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« GIVEAWAY | Tickets to an Advance Screening of 'Exporting Raymond' | Main | New Video Wednesday! Featuring Dan St. Germain, Broad City and Will Hines »
Thursday
Mar032011

INSIDE WITH: ILANA GLAZER & ABBI JACOBSON OF 'BROAD CITY'

Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson | Photo: Eric Michael Pearson

By: Lucas Hazlett

On its surface, Broad City is a simple day-in-the-life series about two girls (Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson) whose friendship gets complicated constantly by circumstances ranging from simple sitcom misunderstandings (Glazer thinking a day on the town with Jacobson is really a romantic date) to brushes with wildly absurd characters (a dog owner who secretly follows the girls around while they're dog-sitting).

What's most interesting about the series, and the two ladies behind it, is that Broad City seems to be in the earliest stage of an epidemic as outlined in the Malcolm Gladwell book, "Tipping Point," especially considering the fact that while none of their videos have had nearly enough viewer hits to be considered Internet sensations, both Glazer and Jacobson have quietly built a following among area-comedy scenesters such that there's no denying the potential brand power they're building.

As of this interview, they have been featured in a Wall Street Journal article, nominated for ECNY awards (Best Comedic Video and Glazer for Best Emerging Comic) and premiered their first season finale with a sold out red carpet event at the 92Y Tribeca.

The Apiary spoke to Glazer and Jacobson about what they hope they've set out to do this season of Broad City, the ECNYs, the ladies of Sex and the City and how to make a go in comedy.

What are the two of you setting out to accomplish with Broad City and what specifically are you trying to accomplish with the second season?
Ilana Glazer:
I think we're both setting out to create a body of work we can't help but tell people about because we love it a lot. I like to think we're portraying women as well-rounded characters. Women are usually like, "No *I'm* right in this argument!"-characters, or "Did someone order a pair a tits?"-characters, but that's it. It's always these one-note gorgeous, fucking annoying idiots. Like why can't women just be normal people?
Abbi Jacobson: We're trying to portray a real pair of twentysomethings living in New York right now. There aren't really shows with women our age that feel really real -- that are filled with funny, natural, ridiculous situations we find ourselves in. We've found, even with the small audience we have, that people are really relating to it, so I guess in the second season we're setting out to do that even more -- to create this real/funny little world that puts a mirror up to our own lives, and the city we live in without taking itself too seriously.

Is there an episode that you feel best exemplifies the type of comedy you guys are doing?
AJ: I'm not sure if there is one. At this point, our episodes tend to vary drastically style-wise as we're allowing ourselves to really play around with different styles. I'm not sure if I have a good answer to this!

If you guys don't have a specific episode to point to, then perhaps a more -- forgive the pun -- broad question: What are your comedic philosophies? What do you guys find funny?
IG:
I think it comes down to what someone says versus what they look like. At least in stand-up. Film is more about the setting, whether characters gel or clash with their environment because you get to have control over it. I like when social norms are challenged. I think uncomfortableness and silence are funny and stupid mispronunciations. People's bodies and nudity are funny to me.
AJ: I think the funniest stuff is based on truth, however cliched that sounds. I always find my insecurities incredibly funny, and those feelings we all have about being awkward, out of place, uncomfortable or too much of something. I love seeing characters play within their worlds--mess with their own details and specifics. I try to always work from something honest and see what happens from there.

Who are your comedic idols?
IG: Tina Fey, Wanda Sykes, Chris Rock, Amy Sedaris, Larry David. Chelsea Peretti, Tim & Eric, Louis CK, Jessi Klein, Kristen Schaal.
AJ: Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne, Louis CK, Larry David, Tom Hanks, Ellen, Steve Martin, Bette Midler.
IG: I love people who don't aim for necessarily likable but just let themselves be weird and let it be kind of magical.
AJ: I love people who use as much of who they are in their comedy as possible. You get a real sense of what makes them different, and stand apart from the crowd.
IG: Knowing some of the people I look up to is a really lucky characteristic of the comedy community because it's still relatively small compared to music or something.

