Difficult People

It’s not often I get to say it’s taken five years for a show to reach our screens, but totally worth the wait.

US sitcom Difficult People by writer Julie Klausner is full of biting, laugh-out-loud punchlines and brutal urban living observations. And difficult they certainly are…

Klausner stars as aspiring comedienne Julie Kessler who, alongside fellow aspiring comedian Billy Epstein (Billy Eichner), detest almost everything in their path in New York City. From their homes to the subway, stand-up stage, cafes and back again, they complain and bitch about their lot in life, embittered by stalled careers.

This includes sniping about an understudy at a performance of Annie (“Understudy is another word for disappointment”) to being unappreciated (“I’m so funny when I write mean things about TV shows…how come nobody has hired me to write for one?”) to Twitter (“I like saying something crazy and then leaving the room.”).

Billy, newly-dumped by his ex-boyfriend, sneers at customers in his job as a waiter, even when friends Denise (Gabourey Sidibe) and Matthew (Cole Escola) stop by. Julie is regularly subjected to lectures from her Jewish mother-turned-hypnotist Marilyn (Andrea Martin).

But both are soon distracted by a business idea to sell “library water fountain water” in bottles. It’s just that nobody else is taken by their relentless pitch.

Full of deliberately tone-deaf gags and inappropriate humour, they constantly drop pop culture references: “We’re not Chelsea Clinton, we’re barely Chelsea Handler,” “What if Giuliana Rancic interacts with Maria Menounos?” … few of which appear to have dated. I especially appreciated the reference to “unfollowing Deadline”.

Episode 2 involves a three-way with a high-school crush, running over David Byrne on a bike, and berating the casting director at a failed audition.

Klausner’s writing is straight from the put-downs school of Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin matched by the camp, pithy style of Eichner, best known for Billy on the Street. Over three seasons, Difficult People features guest appearances by Kate McKinnon, Kathy Najimy, Debbie Harry, Sandra Bernhard, Stockard Channing, Patton Oswalt, Victor Garber, Rosie O’Donnell, John Turturro, Jessica Walter, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Martin Short, Nathan Lane and more.

Bonus: all but 1 of the 28 episodes is directed by talented Aussie Jeffrey Walker (Lambs of God, Riot, Modern Family, The Commons, Jack Irish, Rake, Ali’s Wedding). It barrels along with self-obsessed rapidity, without the time to apologise for offence.

This screens in double episodes or you can check out all three seasons at SBS On Demand.

Wicked fun.

9:30pm Monday on SBS VICELAND.


  1. I watched this a few years ago when it streamed overseas, it’s great show if you enjoy some humour that isn’t completely politically correct. Highly recommend.

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