Stars of 'Broad City' talk comedy, feminism and rooftop parties

Comedy Central

By Maddie Thomas, Daily TV/New Media Editor
Published February 23, 2014

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the stars of Comedy Central’s latest breakout hit, “Broad City,” are not afraid to address the important questions plaguing our generation today. “Who would you rather have go down on you: Michael Bublé or Janet Jackson?” asks Glazer’s character, Ilana Wexler, in a recent episode. On the record, Jacobson and Glazer both agree that Jackson is the better choice (though Jacobson’s ideal situation would be to also have Michael Bublé in the room, singing).

“Broad City,” which is only five episodes into its first season, has received critical acclaim (see: The Michigan Daily’s coverage of the show, including Erika Harwood’s pilot review and Kayla Upadhyaya’s column) for its unique voice and chemistry between its two leads, Abbi and Ilana, who are real-life best friends and alums of the improv comedy group, Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), in New York City.

Jacobson and Glazer’s characters — fictionalized versions of themselves — are dirty, raunchy, awkward and lazy. Critics are quick to peg the comedians as feminist icons for bringing these less-than-“ideal” women to the silver screen, but Jacobson and Glazer maintain that, while they’re happy to be sending a positive message, comedy is their priority.

“When we’re shooting, we don’t have that agenda of being like, ‘We gotta make sure that this is feminist.’ That word is an awesome word to describe us and the show, but at the same time, while it’s great to be described that way, we’re not female comedians. We’re not female writers. The show is a comedy about people,” Jacobson said.

It’s true — the show is about people, especially the people of Generation Y.

“Both of these characters went to college, used it and abused it, and now they’re trying to make it after this four-year vacation. Our generation has a little bit of a prolonged adolescence, so ‘college life’ can extend into your early twenties,” Glazer said.

The two young comedians showcase the trials and tribulations of being a millennial twentysomething through the lens of their bizarre humor.

“[Our comedy] is like a heightened realism. We like to keep you grounded with the characters’ relationship, but then we take things to an exaggerated, silly, level,” Jacobson said.

The key to pulling off that surrealist humor (see: Fred Armisen in an adult diaper in the pilot episode) is the touch of reality Jacobson, Glazer and their writing staff inject into each episode.

“We try to base the seeds of every episode on something that’s either happened to us or friends of ours or the writers that write the show with us or their friends, so somewhere within the episode or scenes in general is the inkling of something that’s happened in real life," Jacobson said. "Like, for example, on last night’s episode (episode five, titled “Fattest Asses”) we were at this crazy rooftop party that Abbi and Ilana felt really uncomfortable at, and that’s based on a party that Ilana and I went to where we felt that way."

Unlike their unmotivated characters, Jacobson and Glazer are enjoying some serious and well-deserved success during their post-college years. In the last two years they have gone from co-creating a little-known web series (also called “Broad City”) on YouTube to co-running a TV show on Comedy Central and working with comedy icon (and fellow UCB alum) Amy Poehler, who produces the show. This March, Jacobson and Glazer will be flexing their improv muscles on a live “Broad City” tour across the U.S. (featuring a show in Pontiac, MI on March 12).

Despite all the recent hype, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer never forget how lucky they are to be doing what they love; the real-life ‘broads’ are nothing but grateful and earnest.

“I think we both know how rare of an opportunity this is and Comedy Central really lets us go in terms of what we wanna write about. It’s pretty awesome,” Jacobson said.

Glazer agreed, adding, “We are definitely sincere versus snarky or sarcastic. And sometimes we’re like … ‘are we lame?’ But it is what it is. We sincerely want people to like this. We never put out like, a ‘fuck you’ joke. We want people to escape and enjoy when they watch our show.”

“Broad City” is crass, charming, magnetic and funny. In a world where Brooklyn-based sitcoms about twentysomethings are a dime a dozen, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer have cultivated a show that, while familiar in premise, is still the most refreshingly original comedy on TV today. Don’t believe me? Check out the full pilot episode on the show’s website. Then make sure to tune in every Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.