The Messy, Dirty Women Behind “Broad City”

Comedians Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer think it’s important for women to be seen as messy and dirty and complex right now. That’s just how they portray themselves on “Broad City,” the show they write, produce and star in, which started its third season on Feb. 17.

On Monday, Feb. 22, the duo traveled from their home in New York City to the University of Washington for a casual conversation moderated by The Stranger’s arts editor, Sean Nelson. Though the venue was not ideal—the room that was “wider than it [was] long,” as Jacobson noted—and many of Nelson’s questions were boring or overly complicated, fans of the show were too excited to care.
The characters Jacobson and Glazer play in “Broad City” share their first names and are essentially exaggerated versions of their real life selves. As a fan, it was a delight to see these two women and their very real friendship in person. It felt like the characters themselves were answering the audience’s questions, reminiscing about their plane ride to Seattle and laughing about the behind-the-scenes hilarity of their newest season.


Sally Underwood  • The Spectator
Sally Underwood • The Spectator

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson of Broad City


In its first episode “Two Chainz,” the third season gets right into the dirtiness and messiness Jacobson and Glazer love to embody onscreen. The opening sequence shows Abbi and Ilana in separate frames in their respective bathrooms, doing everything you (or at least they) do in a bathroom: sitting on the toilet, dancing, bathing, dealing with all kinds of hair, having sex and
smoking weed.

In the interview on Monday, Glazer said that, like all the others, this season took about 10 months to make. So far, she said it was the hardest to write, but also the most fun to shoot.
“We sort of unclenched our buttholes,” said Glazer about the shooting process. She would go on to say that she often laughed so hard she cried during the editing process. “It’s so stupid in its essence and so dumb and so delicious.”

At the same time, Jacobson and Glazer often incorporate serious conversations about social issues into their show. The underlying feminist commentary is an obvious one, but they also address racism, homelessness, gender and sexuality.

Ilana begins the newest episode by losing the key to the bike chain she’s locked around her waist. She dramatically states, however, that it’s a small price to pay compared to the Saudi women she just read about in an article who are “metaphysically chained” to their husbands. Later, when Ilana is caught by a police officer for peeing in the street, she says, “Cops scare the shit out of me, and I’m white!” These displays of social awareness are certainly meant to be ironic and self-aware, as it’s clear that the characters themselves are highly privileged and mostly concerned with their own daily trials.

Jacobson and Glazer said that they are always extra careful about parts of the script that deal with more serious topics, but they appreciate that comedy is becoming a safe platform for such conversations to take place.

Glazer described a tendency she sees in mainstream U.S. society to “go to work and get drunk after,” she said. “We want to care, but we’re lazy.”

“Broad City” portrays this complex behavior truthfully, criticizing the laziness while laughing at the absurdity.

A moment of political tension occurred outside the show on Monday night when an audience member asked why the pair included a cameo from Hillary Clinton in their latest season, a decision which drew criticism from many fans who saw it as an endorsement of the candidate.

Jacobson and Glazer explained that it happened because they had come up with a joke that revolved around Clinton. The episode would have been fine without a personal appearance, but they were honored and excited to have “that level of an icon” on their show and they said it was an inspiring experience to be around such a powerful woman.

In general, however, Jacobson and Glazer each play the inspiring, powerful woman role. These two women and their mutual love for one another drive the plot of their show. Despite Ilana’s undefined relationship with Lincoln, played by Hannibal Buress, and Abbi’s own string of lovers, the show revolves around their rock-solid friendship. As in previous seasons, “Two Chainz” carries a few references that their friendship may be developing into something more—or at least that’s what Ilana wants. It’s clear that the “Broad City” women will have many more adventures, sexual or otherwise, both in their actual lives and in the upcoming season.

Madeline may be reached at mcorbin@su-spectator.com

The Spectator editorial board consists of Jenna Ramsey, Tess Riski, Christopher Salsbury, Nick Turner, Bill Goldstein, Shelby Barnes, Cameron Peters, and Mandy Rusch. Signed commentaries reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of the Spectator. The views expressed in these editorials are not necessarily the views of Seattle University.


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