They talked openly about pooping and wore the same outfits more than once. They worked thankless jobs just to make ends meet. They were sweaty, hungry and stoned a lot of the time — self-titled “Jewesses tryna make a buck.” At “Broad City” ’s inception in 2014, Ilana Wexler (Ilana Glazer, “The Night Before”) and Abbi Abrams (Abbi Jacobson, “Inside Amy Schumer”) were unlike the majority of female television protagonists. They played on New York as if it were an adult playground.
“Broad City” ’s third season premiere “Two Chainz” lives up to this unvarnished and wacky depiction of the duo’s mishaps as hedonistic and self-proclaimed queens. The show is often compared to “Girls” due to its focus on twenty-something women in New York, but a much more accurate comparison would be “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Seinfeld,” which feature irreverent humor through meditation on the mundane.
The episode opens with a split frame. We see Abbi and Ilana in their respective bathrooms, engaging in a wide range of activities on their porcelain thrones. They get high, have sex and eat chocolate. Set to Lizzo and Caroline Smith’s “Let ‘Em Say,” the show’s opening scene announces that “Broad City” is back and irreverent as ever. Here are two besties who are confident in their fabulousness and unabashed about their slacker-stoner lifestyles.
The next scene encapsulates what often holds “Broad City” ’s comedic essence together — the amplification of the trivial, juxtaposed casually with the serious. While in pursuit of brunch, Ilana talks about the plight of oppressed Saudi Arabian women in the same breath as her masturbation habits. Ilana frequently tries to express well-meaning but often misguided expression of cultural political awareness; she expresses her discontent about the turmoil to Abbi but almost cries when the waiter tells her the brunch deal no longer includes bottomless mimosas. True tragedy.
The sweetness of “Broad City” ’s humor stems from the deeply affirming and unshakeable love between the best friends. When Abbi demonstrates insecurity and unease, Ilana lifts her up. In a moment of doubt about her fashion quotient, Ilana reassures her that she looks “sexy and vivacious, like young wife material, but taut and teasy still.” When Abbi responds to a sleazy man calling out “Nice ass!” with a “Yeah, I know,” we know Ilana’s constant affirmation has likely helped cook up the quippy retort.
Even Lincoln (Hannibal Buress, “Neighbors”), Ilana’s loveable friend with benefits, aids in the show’s subverting of traditional gender roles. He expresses sensitivity through funny banter about “Sex and the City,” and by proudly calling his mother after his graduation from trapeze school.
Another feature of the show’s comedy is exaggerated interaction with features of the urban landscape. Abbi gets stuck inside of a porta potty. A warehouse sale becomes a literal battleground. The women engage in spitfire shade-throwing with a pretentious brunch host. Ilana and Abbi nonchalantly find themselves at an overtly phallic art show. They travel by foot, bike and truck with a fluidity that is distinctly urban in a way that lends itself to the show’s surreal humor. The physical movement is key, keeping energy high and punch lines quick.
Abbi and Ilana have continued to reclaim the word “broad” in multiple senses. “Broad,” typically used as old-fashioned slang for women, now celebrates the flawed, spontaneous and fluid nature of being a woman. The humor is “broad,” too; it provides an inclusive, open landscape for more superb comedy to come.