Hulu fav Difficult People, the sarcastic friendship comedy starring Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner, returns for its hotly anticipated third season Tuesday (Aug 8), with the first three episodes available for streaming. As the show’s creator, Klausner works closely with the show’s music supervisor, Anthony Roman, to come up with songs to provide the series’ more indelible musical moments.
To celebrate the premiere, we asked Klausner to compile her favorite music moments from the show. She gave Billboard a peek into the thought process behind some of her favorite Difficult People’s musical selections — including a Willy Wonka parody, an unpublished Aimee Mann track and Broadway staples: “Season 3 starts and ends with Stephen Sondheim, as life should.”
1. New Pornographers, “Brill Bruisers”
When I first sat down to edit the Difficult People pilot and it was time to add music to what we had, I started with this track as a means of communicating tonally what we wanted to do with the scoring of the show. “Brill Bruisers,” the first track off the New Pornos’ flawless album that bears the same name, is soaring, driving, and hooky — I love these guys so much.
I love that this song starts out hot, too. There is no downbeat — you’re not listening to the song, and then, suddenly, you are LISTENING TO THE SONG. I also appreciate a song about the ecstasy of performing. When it comes to that theme, this is up there with Alice Cooper’s version of “Hello, Hooray.”
2. White Reaper, “Half Bad” and “She Wants To”
“She Wants To” is the opening theme song to Difficult People and “Half Bad” closes out each episode, with lyrics that start out “Wanna be easy….”, which we’ve always liked for a show with the word “difficult” in its title. “She Wants To” kicks off each episode because it’s a very exciting, crashing Rock-with-a-capital-R song with a primal scream, and we use it at the end of the cold open into the title card, like Wet Hot American Summer brilliantly does with “Jane” by Jefferson Starship, to set the tone.
3. Foxy Shazam, “Intro/Bombs Away”
The great thing about this song is that it’s like four songs in one, and each section is a build up to another build up. It’s got everything you need to get revved up – dogs barking, chanting, an actual countdown, an escalating bass line, and, naturally, a primal scream. Then, the verses begin. Hachi-Machi! We found a very cool spot for this song in season 3 — it ends episode 8 and we use it in the credits instead of White Reaper — which is a nice change of pace, though I love (and do not fear) the Reaper.
4. Nurses, “Fever Dreams”
There’s a storyline in season 3 that focuses on my character’s sex life with her boyfriend, Arthur, which is something we like to do each season, because I’m convinced America needs to see me in body makeup, pretending to make love to James Urbaniak.
But honestly, I do like to do sitcom stories about sexuality from a woman’s point of view. In season 1, we had a story about my character wanting to have a threeway, but only one with a male-male-female ratio; in season 2, Arthur finds Julie pleasuring herself to porn and is freaked out because he thinks that’s what she actually wants in bed (he is wrong), and this season, we have a story where Arthur is unable to get Julie off like he used to, because my character’s clitoral “code” (the technique needed to produce an orgasm) changed over time. After three attempts, my ladyparts “lock him out,” but –spoiler alert — Julie and Arthur resolve their issues by the end of the episode, and this song plays as we begin making out.
It’s got a John Hughes-y flavor to it in that it’s heartfelt but not sentimental. And I like the Chryssie Hynde-ish quality to the singer’s voice. I should mention, too, that our music supervisor Anthony Roman found and licensed this and our other rock tracks for the season, and he is just fantastic.
5. Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley “Main Title (Golden Ticket/Pure Imagination)”
There’s an episode in which Julie steals a fancy Japanese toilet seat made out of gold, and she’s so excited to use it that we insisted on parodying Willy Wonka to make the moment where she finds it truly magical. We show Julie opening the box bathed in gold light, snatching the toilet seat from behind the gold paper, and waving it up in the air like Charlie and his golden ticket, screaming “I’ve got a golden toilet seat!” to which Billy responds, “Run, Julie! Run to the bathroom and don’t stop until you get there!”
Marc Shaiman — who’s guest-starred on Difficult People in the past and who wrote, along with Scott Wittman, the Charlie and The Chocolate Factory musical that’s currently on Broadway — wrote to Leslie Bricusse himself, who gave us his blessing to use his music, as did the estate of the late, great Anthony Newley. We got an orchestra in Atlanta to record it, and it sounds unbelievable. I’ve never been more delighted as I was hearing the strings kick in when we synced up the orchestral track to the very stupid footage of me holding a toilet seat over my head.
6. Magic Bullets, “I Could Go”
This season, John Cho plays Billy’s first real boyfriend, Todd, a hot ad executive who’s also a dick. The season follows the two of them as they suffer through the rites of passage that befall every new relationship, including their first sleepover. It turns out the two can’t sleep in the same bed, and we have a montage of them tossing and turning in different positions throughout the night.
To score it, we wanted something that had the nervous energy of the Talking Heads’ “Stay Up Late,” but then Roman found us this great, stylish, anxious-but-confident song that works perfectly and reminds me of the era they write about in [’00s New York rock history] Meet Me in the Bathroom, a book I have not yet read but for some reason, feel all too comfortable referencing???
7. Stephen Sondheim, “Old Friends”
Season 3 starts and ends with Stephen Sondheim, as life should. We start the season with a reference to Sunday in the Park with George, and, in the season finale, we find ourselves in the terrain of “Merrily We Roll Along,” a show about how friendships among creative people can change over the years. This song bookends the episode, and I promise it is very touching!
8. Mireya Medina and Raul Medina, “You’re My Friend”
One of my favorite stories of the season is when Billy and Julie decide to invest in their own Strike Rat — so they can bring it around to businesses to convince people waiting on line for say, a hot restaurant, that its employees are on strike so potential customers can scatter and Billy and Julie can get seated right away. There’s a montage where the two of them bring “Strikey” around the city, and Roman found us this gem of a pop song that’s so pretty and silly and upbeat and breezy, it elevates the montage and makes Billy and Julie’s dopey shenanigans way more fun-seeming.
9. The Wytches, “C-Side”
The opening chords of this song play over a scene in which Lola and her “sorority” — a group of trans women she got gender confirmation surgery with, which is based on a real group of friends Shakina has reunions with — go back to the cafe to assist the other main characters, after we accidentally take their ayahuasca. The four women we got to play the sorority are so bad-ass and beautiful, and they strut back to the cafe to this music, really to take care of business. I like that this track sort of sounds like a horror movie by way of Russ Meyer, and it’s a bit surfy too, but ominous. Don’t mess with the power of the feminine!
10. Aimee Mann, “Julie/ Julie”
This song hasn’t been published yet, but it will be so very soon! And when it does, it is going to blow your mind and bust your beans, it’s so good! Aimee Mann, who is a famous and blisteringly talented songwriter (I’m Mann-splaining get it? Ugh, I hate myself), wrote a song for the show that I get to sing because I am the luckiest bitch in the whole USA.
In the second-to-last episode of the season, my character takes up crafting and blows off an audition, then discovers that staying at home making macrame owls for Etsy actually makes her happy, and show business does not. During her ayahuasca trip, Julie hallucinates a duet between her happy, stay-at-home crafty self and her miserable, walking-outside-at-night-in-the-rain, struggling-comedian self. I told Aimee about the concept and she came back with this achingly beautiful tune with brilliant, funny lyrics attached, and I promise you will love it when you hear it.