Abbi and Ilana are two young Jewish women.
They’re best friends, living in New York City and going on wacky adventures. One day, they might take up a sketchy Craigslist ad to make quick cash. Another, they may run into trouble on a free “Birthmark” trip to Israel.
That’s the premise of “Broad City,” a Comedy Central series that finished its last season earlier this year. And the two women at the heart of it are Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, its stars and creators.
Jacobson, who grew up in Wayne (one episode has the two women visit the Philadelphia suburb), was in town for the B. Phl Innovation Fest, which aims to bolster Philadelphia’s reputation as an innovative city. Speaking to a sold-out audience on Oct. 15, Jacobson talked about what she’s working on now and the show that launched her career.
“The character that she plays in the show has these high lofty goals, well made out plans, and she can never complete them,” said Andrea Helfrich, Philadelphia Flyers in-arena host and digital content producer, who interviewed Jacobson. “But if you think that art imitates reality, think again.”
No one could describe Jacobson as not accomplishing her goals. Besides her work on “Broad City,” she is the author of The New York Times bestseller “I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff,” as well as the creator of two coloring books., “Color This Book: New York City” and “Color This Book: San Francisco.” She is also the illustrator of “Carry This Book.” Jacobson is now working to produce an Amazon series, “A League of Their Own,” a modern take on the 1992 film.
After taking a moment to reminisce about Wawa, Jacobson and Helfrich talked about how “Broad City” got its start.
Jacobson met Glazer at an Upright Citizens Brigade improv class. Both were struggling to get the jobs they wanted, so they decided to start a web series, Jacobson said.
They called it “Broad City.”
Though each episode is much shorter, the web series had a similar style of humor as the television show, with a focus on the two women’s back-and-forth conversation and their day-to-day dealings with life in the Big Apple. (Many of the web episodes are no longer online, Jacobson said, because they used copyrighted music and would have been sued.)
They thought the web series might lead them to jobs as writers, but Comedy Central wound up buying the show. Jacobson and Glazer were now writing, starring in and editing their own television series.
“Both of us, when we started, the intention was funny first,” Jacobson said. “The things we find about ourselves and our friendship, what we find hilarious, let’s heighten it, always. Let’s amplify how you feel about interactions with the city, with yourself and push it further for the comedy. That has always been there, but the further we went along, the more we wanted the characters to grow and reflect things that we were going through and comment on stuff we thought was important or bulls— or frustrating.”
Between the web series and the Comedy Central series, the women spent about a decade working on “Broad City.” So they were glad they were able to end it on their own terms with an episode airing in March.
After years of the characters having fun in New York City, they grow up and move on to the next stages of their lives. Jacobson’s character moves to Boulder, Colorado, to pursue an artist’s residency program. Glazer’s character goes to graduate school to become a therapist. The finale has the two friends saying goodbye to each other, but it was also a meta experience, Jacobson said. It served as a send-off for the show and the cast and crews’ time together.
“Would you ever bring it back?” Helfrich asked.
“We, like, just ended, so,” Jacobson said, trailing off, to audience laughter.
“Is it too soon?” Helfrich said.
“We have a joke about us being old, doing it, which would be so fun,” Jacobson said. “The team and acting with Ilana, that’s the thing I’m going to miss the most. I still have Ilana. We still hang out all the time. We work together, but acting with her, it’s so easy, and those characters are so fun, but we need to step away from it. That’s the reason we ended it.”
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