The premiere party for Hulu’s new original comedy series “Difficult People” went off without a hitch on Thursday evening at New York’s School of Visual Arts Theater despite rain, 90-degree heat and extreme humidity. Executive producer Amy Poehler was all smiles as she stepped out onto the red carpet to support Billy Eichner, best known for his popular man-on-the-street game show “Billy on the Street,” and author/podcaster Julie Klausner, who co-star as struggling comedians who hate everything in the world except for each other and pop culture. The two caustic pals frequently land in awkward situations as a result of their brash behavior.
Klausner began writing the series pilot in the winter of 2012 and sent it to Poehler for some input. Klausner, who met the ‘Saturday Night Live’ alum while enrolled at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, said Poehler immediately loved the show’s storyline and was instrumental in finessing the script and getting Hulu to distribute the show. “Amy was so helpful in shaping the show because she is really smart about TV,” Klausner said. “She knows what works and she even came up with the show’s title.”
“The series is autobiographical,” also noted Klausner, the creator, writer and star of the edgy series. “I wanted to do a ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ style show where everyone is a fictionalized version of their real-life counterparts. As for the crazy situations, I drew them from my podcast, which a lot of it has had to do with people that have annoyed me or people that I have acted stupidly in front of.”
“Difficult People” marks Eichner’s first leading role in a scripted series. The native New Yorker has been ready to flex his acting muscles and show more range than his “Billy on the Street” shtick, which involves screaming at random people while running around Manhattan like a chicken with its head cut off.
“It’s a nice change of pace,” Eichner told Variety. “The ‘Billy on the Street’ character and even my role on ‘Parks and Recreation’ was an extension of ‘Billy on the Street,’ so this is a step in a new direction. It’s not as much screaming and carrying on. I have family, I go on dates and I deal with friendships and career issues. It’s a three-dimensional character and it’s really nice for me to be able to play someone who is a bit more down to earth and rounded and emotional.”
As Eichner expands his resume, he is also experiencing a career high. Earlier this month, he received his second Emmy nomination for “Billy on the Street,” which begins its new season on cable’s TruTV on Oct. 8, and his performance in “Difficult People” is garnering positive reviews from critics. With so much praise, he is not letting the success go to his head. Instead, he is taking the time to enjoy the moment and not take things for granted.
“I worked hard for a long time before people and the industry took notice. I was performing live in New York for many years for little to no money and putting videos up online, so it’s really gratifying that people like what I do,” he said. “The only difference is that I’m insanely busy now. Things went from zero to sixty in terms of my schedule over the past few years. But it’s all great. I’m so thankful for everything and just thrilled to be able to work. What can I say, it’s a miracle!”
Also at the screening were “Difficult People” cast members James Urbaniak, Cole Escola, Derrick Baskin, Andrea Martin and Gabourey Sidibe, who just finished filming episode three of the popular Fox show “Empire.”
“I’m a super dramatic person, but I’m also really hilarious, so it’s been fun to show off my funny side in front of the camera for the first time,” said Sidibe, who plays an unfriendly owner of the restaurant where Eichner works as a waiter. “The biggest challenge for me doing a comedy show compared to a drama is not to make other people laugh. Because the jokes are so funny, I laugh all the time and make the other person laugh and we have to cut. It’s a lot harder than you think!”
For the post-screening bash, the cast celebrated at the Dream Hotel’s PH-D rooftop lounge that boasts sweeping views of the Empire State Building and midtown Manhattan. Eichner was spotted Instagramming on his phone and socializing with Klausner, Sidibe and his best friend and Northwestern University classmate Robin Lord Taylor (“Gotham’s” Oswald Cobblepot) while Poehler sat next to Dave Becky, her 3 Arts Entertainment manager, in a booth and sang along to the Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines” as it blasted through the lounge’s speakers. Also at the party was Louis C.K.