Photo: ‘Broad City’/CBS Television Distribution
Grab your joint, a spoon, some Ben and Jerry’s, and prepare to binge in your pajamas because Illana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson (most popularized for their infamous sitcom Broad City) have plummeted the threshold of female-led comedy, reshaping the way the world sees women. This hilarious collaborative duo had an interesting start, both studied at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational and sketch comedy collective) at the same time, but were not in the same classes together. After auditioning to be part of the house team, and neither of them making it, they joined a team called ‘The Secret Promise Circle’.
From there they went on to create their own web-series and because of its original and authentic portrayal of twenty-somethings struggling in New York City, viewers held the comedic quality in high regard. The comic community in New York was supportive and responded positively, so they kept creating. Starring in the last episode of their web series was Amy Poehler, (also one of the founding members of UCB) who went on to become executive producer of their television show. Soon it went on to air on Comedy Central, also starring the hilariously renowned Hannibal Buress, and featuring stars like Seth Rogen.
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The basis of Broad City is essentially a dramatization of their own freakishly fabulous friendship, equipped with all their odd-ball eccentricities. In films like Dude Where’s My Car, Bill and Ted, Kenan and Kel, and Wayne’s World, these buddy couplets highlight the comical gold of ditzy duets in all their rambunctiousness. It’s nice to see some genuinely unmanicured female-centric characters with their own flare of goof. Even in all their absurdly silly shenanigans, Illana and Abbi don’t hesitate to sneak in progressive commentary and intellectual tirades amidst the messiness of their rash undertakings. They possess the magic of taking an otherwise mundane activity (like selling their clothes for some extra rent money) and turning it into a hilarious hazard, one way or another.
One of the things that makes their brand so special is that they were able to really see their voices through despite all the denial and rejection they received on their journeys as female comedic artists. Originally it was pitched to FX, but was renounced due it being “too girly”. It shows they had the tenacity to persevere and believe in the niche of their craft, and it certainly paid off, receiving critical acclaim from fans and critics alike.
At the time, it wasn’t often you see two women getting “blazed”, taking psychedelics, making mistakes, talking about sex, and calling each other “dude”. Not to imply that these were shallow impositions on their part, in fact, it occurred to me as quite the contrary- it was refreshingly empowering. The female stoner tropes too frequently missed the mark, but Illana and Abbi were hilariously spot- on, you could tell that their voices were carved from the bones of their experiences. Their boldly unbending voices were uncompromising, exploring the nuanced tidbits of the modern female brain, unstained by the mold-fitting mainstream. From hilariously awkward sex scenes to some cringingly clumsy mishaps, their portrayal of the imperfect is amenable. Even if havoc wreaks from the day’s conflicts, the bond between these two broads somehow makes every absurdly horrific disaster seem redeemable through their rock-solid relationship.
Commenting on pop-culture, racism, sexism, rape-culture, politics, and women’s rights (they cover it all) both blatantly and stylistically- these two are unapologetic writers with powerful punctuation and prowess. The bareness of their voices blare through the loudspeakers of your brain with sass and new-age class. They are experts at putting their egos on the back-burner for their art. Don’t let their ridiculousness fool you, they are exceptionally intelligent and motivated beasts, echoing the hoots and hollers of modern women who needed to be heard. It’s where I finally got the courage to start saying “Yaas Queen”, unironically.
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Illana routinely remarks on her sexuality in their sitcom, liquidizing the barriers of gender constructs by exemplifying her sexual fluidity. It seemed to breach new territories, publicly permitting people to embrace themselves in all their dimensional complexities, embodying all natures of the masculine and feminine identities. The series also explores polyamory, a concept (even in this “progressive” epoch) that most find difficult to digest- or at least practice. It takes courage to explore these cultural catacombs, unbarring the fear of criticism and taking a dive into what would be uncomfortable territories for some (if not many).
Their “Post Broad City” Careers
After airing for five seasons and ending on March 28, 2019, the gals went on to broaden their artistic horizons and branch out into other artistic factions. Abbi created her own solo show, Welcome to Camp, and appeared in films such as Person to Person with Michael Cera, and The Lego Ninjango Movie. She has hosted podcasts, voiced characters on popular animated shows (Bojack Horseman and Disenchantment), and appeared on an episode of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. In addition to her cinematic achievements, Abbi has also published and illustrated books of her own, one of which comically includes the details of all the items she imagined that might be kept in various bags belonging to celebrities. ( What kind of genius is this creature?) Her most recent, I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities and Other Stuff, bravely explored the experiences of her road trip and reflections of love, her struggle with identity, and anxiety.
Illana, an avid social change activist, has toured cities to rile up citizens to vote, using her voice to spread inspiration and educate the masses. She is a relentless advocate for social justice and breathes it into everything she does both in her art and outside of her art. Also expanding into film, you can catch her starring alongside Scarlet Johansson in Rough Night. She was also featured in the indie feature How to Follow Strangers. She too went on to voice some episodes of Bojack Horseman and appeared as Ms. Noodle in Sesame Street. Having done stand up for several years, she debuted her stand up special in January 2020, The Planet is Burning. It is everything you would expect from Ilana Glazer: witty- courageous-empowering-vaginal- and obviously hysterical. These two are an evolutionary gift to the world.
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Melissa McGrath is a writer for Hollywood Insider, offering rich and engaging content for reviews and features. Melissa feels at home with Hollywood Insider’s lively team who share an equal passion for the art of cinema. Having sought out compelling stories her whole life, she is eager to examine and share her observations with others interested in thought-provoking material. She believes in changing the world through meaningful dialogue and hopes to provide helpful insight with her work. She values open discussions concerning morality, culture, personal development, and holds a soft spot for cathartic humor. Through the art of storytelling, journalism, and cinema, Melissa seeks to help build a strong community of free-thinkers and cultivate a deeper understanding of the human experience.