Staying Busy with ‘Broad City’s Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson
by Megh Wright
It's been a little over a year since Broad City premiered on Comedy Central, and since then stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson have been working nonstop. A lot has happened in the past year including a live tour and production on their second 10-episode season, and with with a season 3 already in the works, at least we have one Comedy Central gem that has no intention of going away anytime soon. I recently spoke with Glazer and Jacobson about what they learned from making season 1, how their show came to such a deft balance of New York City reality and absurdity, and their thoughts on Broad City's overwhelmingly positive critical reception.
It's been almost a year since we last interviewed you guys. Between debuting the show then getting right to work on season 2, how've you been since then?
Abbi: It's been really crazy. I mean, it's sort of been nonstop for us. Sometimes we talk about how we need to process what's going on more, because we were still editing the first season when we got picked up again, and then I think we had a day between editing and writing the second season, so it was really nuts. And we have a little bit of time right now in between the second and third season, but yeah, it's just been so overwhelming. What an amazing reaction from people who watched the first season and then now the second season — it's just constantly surprising.
Ilana: We didn't know what was coming regarding the reaction of the show. That was incredible, and that informed creating the second season whereas we didn't have that before. We had one season of experience that we didn't have last year, and it made a huge difference, but like Abbi's saying, it's still not really processable necessarily. It was easier this time, but there was also certainty. We just knew what it looked like to make — Amy [Poehler] calls it "show mountain" — we knew what climbing show mountain looked and felt like.
What were the biggest things you learned making the first season?
Abbi: I feel like the whole writing process was a lot easier the second season in terms of us knowing what we need to do to write a show, how fast the process is, and also in terms of pairing directors with certain episodes to emphasize their skill sets. Same with writers. I feel like there's so many lessons to be learned from season 1 just because it was so new for us. We had never done anything like this before. The whole production was like going to college for TV and production — very quick college.
Ilana: We talk about it as the three acts of production — writing, shooting, editing — and there's all of these lessons each step of the way. This year, I really think we had more fun shooting than we did in the first year because we knew our crew and they're such a huge part of the show, and it's almost like camp where you see them every summer and it's so nice to see everybody again. So I think on the shooting end it was just more fun this year and we were able to enjoy it more, which was such a hard lesson in general…I think it's the main one in life.
You both mentioned earlier how you've been overwhelmed by the positive response to the show. Obviously it's not the first show to follow women living in New York City, but there's definitely something special about it, and it seems like most fans have been there since it premiered. Why do you think it's struck such a chord with people?
Abbi: I don't know…we have so much fun making this thing and we love it so much and put so much care and thought into it, and I hope that that comes out in the product. I think on one hand it's really relatable and on the other hand it's really absurd and bizarre and surreal.
It also feels very honest. There's no sense of bullshitting the audience in Broad City, at least for me.
Ilana: That's just so true and I couldn't have thought of that. It really does have to come from other people because that's just so true, that's such a good point. I don't think we've ever articulated that so I'm so glad that's conveyed, because that is how we feel about our audience — they're smart and cool and probably cooler than we are. [laughs]
Also honesty-related: I really love the set design on Broad City — who does the sets? It's one of those things I take for granted a lot, but your apartments in the show are just so realistic instead of overly designed or clean or too huge for NYC.
Ilana: Yeah — we have such cool, smart, funny people working on the show. Angelique Clark is sort of our art director, John Cox designs our sets, Tim Linden is the head of our props department, and our crew will make jokes on set that will show up in the episode. Like in the college dorm room in the first episode this season, there was this flyer for a party on the wall and there are jokes all over it. They actually have fun coming up with all these jokes. And it was easier this year because there was a show to base it on, you know? But these people helped us create that feel in the first season. And we've always delighted in reality being more absurd than fiction. It's like too true — the smallness of the apartments, Bevers the gross roommate — it's too true and almost funnier than making it up out of nowhere. But yeah, the people who work on our sets — like Staci Greenbaum is our wardrobe supervisor, and she always makes a ton of jokes through her art, through costuming. And people are seeing that — I'm seeing in the reviews more that people are really noticing the work of our crew. Like our music supervisor — there's jokes in the music all the time. We're so lucky that everybody really has their comedy caps on. We really do have an incredible team in each act of making the show. It's just as overwhelming as good reviews or hearing good things about the show from strangers.
I want to ask you both something I asked your writers Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs a few weeks back: How do you find the balance between accurately showing what something in NYC is like versus getting across how it feels? The subway ride did a particularly great job at both sides of that — you need to capture the moment in a literal, realistic way, but you also want to convey how that experience can feel like, which sometimes can be exaggerated or a little more absurd.
Abbi: I love that you brought that up, because it's kind of exactly what it is. I mean, I ride the subway every day, it's obviously not like that 99.5% of the time, but if you've lived in New York long enough you've experienced enough of those things where it's just so fun to heighten and to just get to play with the way that certain situations make you feel when you're in them.
Ilana: And it's also like okay, the subway isn't like that first subway car, but you have one of those things every time — there's always one fucking weird thing. So it's more like condensed reality — it's not heightened realism really, it's condensed. So one of those experiences might happen, but we put all of our all of our worth of experiences on that first train car.
Abbi: On the whole train.
Broad City continues its second season tonight at 10:30pm on Comedy Central.
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