WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Trumped up comedy

By on August 25, 2015

New sitcom and presidential candidate share common ground

The ‘Difficult People’ audience is perhaps more discerning than Trump’s followers. (Photo: Nylon.com)

The ‘Difficult People’ audience is perhaps more discerning than Trump’s followers. (Photo: Nylon.com)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either.”

Oh, Donald Trump. America’s favorite belligerent, racist, gin-soaked uncle twice removed. His flapping gob provides our nation with so much humility and wisdom, all of which is fueled by privileged indifference and moral principals built on the general practice of being a raging dickmunch. With all the bones that man has been thrown in life, it seems somewhat uncouth to toss him yet another. But I’ve got to hand it to him.

Trump might have a point.

Recently, comedy writer and host of the podcast “How Was Your Week?,” Julie Klausner teamed up with Amy Poehler to produce a sitcom for Hulu called “Difficult People.” The premise focuses on two apathetic late-30s New Yorkers Julie Kessler and Billy Epstein (played by Klausner and Billy Eichner, respectively) as they attempt to become famous comedians while criticizing every single person they meet.

If it sounds bare, it is. The show (now four episodes in) hasn’t really found its footing yet, mostly because it spends so much time making its characters look crass and awful that there’s very little reward for the viewers. While some jokes land like a stake in the ground, others are as uncomfortable as making eye contact with your dog while he’s doing his business.

For example, the pilot episode hits the ground running with Klausner’s character posting a joke on Twitter, saying she “can’t wait” until Jay Z and Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy, gets older so R. Kelly can pee on her. The joke backfires and her Twitter followers begin lashing back, telling her the joke was tasteless. 

If you don’t know why that joke could even be remotely funny, “Difficult People” isn’t for you. The show’s uncompromising approach to mean-spirited comedy is certainly unique in that we haven’t seen a comedy show with such an unfalteringly pessimistic perspective on life. Occasionally we may have one or two characters in a sitcom who don’t see many positives to life and make fun of those who do, such as Al Bundy (“Married with Children”), Dr. Perry Cox (“Scrubs”) and Sofia Petrillo (“The Golden Girls”).  “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” might take the cake for cynical prowess, but with the characters’ level of selfishness in “Difficult People,” people who have seen the show quickly board the Love It or the Hate It train.

The Blue Ivy joke had quite a few people riled up, calling for Amy Poehler and Hulu to cancel the show and apologize. But so far there has been no official response from either party on the outrage.

In searching for Poehler’s general comedy philosophy, I stumbled across an episode of “Today” where she was talking about her memoir, “Yes Please.” One of the hosts remarked on the rise of mean-spirited comedy, and Poehler began shaking her head. “Yeah, I’m not really interested in that kind of stuff,” she said. “That’s not really my jam.”

Klausner, the writer and star of “Difficult People,” has created a breakout role for herself. Being a fan of her podcast, I love that she’s willing to say things that others won’t, but I occasionally get annoyed with her “no fucks” attitude and cheeky criticisms of society. While I would say I laugh at a good 75 percent of the jokes in “Difficult People,” I feel like most people have gone too far into the deep end of political correctness to enjoy that type of comedy. Sometimes the funniest jokes are those relevant to the current age, and Klausner’s fearless wit hits a lot more bull’s-eyes than family-friendly home runs. Not everyone in the room is going to love it.

But there’s a big difference between writing a TV sitcom and running for office, and unfortunately Donald Trump hasn’t figured that out yet. Trump’s twisted humor may be winning him points among his delusional followers, but the difference between him and Klausner is that he’s telling tasteless jokes to a more forgiving audience. PJH

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