If you’ve ever felt that twentysomething struggle, at some point, Broad City will feel a little too real. Sure, you’ve probably never cleaned the apartment of an adult baby in your underwear to get cash for a Lil’ Wayne show, but you’ve definitely had a run in with an ex that is so awkward that you want to disappear into a hole or had to work a job that kills your will to live. The world of Broad City is a heightened one, but it comes from a genuine place.
While it started out as a web series about two stoners in New York City, Broad City has since grown into a generation-defining, and progressive, comedy. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the stars, creators, and eventual showrunners of Comedy Central’s cult hit have created a pair of hilarious and failure-prone kweens with Abbi and Ilana, who are honestly just trying to get high, be heard, and make rent. Jacobson and Glazer have since expanded to other television projects, films, podcasts, and comedy tours, but Broad City is still the beating heart of this friendship and creative partnership.
With the return of Broad City for a fourth season, we spoke with Jacobson and Glazer about what to expect from the floundering twosome and whether or not they’re on the verge of growing up.
One of the first things that I noticed about the new episode was the seasonal shift. I’d previously associated Broad City with summer, so it was really interesting to see a sort of different side of New York living. Why did you guys do that change?
Abbi Jacobson: We felt like we had thoroughly examined what it was like to live in the summer in New York, and just always had thought, you know, oh, if we’re a show that is based in New York, we have to do at least one season that’s not in the summer, so it was exciting to us to get to explore the winter and what it’s like to live there in a different season. We thought that that would present us with a whole new set of situations and obstacles and feelings and it did. It’s exciting to see a different tone. I mean, it’s the same tone, but it’s a little bit altered.
Plus, it’s amazing to see Ilana adapt her outfits for winter weather.
Ilana Glazer: It’s true, it’s so funny.
Jacobson: Global warming made it easier for her to adapt her clothing, unfortunately.
Glazer: You know, New York is such a different city in the winter. There’s like such different vibes in each season, but we did find that there’s barely a winter anymore and that we were acting colder than we expected to. There was like one storm. You know, it’s not like it just makes things hotter, it just makes the ups and downs more drastic. There was this one storm that, it gave us a snow day, and then it was melted by the next day. It was a crazy lens through which to see global warming. I had never seen it like that before. It was creepy.
It also seemed like Abbi and Ilana were very slowly sort of crawling their way to a slightly more responsible adulthood. Like, Abbi is working at the corporate firm, and Ilana is making actual money as a waitress. I think that kind of compromise will really resonate with a lot of people, because all had that moment where you kind of had to grow up and take the job with health insurance, right?
Jacobson: You know, I think over the course of writing this season, Ilana and I really realized, like, this show can’t be one of those shows where these characters are just in the same place forever. We’re getting older and the characters are based on us, and now Abbi is 28, Ilana’s 26, they’re getting into their late 20’s and things just inevitably have to shift a little bit. They don’t shift all the way, or whatever, but we have to show how the characters are changing and reflect that in the storylines and in their struggles. Whether it is a mundane task at hand, you know, they’re just in a different place, and we haven’t been on the air for 17 months. That’s a lot of time when you’re in your twenties. We’ve been talking, you know, in interviews, just to reiterate that this show has existed over those 17 months. The world of Broad City has continued and we’re picking up not where we left off, we’re picking up now. Time has passed, and they are in a little bit of a different place.
Towards the end of last season, there was a really real emotional moment between Abbi and Ilana about their friendship after Ilana and Lincoln broke up and she found out that Abbi was dating Trey and not telling Ilana about it, how do you approach doing a scene like that where it’s a different side but still an honest look at the characters, than say, a scene where you go to Whole Foods high with Bingo Bronson?
Glazer: You know, it’s been exciting as the seasons have gone by to expand the emotional range of the show. It’s kind of, first we were tackling, I think in the first season just having a show and making a comedy show. Then as we introduced more emotional elements, I think it became equally as important to have both, that to show ourselves and to give ourselves the chance to have some emotional depth, but then it’s really important to have that silliness and the hard comedy, and you know, mostly hard comedy because it is a comedy show. It’s just exciting to us to have a well-rounded piece of art, you know? Something that can speak to all different sides of our viewer and our viewer’s heart.
And also, just as we grow, as the characters grow and their friendship gets deeper, it’s exciting for us to explore new sides of their relationship, because their relationship really isn’t our relationship in real life. There’s a whole making this show element added, and a business element added to our friendship that you can’t see in the show, so I think in the same way that they incrementally grow as individuals their relationship incrementally grows. We have an episode coming up where we explore conflict between them, and that just gave us such a jolt, such a new feeling in writing that episode, because it was exciting for us, you know, and it motivates us too, to write, since writing is hard and frustrating.
