon hearing about an earthquake in Los Angeles, worry only for actress Emmy Rossum.

Of course, the catty, tart humor doesn’t sit well with everyone. The show borders on the offensive, and the jokes can be hard to understand if you don’t closely follow pop culture. The fact that it’s only available on Hulu doesn’t help it all that much, either. But if you’re hungry for a show that doesn’t second-guess itself and are willing to stretch your sense of humor, it might be worth a subscription – especially with Season 2 coming out July 12.

STANDOUT: Billy when insulting his younger co-worker, Matthew: “I’m sorry that the North American Man/Boy Love Association doesn’t have a ‘Ones-to-Watch’ section in their monthly newsletter that you could use as a press clipping.” This is the kind of catty realness I live for!

4 stars