Speaking of the comedy community, especially the "alternative" comedy scene here in New York, how have the two of you found your journeys making names for yourselves in what is a generally insular and somewhat hard world to crack?
IG: I went to shows and talked to people and would follow up. Open mics, taking classes, and talking to people along the way. Everyone's good to know, I think. Talking to people has been important for me, and listening is the best way to get better. Seeing a show and talking about it after, talking about your work or material with someone.
AJ: Yeah, I would agree with Ilana. She is much more in the stand up scene as well, so I can't really speak to that. For me, I feel like I started here taking classes, and meeting people that way. I was a part of a bunch of improv groups, and your circle begins to widen. I think you meet new people and start to potentially collaborate on projects or shows or bits, and slowly the networks begins to get bigger. I think at a certain point it's about really creating material for yourself that will be the factor to make a name for yourself -- at least in my experience.


One obvious way that you've endeared yourself to the community is that a lot of Broad City episodes revolve around a guest star, most of whom are fellow improvisers and stand up comedians in the scene.
AJ:
Yeah I think we pick our guests based on other stuff we've seen them do -- or know them to be good at. We have a huge pool of people we know in the community and it sucks sometimes because I'd love to be able to put so many people in these episodes, but most of the time there's only one main guest.
IG: We usually write specifically for someone because even when we think, first, of a specific type to cast, it's impossible not to immediately choose the actor when so many talented people are at our fingertips. Depending on the cameo, we'll write a part simply for the purposes of conveying information and have them fill in the blanks. Like in "Date Night," Jon Friedman goes on and on about the sunflower. I think he just improvised that because we had thought of Jon long ago because he was so funny at being himself. Same with Hannibal -- we wrote that scene with the information that would be needed to be conveyed, and maybe we wrote ideas we thought would be funny?  But obviously the funniest most in-character stuff he could do would be from his brain, so he improvised a bunch of different takes.

A recent Wall Street Journal article referred to Broad City as being "sneak attack feminism."  What are thoughts on this characterization of what you guys are doing?
IG:
I think it's damn true. Abbi said to Megan, the woman who wrote the article, that we're trying to do this sneak attack, just build a body of work, and then when you hit it on something, people go back and say, "Holy shit, you've been doing this for a WHILE!" I second and third that. I liken it to the Mixtape Model in hip-hop, that these seasons have been our passion project mixtapes and that we graduate to more traditional forms of distribution the way rappers graduate to albums. I want our biggest fans (aka "favorite people") to be proud that they were with us from the start.
AJ: Yeah, I think it's about the show and the message you might get from it. We've been putting these out for a little over a year, and it's starting to build into a nice chunk of work for us, and I think/hope for someone just stumbling upon it that they're like -- wait, you have all of these?  As for the message, you might watch one, and think it's funny, but if you watch all of them, I think it says something a bit more, and does sort of hit you with a SNEAK ATTACK, in that we're not being these stereotypical women, and I think you get something out of it on that level.

You've mentioned feminism and not doing stereotypical women stuff in Broad City, which I guess opens the door for a sort of obvious Sex and the City comparison.
AJ: Yeah, I mean, I think we're a self-proclaimed modern Sex and the City. We can't not compare our show to that show because it does deal with so many of the same issues that people and women deal with living in New York City and just living their lives.
IG: There's just not enough female-centered stories or TV shows or movies where women aren't just like "drops to knees, mouth opens" so there's only so many things we can be compared to. It's cool, though, and I'm happy to be compared to something so successful.
AJ: I'm a big fan of that show, and think despite it's ridiculous wealth of it's characters, it was one of the first shows to really show real women's issues and points of view.

What were your guys' thoughts when you heard the ECNY nominations?
IG: So stoked. We're the only series, really, which is strange. The other nominees are viral one-offs. Our views are meager compared to our candidates, to be honest. I don't know what will happen, but it really is nice to be recognized.
AJ: Yeah, it's really exciting to be nominated! It's really awesome to know that people in the community thought of us. We know everyone that we're in the category with, and it's really amazing to be along side all of them!

  • Broad City can be seen here. Abbi Jacobson can be seen in her one-woman show, "Welcome To Camp," happening MARCH 3 & 24 @ 8PM at The UCBT-NY. And don't miss Ilana Glazer performing at "The Apiary Presents..." happening THURS, MARCH 10 @ 8PM at The PIT.


-- Lucas Hazlett is a comedy geek who improvises with anyone he can. He can be seen performing every Wednesday at The Peoples Improv Theater with house team Stranger.

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