Julie and Billy walk by the Stonewall Inn, reeling off the place’s history for the benefit of any straight guys in the audience whose girlfriends force them to watch. It’s National Coming Out Day, which means there’s a fresh batch of gay men available, and fierce competition to snatch them up.
Julie’s been rejected by a women’s comedy festival, setting up the following crystalline, ruthlessly efficient joke: “I’m not a ‘girl’s girl?’ Fuck those cunts!”
At the diner, a young woman is coming out to her parents, which annoys Billy (Note: “which annoys Billy” was the first macro I made after taking this job) because Coming Out Day means lots of customers loitering at their tables while they have various feelings. Lola, the Touchy Trans Truther, hits her two character beats dutifully (read: gets offended, spouts truther bullshit), and we learn that Matthew came out just a year ago, and still thinks about his ex-wife Trish. (“Trish” being the objectively perfect name for a Matthew ex. One can hear, in “Trish,” the Mom Cut.)
Speaking of: Julie and Marilyn are at a hair salon, about to get coiffed by student stylists. Julie worries that she can’t connect with other women, but soon she has a larger problem: The salon has given her a perm that makes her look “like Melanie Griffith from the first hour of Working Girl,” while Marilyn is a dead ringer for Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy.
(Did you know that in real life, Andrea Martin always flies to Atlanta to get her hair cut by the same guy? Just one of the things you learn from her autobiography Lady Parts. FYI: It doesn’t come off as diva-like; she just seems deeply concerned about her hair. Filming this scene must have been nightmare-fuel for her.)
Julie comes home to discover that Arthur been put in charge of birthday parties at PBS; if he does well, he’ll get to hang out with the cool kids at work, the ones who work on Mr. Selfridge.
Difficult People gets public broadcasting.
Julie and Billy head to Hoboken to attend/mock the launch of Kevin Smith’s new line of jorts. (Sometimes, in idle moments, I imagine a world in which Difficult People is a CBS sitcom. Anchoring their Monday night lineup, say. Compared to that reality, ours is a sad and fallen world.) They kill time at a local Italian restaurant, though it’s Hoboken, so I probably could have gotten away with just saying “at a local restaurant.”
A table of Sopranos day players laugh at Julie’s jokes (one of them is named Therese, because it’s New Jersey and that’s the law), and invite them to a local gay bar. Note: Two of this bridge-and-tunnel trio are played by Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, a.k.a. Ronna and Beverly, about whom you should learn more, and then thank me.
At the bar, Billy decides to pretend he just came out in an effort to attract men who would normally ignore him. He clinks his glass to get the bar’s attention (actually he clacks it, as they filmed the scene using plastic glasses and didn’t bother to Foley it), then makes his announcement, butching it up a scootch to sell it. Meanwhile, Julie has been mistaken for Italian, and loves it.
The next day, Billy and Julie resolve to cross the Hudson again that night, while Arthur comes home distraught. (Or, at least, as distraught as his WASPiness will allow. One of my favorite things about this show is Urbaniak’s delivery, which is so arid extra-dry you could smear it under your pits.)
He’s already blown the office’s party budget for the year, but has another birthday party the next day. Taking a cue from her Jersey friends, Julie decides to help her man out. She gets the kid next door to agree to hold his birthday party at PBS — wait, won’t the birthday lady notice the distinctly kid-oriented decorations and activities? No, because she “seems like one of those women that likes children, at least that’s how she dresses.” Yay, jokes! Jokes are fun!
Billy is on a date with Joey (played by Mark Consuelos in “Italian guy” hair so high and flat you could throw a checkered tablecloth over it, shove a candle into a bottle of Chianti, rest it on top, and call it a day). Joey is eager to regale Billy with stories from all of “LGBLT history.” Billy balks, but then catches a glimpse of Joey’s eight-pack, and agrees.
At a gay bookstore, Joey gaysplains endlessly (and inaccurately) causing Billy to grow impatient and kiss him. Joey, thinking he’d be Billy’s first man, wants to take things slow. Billy wants to speed things up, and keeps tossing references to his faux-heterosexuality (“pizza-flavored Combos”) to entice his prey.
Meanwhile, Julie hangs out with her Jersey friends, complete with Goodfellas voice-over, music cues, and camera moves. She’s only too happy to overlook their causal anti-Semitism because they do things like stop by the Cheesecake Factory before heading to the mall to ensure they “have enough dairy in [them] for shopping energy.”
Marilyn’s patient (played by Mink Stole) (!) has a daughter who’s in a cult, and so, it would seem, does Marilyn. After a fake-tanned, crucifix-sporting Julie sits her and Arthur down, she proceeds to quote Rachel Dolezal in the buildup before a big announcement: “I identify as Italian!”
At PBS the next day, Arthur’s co-worker’s birthday party takes a John Wayne Gacy-ish turn, as it turns out she’s a coulrophobe. Like all good, sensible people, she suffers from a perfectly sane and understandable fear of clowns. Soon enough, the birthday clown chases this woman through the halls of PBS. (Arthur: “I didn’t know there would be a clown, and I certainly didn’t know that he would give chase.”)
Billy and Julie walk down the streets of Hoboken. Julie has gone from “Jersey Italian” to full-on gumar: the hair is bigger, the heels higher, the tights tighter, the hoop earrings hoopier. They’re happy, or at least as close as they’ll ever get, and all they had to do was deny who they really are.
Marilyn is desperate to turn Julie back from Don Corleone to Hyman Roth. She enlists Arthur’s help (who’s gotten into the good graces of the Selfridge clique at work, due to his role in getting their boss chased by a Party City Pennywise). The WASPy Arthur isn’t swayed until she reminds him that Julie’s flirtation with an Italian identity could lead to … Catholicism.
At the Hoboken restaurant, things are coming together: The women call Julie a “girl’s girl” and Joey is about to take Billy home when Sinatra’s “New York, New York” comes over the radio. The Hobokenites dutifully swoon, but Billy and Julie say, casually and in unison, “I always thought of that as a Liza Minnelli song.”
And that’s all it takes. Their respective jigs are up: Joey knows that Billy is hardcore, old-school gay, and the women clock that Julie isn’t Italian. Just then, Marilyn and Arthur arrive to forcibly abduct Julie, but they needn’t have bothered. The spell is broken.
As the foursome grudgingly, and with no small amount of confusion, prepare to take a PATH train back into the city, a brace of knockoff handbags falls off the back of a truck. Call it a Jersey Farewell.