Sage Advice from Julie Klausner: ‘I Just Swallow All My Feelings’

The co-mastermind of the hilariously antisocial Hulu comedy series "Difficult People" tells our audience how to behave.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week, you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this time is writer, actress, and cat aficionado Julie Klausner.

Rico Gagliano: Yay!

Brendan Francis Newnam: She hosts the very funny pop culture podcast “How Was Your Week.” Some readers first got a taste of her pointed sense of humor from her recaps of reality shows, which appeared on culture sites like Vulture and The Awl, but these days she doesn’t recap shows…

… you know what I’m gonna say here, Julie.

Julie Klausner: “…She makes them!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: She makes them! The latest being the Hulu comedy series “Difficult People,” which she also co-created. It stars Julie and the equally abrasive and hilarious Billy Eichner. They’re pop-culture obsessed Internet-famous New Yorkers trying to become actually famous, by any means necessary.

And we’re gonna play a clip where they’re pitching a guy on their latest big idea: bottled water from school library drinking fountains. The sales guy doesn’t quite get it and, anyway he sells water in boxes. Which Julie and Billy are less than impressed by.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And Julie, welcome.

Julie Klausner: Hi, thanks for having me.

Rico Gagliano: I love that.

Brendan Francis Newnam: For the record, we agree; library drinking fountains – they taste delicious.

Julie Klausner: The best water I’ve ever had was from a water fountain in my public library, growing up. Very cold.

Brendan Francis Newnam: OK. So that conversation did come from real life. And in this TV show, your character’s named Julie, she writes TV recaps, and is trying to make it in show biz…

Rico Gagliano: Crazy.

Brendan Francis Newnam: …Why, for this show, did you want to create a different version of yourself?

Julie Klausner: Well, it is a different version of myself. Julie Kessler on the show is different from Julie Klausner, because she’s not as self-aware, and gets very frustrated when she doesn’t get what she wants, and doesn’t understand how she might be complicit.

Rico Gagliano: That’s not you?

Julie Klausner: I think it was probably a younger version of me, to some degree, but I definitely play her a little dumber than I think I’ve ever been. And less self-hating, and also less ashamed to confront people — which is something I’d never do. I just swallow all my feelings.

Rico Gagliano: Oh good.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Good. We have a list of mean things to say to you.

Julie Klausner: Yeah, I’m gonna take it all.

Rico Gagliano: All that being said, though, there are so many meta-layers to the show. On one hand you are satirizing people like this, who care way too much about shallow popular culture. But in order to get all the references, viewers themselves also have to be pretty into pop culture, and obviously you are, to an extent, in real life. What is the takeaway here? Is this a cautionary tale?

Julie Klausner: I think that Billy and I have in common that we both grew up connecting very passionately to television and film, instead of our peers. And I think being overly passionate about pop culture is a way of connecting to people, instead of a person one-on-one. And, when Billy and I sort of found each other, we realized we had very similar obsessions and we got each other’s references, and there was a kind of romance to that.

Rico Gagliano: So ironically the thing that sort of kept you from making connections… helped you make this connection.

Julie Klausner: It’s a good connection to have. Just growing up, I think people use sports for that sort of thing? I don’t know.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, we need to ask about another facet of your show, which is… your boyfriend in the show, Julie’s boyfriend, is a PBS TV producer.

As public media guys, we have to wonder, what is the public media fascination about?

Julie Klausner: Some of it is from real life, but there’s what I think is a very funny rivalry between PBS and NPR on the show. We are only gonna deepen that, in season 2. We’re working on them having a softball game, between the two of them, which —

Rico Gagliano: We win, right?

Julie Klausner: I don’t think anyone wins, honestly. I think America wins by watching!

Isn’t it fun to be acknowledged, though?! I find that when people are gently ribbed, they’re just excited for the attention.

Brendan Francis Newnam: [mock sobs] It felt really nice!

Julie Klausner: Good, good.

Rico Gagliano: You see us, Julie.

Julie Klausner: I’m glad.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. We’ve asked our listeners for questions, are you ready for these?

Julie Klausner: I’m ready, yeah!

Sweats and pizza for sister

Brendan Francis Newnam: This first question comes from Katherine, in Maine. Katherine writes:

“My sister only wants to hang out with me when it’s convenient for her. When I ask her to hang out, go for a run, shop, or get a bite to eat, she is always busy. How do I confront her about this without looking like, ‘Waaaah! Why don’t you wanna play with me’ at the age of 30?'”

Julie Klausner: I mean, I sympathize with Katherine’s sister to some degree, because I hate going out and doing things. I really like staying in and watching stuff. But, at the same time, I think it’s important to maintain a relationship with her that maybe is on shared terms. So maybe suggest, “I’m gonna come over. We’re not gonna wear makeup. We’re gonna be in our sweatpants, and I’m coming over and I’m bringing over a pizza!”

Rico Gagliano: Or maybe she should just show up.  Maybe Katherine can just go to her sister’s door, and be like, “You can’t avoid me now!”

Julie Klausner: No.

Rico Gagliano: Come on, why not?

Julie Klausner: I’m not a fan of showing up unannounced.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I was thinking more like they can watch TV outside. You know?

Julie Klausner: Right, in the glare of the sun.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, like meet halfway.

Rico Gagliano: It’s Maine, though, it probably will be snowing.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s true, and there’ll be bugs there.

Julie Klausner: Yeah, I’m not a fan of nature. I like animals, but their habitat I’m not crazy about.

Brendan Francis Newnam: [So…] suggest not wearing makeup, sweatpants, and pizza.

Rico Gagliano: All right.

Brendan Francis Newnam: There you go, Katherine.

Dealing With Katharine McPhee

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Joe in Dallas, Texas. Joe writes:

“What should you do if someone shows up to your party uninvited?” Oh, we already know how you feel about uninvited guests. Here’s the follow-up, though: “What if that person is ‘Smash’ star Katharine McPhee?” A figure of some amusement for pop culture junkies.

Julie Klausner: If Katharine McPhee showed up at my party, I would get into like that fetal rocking position? And I’d rock back and forth for a little while. And then I would feed her dogs. And then I would just make sure that she was taken care of.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

Julie Klausner: That none of the noises were too loud… She seems like she’d be sensitive to a lot of stimulation.  So I’d walk her to the corner, sit her down, and just make sure she was tended to.

Brendan Francis Newnam: This is interesting. So once a month we have Emily Post’s great-great-grandchildren answer behavior questions, and that’s the textbook answer for what to do when Katharine McPhee comes in.

Rico Gagliano: That’s what Emily Post wrote in the 1800s.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right. 1) Fetal position. 2) Can of something for pet.

Julie Klausner: Yeah, exactly. I mean, some things change, some don’t.

Rico Gagliano: Some things are classic.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right Joe, in Dallas.

Forgettable Face

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Mare, in Chicago, Illinois. And Mare writes:

“I work with a lot of people in my city’s rather sizable literary community. At social events, many of them often approach me with, ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so. What’s your name?’ I then become peevish and remind them that we work together, or I hired them. Come on, shouldn’t they remember me? How can I better handle this?”

Julie Klausner: “How could I better handle this,” or “How could I be more memorable?”

Rico Gagliano: [Laughs.] Those are two separate questions!

Julie Klausner: I tend to remember the names of people that are either people I wanna have sex with, or… I wanna say “famous people,” because you’re like, “Oh! Sharon Stone!”

Rico Gagliano: Is that the only solution, make yourself sexually available or famous?

Julie Klausner: Yes. Or tattoo your face. Have a face tattoo.

Rico Gagliano: There you go! Super practical etiquette tips from Julie Klausner. Julie, thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Julie Klausner: Thank you for having me.