Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner are back for a second season of Difficult People, beginning Tuesday on Hulu. The new episodes — I’ve seen three — are jam-packed with pop-culture jokes that will leave you trying to suppress outbursts of laughter lest you miss one punchline set atop another, like layers of a delicious cake that Julie’s character would love to smash — most likely into her own mouth.
If that sounds mean or crass on my part, believe me, you ain’t heard Julie’s character, Julie Kessler. (I just wrote “Julie Krassner” by mistake — a subconscious error, I believe, because in some ways, the aggressive, pop-political humor she’s engaged in is reminiscent of the sometimes great, slashing satirist Paul Krassner, co-founder of the Yippies, a countercultural political party Julie and Billy would ridicule ferociously.) The exhilarating thing about Difficult People is that it consists of aggressive insult humor that’s rooted in a friendship that’s all heart. The characters of Julie Kessner and Billy Epstein may be snide about everyone and everything (“I’m as celibate as Tim Gunn”), but their support for each other makes theirs one of the best friendships on television. Or streaming. Or whatever the heck we’re calling this form of entertainment this week.
See? Their crankiness is rubbing off on me. In the new episodes, creators Eichner and Klausner satirize everything from celebrity charity stunts (by trying to start their own toilet-related variation on the ice-bucket challenge) to children’s birthday parties. Along the way, we meet a terrific new character, Billy’s coffee shop co-worker Lola, who is played by the transgender actress and social activist Shakina Nayfack. While other shows are trying to present trans characters in a positive light, Difficult is treating Lola as it would anyone else — with ruthless unpredictability. It’s difficult to turn Lola into a role model when she’s an aggressive 9/11 truther, but her brief but explosive scenes with Billy Epstein make you wonder whether he’s met his comic match.
Add in returning favorites, like the fantastic Andrea Martin as Julie’s mom and the marvelous James Urbaniak as Julie’s doormat-boyfriend Arthur, plus guest stars such as Tina Fey and Nathan Lane, and Difficult People immediately becomes another big reason to watch Hulu. Or, as Julie says after a particularly graphic Billy comment, “When Republicans are right about the things gay men do, my heart swells.”
Difficult People Season 2 begins streaming Tuesday on Hulu.