Depending on when you ask them, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are either writers, actors, or producers. But regardless of the point in the process of creating “Broad City” at which you catch them, one thing remains constant: They’re the girls you want to have as your new best friends.
Produced by Amy Poehler, the hit Comedy Central show “Broad City” follows Jacobson and Glazer as Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler, respectively, navigating their 20s in a New York City that isn’t lacking in absurdities. Jacobson says it’s about “that time when you’re really, really trying to figure shit out—particularly figure shit out in New York.”
Glazer says what audiences see on the show is a “sketch version of the truth.” And if that’s the case, these two have led some crazy lives, involving, in some minor variation, attending a one-night stand’s improv show only to find out he’s not funny, and powering through a fatal seafood allergy just to get the most out of a free fancy dinner.
“There’s so much of me in Abbi Abrams,” says Jacobson, “but Ilana and I are much more similar in real life, and we heighten the differences in ourselves [for the show]. So, Ilana is much wilder on the show than I think she is in real life, but there’s a piece of her that we heighten. And at the same time, I think I tend to play up this more conservative, prudish, insecure piece of myself because it’s fun.”
Despite coming from the New York comedy scene, having taken classes at UCB, and starring on their own show, neither Jacobson nor Glazer considers herself an actor. “When somebody asks what I do, I guess I say ‘writer’ first,” says Glazer. “The thing about the performance part…starting with improv and standup, you’re starting with yourself as the character, and I don’t feel as much like, Oh, I’m a vessel for—I feel like someone who calls themselves an actor is a vessel.”
Jacobson adds, “I think I say ‘writer’ too, because I still have this weird insecurity saying ‘actor.’ ”
But whatever insecurities and reservations these two have about calling themselves actors are left behind during filming. The process of shooting “Broad City” is as hectic and rushed behind the camera as the story is in front of it.
“I think, weirdly, when we’re on set we get in this mode of ‘We have to keep it going,’ ” says Jacobson. “We write our episodes very ambitiously in terms of location and time, and so when we actually get to shooting we’re, like, ‘Ooooh God, we’ve got five minutes to do this. Let’s do this.’ ”
“But what’s fun is that the characters in ‘Broad City’ are rushing and hustling, and our process reflects that,” adds Glazer.
Whatever ridiculousness Abbi and Ilana get into, there’s plenty to learn from both the characters and their creators. Jacobson says it’s important to put yourself out there. “It’s just about trying and creating and putting stuff out in whatever form or medium that you do, and not being precious with it. And in that you’ll find your voice.”
Or, as Abbi said in the second episode, “Did Amelia Earhart wait to be asked to fly around the world? Definitely not. She asked…and then they said no, but she still did it.”
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