Like a true New Yorker, Julie Klausner is talking on her cellphone, just trying to avoid strange pedestrians as she rush-walks home to her apartment.
“Sorry, I just passed a singing man,” Klausner said on the phone to HuffPost when loud music momentarily drowned out the conversation.
Klausner is currently doing press for her very New York show, “Difficult People,” in which she and Billy Eichner play struggling 30-somethings in the entertainment industry.
“Billy and Julie are survivors,” Klausner said, describing the characters they named after themselves. “And Billy and Julie are cranky, but they’re resilient.”
“Difficult People” has already had two great seasons of chronicling the duo’s misadventures. With a premise that revolves around a world that is perpetually terrible, Julie and Billy band together to call spades “spades” and throw terrible back at the world. But in Season 3, which debuts August 8 on Hulu, Donald Trump is president. And instead of ignoring his administration as some others shows have done, Klausner and her team have steered right into the maelstrom.
“I think it is a, ‘How could you not?’ sort of situation, and I think it’s almost less about the man than it is about the world that this man could have risen in,” Klausner explained. “It does fit in well with Billy and Julie’s worldview that the world is garbage and it’s their fault, not ours. In some ways, Billy and Julie are completely justified by that opinion, and that’s one way of it. We are miserable, unhappy people on the show, and this is a really good justification of why we are.”
A notable plot point early in the new season involves Vice President Mike Pence offering money to every gay person who agrees to conversion therapy. An absolutely dark (and fictional) timeline on the surface, it’s one that has roots in reality: Pence has an ambiguous stance when it comes to the controversial treatment, and a contentious history with LGBTQ issues overall.
Still, the premise is played for laughs when Billy (who identifies as gay on the show and off) decides to fake his way through conversion therapy for the money and subsequently gets a ridiculous box of anti-gay items ― a “conversion therapy kit” ― from Pence in the mail.
“In a way, [our show is] sort of the opposite of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’” Klausner noted, referencing a dystopian Hulu show that tells the story of a future America taken over by a far-right government. “It’s kind of like an upbeat version of the way things could be.”
Amid a sea of TV shows that have yet to tackle the president head-on, Julie and Billy are his perfect foes. They’re fellow New Yorkers who have spent a lifetime resisting and complaining. “They totally live in this liberal New York bubble, proudly so,” said Klausner. “They are sort of constantly, perpetually harangued, stressed out New Yorkers.”
Despite the stress, though, they’re here to show viewers survival is possible.
“We want to set an example that, in a way, hopefully seeing people on our show that aren’t ordinarily represented on television is a political statement in its own right,” Klausner explained. “So hopefully what they go through on the show will serve as sort of inspiration to resist the horror show that’s going around us politically right now.”
Klausner wants it to be clear these characters can “stick it to him” ― “him” being Trump. “We’re really good at insulting people that we think are garbage and who could be more garbage-y?” she added.
As our conversation was winding down, Klausner concluded that she really just wants this new season to have a balance of mocking Trump while also providing a much needed form of escapism.
“I hope that people can take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone, just by seeing people who also feel incredibly disenfranchised and disgusted by the notion that the country would elect somebody so hateful on television, and feel a sense of camaraderie or company or kind of relation,” said Klausner. “But at the same time, I hope that the show is universal enough that it’ll just get your mind off of the world for 25 minutes.”
“Difficult People” premieres on Hulu on August 8. Watch the Season 3 trailer below.