Film and TV

Difficult People Recap: You Put Your Hand in the Toilet

We're recapping Difficult People, episode by episode. The answer to that word jumble is Ingrid BERGMAN. 

Difficult People debuted its second season on Hulu this week with not one but two episodes. So hi, adoring public, here's your second Diff-P recap of the week. 

This time around, Billy and Julie face fresh hells, together and apart, in Larry Davidian fashion and interact with more of this season's cameo-making superstars. The premiere featured Tina Fey, John Mulaney, and Sandra Bernhard. And here, we're delighted by an appearance from Nathan Lane. 

What are our angelic jerk babies up to this week? Here we go.

Billy has been asleep for three days and Julie has come to see if he has died, which he has not. But he is alone and decides that he has to find a boyfriend, so that said boyfriend can find him dead and at least put Billy in a cuter outfit before calling the coroner. "I like that I'm not doing it because I'm emotionally ready," he quips. Us, too. Us, too. 

While on a dog-less walk for coffee, Billy and Julie accidentally help a woman cross a street to get to an abortion clinic amid a sea of pro-life protesters. As a reward for being happenstance volunteers, they are offered morning brownies and go home with swag bags full of pomade. While Billy and Julie smell the pomade from the comfort of Julie's couch, Nathan Lane appears on TV to talk about a charity he's involved with called God’s Love We Deliver, whose mission is not super clear but we are going to assume it involves chucking religious texts at people who are nice enough to open their doors when being solicited.

Anyway, it makes for a lightbulb moment. "What if we invented a charity?" Charity leads to fame, fortune, and meeting soulmates who can find your dead body when the occasion requires. All of which follows. So, here's our new means of finding Billy a boyf. Without a chosen cause, they figure they need to come up with some kind of Ice Bucket Challenge-style viral sensation that celebrities will publicly shame each other into participating in, thereby getting the charity (and therefore Billy and Julie) noticed. 

And so we have our George Constanza-style Human Fund: a charity without a cause, save for the appearance of its founders giving a shit.

Because that's what it's all about, right? "Well, the hokey pokey’s what it’s all about, but I don’t have time to get into that right now," Julie says, before meeting up with Arthur for a movie date.

Julie brings an InTouch and a book light to this movie date, which Arthur arranged at an art house theater that Julie hates. He brings up an apartment he wants them to move into that's near Central Park, and that will give us an excuse to be in Central Park shortly. Julie is not crazy about living by the park, as she is "too punk," but demurs when she negotiates a third dog in exchange for moving. 

Billy has returned to work at the restaurant, where his coworkers were all pretty sure he had died during his three-day sleep. He is immediately bombarded with a hug and then a transgender 9/11 truther who was hired as his replacement and whose beliefs regarding gay marriage align with that of Caitlyn Jenner. Which is not that important, but kind of is as their fellow coworker Matthew is recently engaged and throwing the fact into Billy's coulda-been-dead face. 

Billy announces he'll ask out the next person who comes through the door, stretching the bit to eventually describe a gay man who is his type. Enter Hot Doug, a certifiably foine deaf man whose interpreter seems a little possessive. 

Meanwhile, Julie's visiting her mom, Marilyn, who doesn't have to much going on this episode, save for inspiring the Human Fund 2.0's viral element. Having recently lost her housekeeper to Aunt Bonnie, she's scrubbing her own toilet. Lightbulb, again. Julie calls Billy, who's on a date with Hot Doug, to announce that their charity should start a TOILET HAND CHALLENGE.

To which Marilyn asks herself, "What did I raise?"

Not a cockblocking interpreter, for one thing. Which is what Billy's encountered during dinner with Hot Doug, who looks like the long lost Jonas Brother who never worked a promise ring but might have too much gel in his hair. Interpreter is keenly aware of this resemblance and does not convey to Hot Doug that Billy likes him. 

