“People forget, but we originally made this pilot for USA. Hulu didn’t even really exist, certainly in the way it does now, as a network doing original programming, when Julie first wrote this script,” Billy Eichner said last night at an AwardsLine Screening Series presentation of Hulu’s original comedy Difficult People. “All due respect to USA, it’s impossible to think of this show on USA.”
Starring series creator Julie Klausner and Eichner, who play fictionalized versions of themselves, the New York-set series follows the travails of two misanthropic aspiring comedians in their thirties, who toil dramatically in their somewhat comfortable lives, as their friends and acquaintances move on to find success in and outside of the entertainment business.
Joining Eichner at the Landmark Theatre, in a panel moderated by Deadline’s Anita Busch, were Klausner and executive producer Scott King, who discussed the genesis of the series, and the experience of working with Hulu compared with one of the traditional cable networks.
“We had a meeting where we said, ‘Oh, we really love each other’s work, let’s write a sitcom for our friend Bridget Everett,’ who’s a comedian and a performer. And then we decided, why would we do that when we don’t have shows of our own?” Eichner joked of his first meeting with his co-star, echoing sentiments that could be expressed by his on-screen alter ego.
Working together on comedy game show Billy On The Street for several years, Klausner eventually came around with the script for Difficult People; and while Eichner feels the trio has found the “exact right place” for their series at Hulu—another streaming service placing faith in their series creators, without too much interference—Klausner did acknowledge the important role USA Network played in making the series possible.
“What was nice is that USA gave us the resources to shoot a pilot, so by the time we approached Hulu, they knew exactly what the show was, as opposed to just the script that we’d approached USA with,” the actress said. “They knew exactly what they were getting into.”
Working on Difficult People, there is plenty of material that hits the cutting-room floor, though not of Hulu’s volition—having worked on the series for three seasons now, the Difficult People writers have a finely tuned sense of where the line is, and when it’s OK to cross it. “There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make it into the show, but it’s all internally censored. It’s never coming from Hulu,” Klausner said. “It’s something that Scott and I am Amy [Poehler, executive producer] will just sort of say, ‘This doesn’t seem like our show.’ It’s less about protecting the characters as much as it is just staying true to [the show].”
This series is known for its excellent roster of guest stars, and features a stellar ensemble including James Urbaniak, Cole Escola and Andrea Martin (of SCTV fame). Wrapping up its second season in September, Difficult People will return for Season 3 on August 8.
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