Talking ‘Broad City’ with Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer
It’s been almost a year since we last spoke with UCB alums Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson about their hit web series Broad City getting picked up by Comedy Central and executive produced by Amy Poehler. Since then, Glazer and Jacobson have completed the first season of what’s sure to be Comedy Central’s next big show thanks to the duo’s onscreen chemistry, comedic rhythm, and honesty in their day-in-the-life portrayal of two young New York ladies whose only solace from crappy low-paying day jobs, unhinged sexual partners, and moochy roommates’ boyfriends is each other. Ahead of tomorrow’s 10:30PM premiere, we had a brief chat with Glazer and Jacobson about adapting a web series for television, what Amy Poehler’s like as a producer, and their current recommendations for funny up-and-coming web series.
What’s the biggest difference in how you approached Broad City the show vs. Broad City the web series?
Ilana: Going to TV meant including a lot of other people, and we had to really cull not only the people who were part of our world, but what part of them were most Broad City — to get the most Broad City type stories for writers or the most Broad City-like editing or performance from an actor. It became this thing of Abbi and I meeting in the middle designing the Broad City voices, channeling the Broad inside of all these other people who came on to the project.
How did you balance the quicker comedy from the web series to the larger structure of the TV series format?
Abbi: I think the way we tried to approach that was that obviously the comedy is the most important part, but it also comes through in the realness and groundedness of the show. So we’re trying to use situations from things that have happened to us or friends of ours, and so you focus on that feeling or that situation and then the comedy comes from that.
Ilana: Also it’s like the three acts of producing this show — writing, shooting, editing — it calls for a different kind of funny. In writing you want to be funny in the office and inspired in the writer’s room, and you want to carry that over into your performance. Editing is more like this mental puzzle — it’s more about adaptivity. And with Abbi and I having each other, it’s kind of like the burden is split in half. It’s so inherently collaborative because it’s two people as creators or protagonists, and I think that’s something that lightens things and lifts the mood.
How much did Amy Poehler guide you along the way as a producer?
Abbi: Amy was on every notes call for all the scripts, she directed the finale episode and gives feedback on every episode, whether it’s in the writing period or editing period.
Ilana: She also from the very beginning has provided this core vision of the show in the sense of the TV show as a project, and she came on to it when it was still a web series. The brand, the image, the message — she’s always brought in this big-picture influence that really challenges us to grow into our perspectives in that way. And we’re so up inside of this thing, it’s helpful to see somebody be a step back and see it in her hands.
What writers did you bring on for the Comedy Central series?
Abbi: We had four other writers — one of those writers is a two-person team, Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello, and then we also had Chris Kelly, Tami Sagher, and then more recently Eric Slovin has come aboard. Paul W. Downs plays Trey, Abbi’s boss at Solstice, and Lucia directed four episodes including the pilot.
I loved Fred Armisen’s appearance in the pilot. Who else shows up this season?
Abbi: Amy [Poehler] is in an episode, and Amy Sedaris is in an episode which was absolutely amazing. Jason Mantzoukas, Matt Jones, Seth Morris from Funny Or Die, Janeane Garofalo, Michelle Hurst from Orange Is the New Black, and Rachel Dratch. And we have a lot of recurring roles like Hannibal Burress, John Gemberling who is unbelievably talented, Arturo Castro, Paul Downs, Chris Gethard, and Peter Schneider.
On top of having some bigger comedy names, was bringing in more up-and-coming talent important to you?
Abbi: That was a huge priority for us. I’m happy that you brought that up because we’re sitting in the editing room, and we’re editing a scene right now with this guy Jonathan Marballi from UCB and Shannon O’Neill — there’s a lot of people from the New York comedy community, which is very exciting for us.
What are some web series that you recommend?
Abbi: One’s actually from one of our friends at the UCB, this guy Don Fanelli, he’s done at least two of these videos where he’s auditioning for stuff, and you know how you can distort and mess with your face on Photo Booth? These videos are so funny. He made a mock SNL audition tape and did characters and it’s so good. I really like his stuff right now. He has another web series with Laura Willcox called “Trying.”
Ilana: One is my brother, who is also a comedian, he’s been making this series called Haunting Renditions, and he sings covers of these songs that are so good it’s creepy, like douchechilling. It’s really good and directed by TJ Misny who we worked with and is a straight-up visionary. Also anything that Dan Klein, Kelly Hudson, and Arthur Meyers put out I’m a huge fan of. What else… Teen Wheels, Rejected Pitches…also, Dan Klein did another series called Fruit Reviews that is so awesome and cute. Another one is The Pursuit of Sexiness created by and starring Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata — they just did a good job, it’s packaged well and they feature so many awesome talented people from our community, so it’s exciting.
Comedy Central has been adding a lot of awesome talent lately, and there seems to be a bigger push toward sketch comedy than ever with shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Kroll Show. How’s it feel to be part of that?
Ilana: Comedy Central has been killing it in the past couple of years. They really are one of the best — my favorite example for cable being nuanced, intricate, and fucking amazing. I mean their curation has been amazing, and each show has such well-rounded content within it. I think a lot of networks might not do well because they don’t take enough risks with shows. I feel right now especially that Comedy Central is taking a lot of risks, and that’s paying off.
Broad City premieres tomorrow at 10:00PM on Comedy Central.