Billy recounts the episode to Julie while on another walk (this time with her Bassetts) and they run into cameo-maker of the week Nathan Lane. "I have to ask you something stupid," Billy says, before the duo convinces Nathan to come with them to a public bathroom, promise to get high-level celebs involved with the charity (no Jesse Tyler Fergusons or Paul Reisers, please), and put his hand in a toilet. For God's Home Delivery Service ... or whatever. You put your right hand in, you take your right hand out, et cetera.

But Nathan's hand starts going numb and he bails, saying he needs to get back to his husband. Which is offensive, Julie scolds, as Billy does not have a husband. 

Back to Marilynville, where she's conning a patient who suffers from OCD into cleaning her apartment to work through her issues — a thing that also happened to Ken Marino on Burning Love, but that is beside the point. Marilyn needs a clean apartment and this lady can't help herself. 

Another walk: this time, Julie and Arthur, dogless. They're on their way to their co-op interview for the new apartment, but Arthur is concerned about arriving empty handed. But, they come upon the Alice in Wonderland statue and it's covered in flowers begging to be borrowed for a good cause involving real people who are not fictional and in no way marred by Johnny Depp's involvement. 

It's not a shrine to a real person, Julie says. It's not like that time on Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry stole flowers from a roadside memorial to Super Dave's dead mom, we agree. So Julie climbs on the statue to steal flowers, breaks one of the statue's foreground mushrooms, and gets arrested. 

She'll have to do community service, she explains to Billy, as they catch up at the restaurant. Also happening at the restaurant: Matthew and his AARP-subscribing fiancé being served spoonfuls of food like babies and making us want to throw up. Trans Truther says more filler-y things about 9/11 and there's too much happening right now, but maybe we also just are thinking about how much we want to throw up. Hard to say. 

Billy decides to give Hot Doug another shot, with a pop-by. Cockblocking Interpreter nowhere to be found, Hot Doug uses a text-to-voice program to request a blowjob. But the voice is that of a robot-woman, who says, "Choke on it, thirsty boy," resulting in Billy laughing uncontrollably. Hot Doug kicks him out. 

In Marilynville, OCD patient is apparently cured through her "anti-exposure therapy" and leaves. So Marilyn calls her former housekeeper and wins All-Star Swearer when she offers too pay "just barely more" than "whatever that fuck-twat Bonnie is paying." Goodbye, Marilyn. Good game. 

Julie's doing her community service, teaching inmates how to recap TV shows. While dragging Kevin Bacon and acknowledging that he has to take all the jobs because he got screwed by Bernie Madoff, Julie finds out that Madoff is in this prison. Ding, ding ding! A celebrity. Kinda. One who might take on the TOILET HAND CHALLENGE. 

Community service wrapped, Julie and Arthur go to their rescheduled co-op interview. Things are going perfectly until tardy board member Nathan Lane schleps in coughing with a bandaged hand that will have to be amputated and a rolling IV. He tells the board about how Julie's the worst, and they don't get the apartment after all. Because this show is not about progress, it's about stuckness.

Speaking of stuckness, Julie did get Bernie Madoff to stick his hand in a toilet for her video, which Madoff announced he's doing for the Kessler Epstein Foundation and not the Human Fund 2.0, but that's okay. She shares it with Billy, and they gleefully imagine the coming days when they'll have to wear baseball caps to get iced coffee. What they're supposed to be celebrating is baby Matthew and AARP fiancé's engagement at the restaurant. (Matthew begins his speech about their love by announcing that before the two met, he couldn't stand the taste of foreskin and we died laughing). 

The TV is on, as it should be at all engagement parties, and a newscaster announces that Nathan Lane has died from a a rare disease humans get from touching toilet water. Oops. He also announces that David Blaine is not famous anymore. What a news day. 

Billy and Julie are crushed. But the crushing continues: Hot Doug and Cockblocking Interpreter swing by to announce how they talked about choosy translating and feelings and, guess what, love wins and they're in love now. We know we said we died already, but please kill us. 

Every plan foiled, Billy concludes, "Life is bullshit." Cue the hokey pokey. 

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski