Hulu Comedy Difficult People Debuts With Philly’s Shannon DeVido
It’s been a banner year for Shannon DeVido. The Bucks County-raised comedic actress has guested on The Nightly Show, she spoke at the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (a stint that was recognized in a tweet by Vice President Joe Biden), and this week she made her streaming-television debut in the new Hulu series Difficult People.
The show is produced by Amy Poehler and stars Billy Eichner and creator Julie Klausner as a couple bitter Betties who just can’t seem to catch a break in life. The guest-star appearances are varied and A-list as it comes, with cameos by everyone from Martin Short and Seth Meyers to Debbie Harry.
DeVido comes into the story at the beginning of episode two as Andrea Mumford. Billy and Julie decide they want to become storytellers, so they head to an open mic where Andrea is the premier raconteur. Their story—one about eating Katharine McPhee’s food on an elevator—is a snoozefest. Andrea goes up next, telling a story about being molested by her uncle and the crowd goes wild. “She got applause before she even started,” complains Julie. “We were up there for 17 minutes and nothing!” DeVido is great in the scene, approaching her storyteller role sort of like a beat poet—carefully enunciating each word.
DeVido, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and has used a wheelchair most of her life, has said in interviews that nabbing the part was an especially big deal for her, because it didn’t call for an actress in a wheelchair. I caught up with her this week to chat about that, her experience working on the show and what’s on the horizon for her rising star.
Congratulations on the debut! How does it feel to have the show out there for everyone to see?
Great! I’m so proud of this show. I’m such a small part of it, but Julie Klausner has created this amazing piece of television that we needed as a palate cleanser for all the crap that’s out there. I’m really proud to be part of it.
In an interview, you said you loved this part, because it didn’t call for an actress who was in a wheelchair. Can you talk more about what that means to you?
Generally, when I get called in for roles it’s because they need a girl in a wheelchair. But this one, they called me in because they liked my headshot. They met me and saw past [the fact that I was in a wheelchair] and kept me as the storyteller. It’s a really great step for the industry, because [people with disabilities] are kind of the last minority that have been given attention in the entertainment industry. It’s a really great step forward in changing that mindset.
So you’re a pioneer.
I don’t know about that. The people who cast me are the pioneers. I just showed up.
You recently met Amy Poehler at the show’s premiere. What was that like?
She thanked me for being part of the show and said I did a great job — and then my brain exploded. I really don’t remember a lot of what she said to me, because she introduced herself as Amy Poehler, and I went, “Oh yea, I’m very aware of who you are—you’re my idol!” After that moment I’m pretty sure I blacked out.
What about Billy Eichner? Did he just scream in your face the whole time?
[Laughs] No, I wanted him to! I was going to pay him to. He was very nice and very funny. He was working, so he was kind of in the zone.
Will you return later in the show? Or maybe in a second season?
I hope so; that would be so cool. I love this show, so I would literally sit at a table and eat food the whole time if that’s what it takes.
What’s your dream job?
I would love to have my own sitcom. That would be the coolest. Even to just be on a sitcom would be great. I would love to have a project that showcases someone with a disability just being a human and going through the things that normal people go through, because no one really looks at people with disabilities that way. It would be a great opportunity if I could showcase that somehow.
That’s kind of what you do in your YouTube series. Will you stop doing that now that you’re famous?
No, I’m done! [Laughs] Yea, I would love to turn those into something bigger. We have some shoots scheduled … I have some big plans for it, so now that things are calming down I’ll have some time to focus on that and get some more out. I have some big ideas, so we’ll see if they actually work out.
Can we see you performing around town soon?
Every other Friday, I perform with my improv group Wussy Riot. We perform at Figment Theater on 12th and Vine at the Asian Arts Initiative. At the end of August, I’m doing a sketch show called Spirit Animal. In October, my sketch group Adventure Friends is doing a show at Philly Improv Theater. I’m really excited about the sketch shows. They’re going to be funny and weird—everything I love to do.
You can catch the first two episodes of Difficult People right now on Hulu.