It’s already a great joke in the new show Difficult People when an elderly NYC tourist asks Julie Klausner’s frazzled pedestrian, “How do I get to 9/11?” An even better joke than that unfortunate synecdoche is the response: “Practice?” This exchange is a perfect encapsulation of the acerbic wit that flows through Difficult People, a show Klausner created and also stars in–and it happens before the opening credits of the pilot episode. Fans of Klausner’s podcast, How Was Your Week, know that when she gets on a tear she can drop unvarnished comedic gems from the top of her head like a jewel thief on the run. Crafting something as multilayered and laborious as a TV show, though, takes a more deliberate approach.
Over the course of a career that’s found her writing books, working on TV series, and performing on stage, Klausner has channelled her creativity in any number of ways. But with Difficult People, which co-stars Billy Eichner and is executive produced by Amy Poehler, she’s finally running the show. To get a sense of how the new demands on her time have affected the way she produces material, Co.Create caught up with Klausner and asked about her creative habits. Read on to find out how the creator and star of Difficult People, which just premiered on Hulu, refuses to take it easy.
I don’t really have one. I probably should. I work out three times a week, so the sooner I get that out of the way, the better I feel. I try to get out of the house at least once when I’m working from home, and when I’m running around all day or working remotely, I am generally eager to get back to the apartment. When I have writing to do, I try to tackle it as close to first thing as possible, because that’s when my energy is freshest. I know what I’m about to say is going to make me sound like a giant adult baby, but I mostly look forward to taking baths and eating meals.
My brain is good in the morning. I don’t want to say it’s “sharpest” because it can be sharp in different ways, and with different stimuli. I’m usually in a good mood when I wake up, as long as I’ve gotten enough sleep, and that’s also when I’m usually alone, so I can be inspired in that state. But then, when I’m around people later in the day, or if I got up early and put on some clean, attractive clothing articles and blow dried my hair so I feel presentable, I can also be stimulated and engaged and my brain can do great stuff from that environment as well.
I like working from home. My cat is here, the air conditioning works, I have a yoga mat on the floor I can lie down on. I can work from bed and prop up my laptop with pillows. It’s pretty great. I’m inspired in different locations. Sometimes I’ll get a good idea when I’m exercising, I think because my brain is so bored of thinking “I AM EXERCISING,” it will look to new spots to come up with something–ANYTHING–to keep myself from dealing with the boredom of moving my body in a repetitive, uncomfortable way.
I’ve been infatuated lately with early/mid-’90s Elvis Costello. “All this Useless Beauty”–the track and the entire album, is sublime. And “The Other Side of Summer” on “Mighty Like The Rose” kills me. I like the lyric about the “unwanted birthday” because my birthday is July 3 and I always get depressed around then. Elvis Costello writes compassionately from the point of view of different characters, and these albums, to me, are about the dull ache of mid-life disappointment more than the hormonal ecstasies and romantic devastations of adolescence. Inside Out was most likely the last movie I saw that I was terribly moved by. And before that, I was absolutely wrecked by the documentary Anita.
Making stuff constantly, even when it sucks. Staying curious and stimulated. Remaining discontent with stasis. Acting on impulses. Ignoring failure. Doing stuff you remember hating once you’re doing it again. Embracing solitude and transforming alone time into productivity. Noticing when something makes you laugh, because that’s usually very special and surprising, and anything that comes into your life that’s not expected or not boring is likely worth more investigation. Also, it’s okay when you don’t know, as long as you’re open and honest about not knowing.
Watch the first episode of Difficult People below.