The Delightfully Difficult Julie Klausner

The creator and star of Difficult People says it was so arrogant to accept a tribute from Sketchfest that she had to do it.

Julie Klausner may be unemployed, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t getting things done.

“My project today was that I made some chocolate chip scones,” she says.

In truth, her main avenue for work as of late has come in the form of the written word. Recently, Klausner penned a diary covering her time at a Bob Fosse film festival for The New Yorker. She’s currently working on a book idea as well, which would follow her bluntly candid and scathingly funny 2010 memoir of failed romances, I Don’t Care About Your Band.

Most of all, Klausner wants to return to television.

While she can’t discuss any particulars, she confirms she is currently plotting her return to the small screen, where hopefully she’ll be able to fill the sizable void left behind when her previous project, Difficult People, ended after three seasons. Produced by Amy Poehler and starring Klausner alongside Billy Eichner, the series focused on two bitter New Yorkers who despise seemingly everyone except each other. It was also a refreshingly daring and dark comedy that gleefully heaped shame on figures both large and small.

Take, for example, disgraced actor Kevin Spacey.

Despite the fact that Difficult People had already filmed its final episode prior to revelations involving Spacey and the sexual assault of a minor, the House of Cards star was a popular punchline for the series. “I’m going to go the Kevin Spacey route,” Eichner’s character (also named Billy) decides in one episode. “I’m just going to stop trying to be a human being and just focus on getting famous, and then after I get my own Netflix show, focus all of my frustrations on a boyfriend young enough to be my own son.”

Klausner is quick to credit Hulu for not censoring her scripts when they went for knockout punchlines — Woody Allen was another popular target — but also welcomes the legacy her show has posthumously earned for prognosticating future scandals.

“I think we were ahead of our time in some ways,” Klausner says. “We called bullshit on stuff that it took people a little bit of time to catch up with, but I’m very grateful to Hulu for letting us go there. Ultimately, we just tried to be honest and unapologetic and to not explain jokes.”

Sadly, there are no imminent plans for a Difficult People revival, but should it stand as is, Klausner knows that at least her series is in excellent company given another show — one she actually worked on as an intern and still fiercely admires to this day — also met its end after its third season.

A modern-day cult classic, Strangers with Candy followed ex-con Jerri Blank (played by a brilliantly demented Amy Sedaris) as she attempted to finish high school at age 46. Created with Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, the series aired for little more than a year but remains a point of inspiration to Klausner.

“I can’t really overestimate how influential that show was to me,” she explains. “I love that three brilliant people were able to write for themselves and to star in this fabulous, weird show. It’s not for everyone, but the people it is for love it so passionately that when fans meet each other, it’s almost like finding some sort of kinship.”

There are many who feel the same way toward Klausner, thanks in part to Difficult People as well as her podcast, How Was Your Week with Julie Klausner. Launched in 2011, the show ditched its weekly format in 2016 but continues to appear monthly. Each episode often finds Klausner at home in her apartment musing through pop culture tidbits and observations from her personal life. Her tuxedo cat, Jimmy Jazz, serves as a mostly silent co-host.

Beyond not wanting to disappoint the loyal following the podcast has garnered over its seven-year run, Klausner says she keeps up with How Was Your Week as a way to preserve her own sanity.

“There’s something about talking to myself,” she explains, “speaking out loud and realizing things as I’m going that just helps me clear my slate mentally. If people also enjoy hearing from me on a regular basis, all the better. I definitely think there’s an intimacy to it — there’s something about feeling like you know someone who is essentially having a one-sided phone call with you on a regular basis. I’m happy to be able to provide that false sense of intimacy to people.”

Now with her tribute at Sketchfest approaching, she’s readying herself for the authentic intimacy of discussing her career with her friend, writer and radio host Tom Scharpling.

“It’s totally silly and completely insane,” she says. “I thought it would be very obnoxious of me to accept, so I had to say yes.”

“SF Sketchfest Tribute: Julie Klausner” with Tom Scharpling, Thursday, Jan. 17, 7:30 p.m., Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St. $25/$35; sfsketchfest.com.

Read more from SF Weekly‘s Sketchfest 2019 issue:

The Spirits of Sketchfest: Your Festival Guide
Order a drink and learn all about the best shows the 2019 Sketchfest has to offer.

Schitt’s Creek: A Podunk Paradise
Daniel Levy and Catherine O’Hara say all are welcome in this most peculiar of small towns.

Protect Your Neck: Paul F. Tompkins and John Hodgman
Two comedians face their fears with an immersive comedy performance at The Speakeasy.

Special Guest: Janet Varney
Co-founder Janet Varney shares the highs (and lows) of Sketchfest’s first 17 years.

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