I bet that was really an interesting thing to examine, because Abbi will, you know, be taken aback by something that Ilana does or Ilana will think that Abbi needs to loosen up, but I feel like it hasn’t really created that many serious conflicts yet.
Glazer: It has been. It’s not even that serious.
Right, serious in Broad City terms.
Glazer: Yeah. I mean, because their friendship is so strong, it’s still, even in this season, it’s not even that serious, but it’s sort of parallel to how we are. I remember getting into writing it and there was this like, other kind of giddiness about it, you know? I think it was just helping us write that episode. It was something new for us to jump on there.
Jacobson: We’re writing about how the friendship reacts to situations, but we’re not usually writing about the friendship.
Glazer: I just remembered when we shot that scene, that conflict scene, we were laughing so hard, it felt so weird to have this tension between us. It felt–
Jacobson: You’re talking about at the barbecue, right?
Glazer: Yeah. It felt crazy, this tension. She felt so, like, bad.
Jacobson: It’s also like the last scene.
Glazer: Yeah, Abbi felt so bad, it was so funny, it really felt like this new and pretty scary thing.
I read that you guys actually ended up having to rewrite a lot of the season after the election and it didn’t go the way that we hoped. What was your mindset for doing Broad City in a Trump presidency?
Jacobson: You know, I’m just going to clarify that a little, because we didn’t have to. It wasn’t like the season was in any way about Hillary winning. It actually wasn’t political at all before, and sort of after the election, we needed to rewrite for the story anyway. The writing period was pretty difficult this year and we went on a hiatus pretty abruptly and we would have had to rewrite, but you know, after the election we just felt so differently.
Glazer: I think it must be easier for people to write about us having to rewrite the season because we had written a season for Hillary, but it was really more about scheduling. We both had these movie projects, I had Rough Night and Abbi had this indie movie Six Balloons. We’ve never had a hiatus like that before, so we just had like weaker outlines to begin with and we kept planning for a longer rewrite period. We always rewrite the scripts before productions because we just cut scenes, and condense shit, and limit our locations, whatever. It becomes budget-driven. We kept being like, oh, we’ll figure it out later, we’ll figure it out later, so we knew we had a lot of work to come back to, I think if Hillary had won, we didn’t plan on celebrating that in the show. You know, maybe we would have rewritten that, but we just had a lot of feelings once the election happened.
Jacobson: But it wasn’t like we sat down and said, “Let’s infuse the political climate into the show.” It’s sort of happening. You saw the sixth episode, right, that’s one of the ones you saw?
Yeah, it was.
Jacobson: It was sort of like an organic way to write about it, if you know what I mean, with Ilana’s storyline in that episode. When we were breaking it, it just felt like it was a way that we can talk about this frustration in a personal storyline, and once we found that it felt like an interesting way to comment on the way that we were feeling, if that makes sense. It wasn’t something that we were like, “We’ve gotta change it now.” It was just that we couldn’t help talking about what was happening in the world, so inevitably it’s going to end up in the show.
You’ve said, Broad City is first and foremost a comedy show, so there are political elements, but they’re really subtle. More like everyday kind of political activism with the pins, the t-shirts, and the Planned Parenthood posters on Ilana’s wall. I’m sure that you guys feel some responsibility use your position to speak politically.
Jacobson: That was a thing that we sort of had a conversation with all our department heads on how we could, as you said, subtly infuse this. You know, the characters are really trying in this current state to be more woke and they’re trying to be better and they’re trying to be more involved and be more informed. Sometimes they fail at that, but we really wanted to show the small details with that and how they’re really attempting to involve themselves.
Glazer: Also, you’re totally right that like, it’s a comedy show. It definitely helps to approach this shit with this platform, you know? It’s not like we have a platform of like an essays column or something. I’m so grateful to have this platform because it’s the way that I know how to deal with shit. They’re both different, the circumstances pushed them to have different kinds of jokes, too, this year. Like, the Trump bleep thing is a different kind of joke than we’ve ever had before. Where it’s like, what world is this, you know what I mean?
They are being viewed by an audience. Like Ilana’s bed frame and shit, all those posters, just having that joke in the background, feeling the texture of these girls’ relationship and what they’re talking about. I think we realized in that rewrite period that we’ve always had these values and vaguely this progressive messaging, but it became necessary to articulate exactly what these messages are and scream our values.
I know that Broad City has been renewed for a 5th season, but can we expect anything beyond that? I know you guys are starting to get super busy with all sorts of other projects. As much as fans want Broad City to run forever, is there something to be said for sort of handling how long you guys run on your own terms?
Glazer: We have been talking about this ourselves. You’re making me verklempt thinking about it! Yeah, we’ve been talking about it ourselves. I think we’re kind of… we’re not sure. You know, it’s still this discussion and we have an idea about where the characters are headed, but when we get back into the writers’ room, I think we’ll see how much we want to stretch that path to get to where we know that they’re headed.