A couple of 'Broads' craft Comedy Central's new hit

Comedy Central

By Erika Harwood, Senior Arts Editor
Published January 30, 2014

It’s a seemingly formulaic premise: unsure women in their twenties, trying to get by and figure it all out in the big city. It’s a description that adheres to shows like “Girls,” “New Girl” and all its feminine contemporaries. But “Broad City” isn’t a show about girls — it’s a show about hustlin’, outlandish and hilarious broads.

Broad City

Comedy Central
Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m.

The origin of the series reads like a 21st century fairytale: Long ago (2009), Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, friends united through the sketch and improv scene at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York, decided to create a small web series documenting their misadventures around the city. Rounding up whoever was willing to help, they continued shooting the webisodes until an opportunity from the comedy gods presented itself. It’s a story in which Prince Charming is played by Amy Poehler and the glass slipper is her agreeing to be an executive producer for the duo’s television debut on Comedy Central.

Luckily for Glazer and Jacobson (and the network) the magic is unmistakable. Within the first three minutes, the pair debunks any notion of it being “Comedy Central’s version of ‘Girls’” when Ilana skypes Abbi to tell her about a L’il Wayne concert happening that night — while she is literally having sex with her “purely physical” partner Lincoln (Hannibal Buress, “The Eric Andre Show”). Consistent wit and off-color hilarity (Abbi gets out of work early by lying to her boss, claiming she has to pick up her AIDS test results) are what drive the pair to the constant comparisons of other famed comedy duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — a likening not at all premature.

While many comedies struggle to find their voice within the first season (I encourage friends to watch the first season of “Parks and Recreation” but also note that they’ll have to hang in there until season two for it to get good), “Broad City” is deservingly confident in its stride.

Despite the flawless (no other word would do it justice) cameo of Fred Armisen (“Portlandia”) playing a potentially disturbed middle-aged man who dresses (and acts) like a baby and hires Abbi and Ilana to clean his house in their underwear, the broads can more than hold their own. Some of the best bits (trying to earn cash by bucket drumming) derive strictly from the two of them.

It’s impossible to compare the show to the “New Girl” s of the world, because that would mean it depends on the “girl” tropes of being cute and quirky while still being able to hang with the boys. Abbi and Ilana don’t care if they hang with the boys; they care if they make you laugh — by any means necessary. They’re not comediennes, but comedians; Just a couple of broads who can out-joke the best of them and aren’t afraid to make it as weird as Comedy Central will allow. It’s a course in modern-day feminism via comedy, where all we see is funny, with “Broad City” teaching.