"Difficult People" Review
Stories about people in their 30's struggling for financial stability,
remind me that I'm not alone.
Julie Kessler (Julie Klausner) and Billy Epstein (Billy Eichner) are living in New York City, the best place for their loud, colorful, unwarranted personalities. The two comedians are chasing a career in entertainment by schmoozing with anyone who has a toe in and taking any gig remotely related to their aspirations. Until their big break, Julie is writing television show recaps and Billy is waiting tables.
We see Billy most at his work place, a high end cafe owned by married couple Denise (Gabourey Sidibe) and Nate (Derrick Baskin). The couple seems to be in their 30's, putting off a family while they run their business. Unlike Denise who makes it clear that she couldn't care less for Billy, Nate is supportive of Billy and always encourages him to chase his dreams, even though he knows the odds are not in Billy's favor. We learn in season 2 that Nate has a shocking history in entertainment! Denise exercises her maternal instincts with one of her employees: larger than life, but too small to ride, Matthew (Cole Escola). Treating late-20's/early-30's Matthew like her son lets Denise skip all the messy parts of raising a child, while enjoying the perks of spoiling him with shopping sprees and spa days. In season two, the cafe hires transgender Lola (Shakina Nayfack) who makes it known to everyone that she is well aware of the country's secrets, and she won't be another sheep in the pasture.
Julie doesn't have a work place, unless you consider the couch where she writes her recaps and social media commentary that tends to get her into trouble. Julie lives with her two basset hounds and her boyfriend/ support system, Arthur (James Urbaniak), in a one-bedroom apartment. Arthur works for PBS, he cooks and cleans, and he showers Julie with nicknames like Noodles, Bell Sleeve, Monkey Wrench, and anything else going on his brain before he speaks to Julie. I used to wonder what Arthur sees in Julie, until I saw the parallels between him and my husband: endlessly supporting his other half's artistic endeavors as he sips on his whiskey and balances the checkbook. Arthur doesn't want to be with someone like him, he found the woman who rounds out his world, and it's adorable!
We also meet Julie's mother, Marilyn (Andrea Martin) a therapist who needs just as much help as her patients need. Marilyn refers to Arthur as an alcoholic and seems to despise him, not because her daughter's boyfriend treats either Marilyn or Julie horribly, but because no one is good enough for her Julie. It probably doesn't help that Arthur isn't Jewish. Marilyn is also Julie's second line of financial support.
Speaking of family, a few episodes in, we meet Billy's brother Garry (Fred Armisen), his wife Rucchel (Jackie Hoffman) and their two young daughters. Rucchel is a harsh partner to the positive and passive Garry, but she tolerates his ineptitude because she can't do any better; "i mean, look at me."
The introduction of these supporting characters is important to understand that the title doesn't just refer to Julie and Billy. In fact, it clarifies why Julie and Billy act the way they do. They are surrounded by "difficult people," with the exception of Arthur, of course. That is their normal, and no one is going to change it, but they can put it on hold for an audition and the gig that they hope will follow.
If you enjoy shows like "Seinfeld," and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," you'll enjoy 3 seasons of "Difficult People," available on HULU.