As either Edmund Gwenn or Edmund Kean said on their deathbeds “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Difficult People, Hulu’s new sitcom is the second new comedy to be released on an unsuspecting public sans humor. Another comedy miss Kevin from Work, the ABC Family sitcom that is premiering on August 12, seems to prove, along with Hulu’s Difficult People, that this adage is correct. Both show’s have “died” as apparently comedy is very hard.
While Kevin from Work tried too hard, Difficult People seems to put very little effort into their attempt at tickling the funny bone. On Hulu, both the pilot and the second episode are up for viewing. Following Kevin from Work‘s lead “People” is not filmed in front of a live studio audience, probably for good reason.
The show follows the daily interaction of Julie (Julie Klausner) and her gay BFF Billy (Billy Eichner) both are “aspiring” comics (according to IMDb) who are in their 30s and still trying to make it. American Horror Story‘s Gabourey Sidibe has a tiny role as Billy’s boss, at the cafe where he works, and Andrea Martin (Aunt Voula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding) plays Julie’s mother.
The two leads in Difficult People play characters who are essentially unpleasant and shallow. Neither one has a single redeeming quality and this should be funny. Unfortunately the whole thing feels flat and uninspired. Similar to the ABC Family sitcom, this new series is throwing everything into the mix to see what will fly. While not quite kitchen sink humor, it relies on a shotgun approach with an emphasis on underplaying what is basically underwhelming humor to begin with.
Both Eichner and Klausner have a background in comedy. Billy is a favorite on Funny or Die (home of iSteve and Between Two Ferns, et al) and Julie has several comedies under her belt. Both of these performers have, for all intents and purposes, come from YouTube; Google’s attempt at creating another version of television and neither performer is weathering the change of venue very well.
YouTube can, and often does, stretch boundaries of what is funny. The shows which become hits do so as a niche bit of entertainment. Shows like Johnny Dynamo; a scripted comedy/drama, worked extremely well and attracted big names in its second season. While this is a good example of what works, the series was not a sitcom and it seems that this genre of TV does not work well when produced on a YouTube template.
There are sitcoms that can be considered successful regardless of the Google template. Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell works and is very funny if not a little flat at times. Rick and Morty also works, but only just, although there must be a good amount of fans who like the series as it starts its second season on Hulu.
It seems that Hulu and ABC Family are attempting to pull in a YouTube savvy audience with these new sitcoms and missing the mark as a result. Difficult People may eventually turn into a competent comedy without flat and awkward performances by its cast. *Sidenote. Why Gabourey Sidibe is in this debacle is a mystery. Presumably as a CV (resume) filler or an attempt to learn comedy…
Difficult People is a definite miss, but at least it has company as the abysmal Kevin from Work also misses the comedy mark by a mile. Sorry Hulu, you need to head back to the drawing board and perhaps think seriously about leaving the YouTube formula alone for awhile.
Verdict: Give this one a miss.