Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana: “The Best F-cking Interview”
Deputy editor Maureen Halushak says yaaasss queen to a most sumptuous dinner with Broad City stars Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson. Tuck into the story of these perfectly paired creators, just in time for season three
“This might be the best f-cking interview I’ve ever had in my life. I’m like, holy sh-t. We are giggling like someone is eating us out under the table. This is insanity. Insanity!”
It’s 7:30 p.m. on a rainy Tuesday night in November, and I’m ensconced in a semicircular banquette at The Modern, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The room, all plush royal blue carpet and uptight white tablecloths, looks like the type of place Matt Lauer might take an early dinner. But I’m here with quite possibly the least beige people on television: Broad City’s Ilana Glazer—to whom the above quote can be attributed—and Abbi Jacobson.
If you watch the show (season three debuts on Much Feb. 17), you’re already in on the joke. In Broad City, originally conceived in webisodes, 28-year-old Glazer and 32-year-old Jacobson play two lady balls-out BFFs barely scraping by in the Big Apple. Glazer’s character, Ilana Wexler, works at a Groupon-like deals website; Abbi Abrams, played by Jacobson, is a cleaner at a fancy gym.
Over the first two seasons, Abbi and Ilana attend a dog wedding, go home with two dudes who attempt to dupe them into a four-way and smoke Snoop levels of dope. On the season one finale, the girls end up at a Modern-esque restaurant to enjoy a seafood tasting menu for Abbi’s 26th birthday. (“My father figure has made a reservation…. I believe his payment card should be on file?” Abbi informs the maître d’ upon entry.) During the course of the meal, Ilana grows increasingly splotchy and swollen. She finally slurringly admits to a shellfish allergy but maintains, while sucking on a crab claw, that she knows how to “go up to the edge and then scale it back.” The scene ends with Abbi accidentally injecting herself with Ilana’s EpiPen and then, in the ensuing adrenaline rush, carrying Ilana An Officer and a Gentleman-style out of the restaurant.
No EpiPens are deployed during tonight’s dinner, but that doesn’t mean, to use an Ilana-ism, it isn’t a dang good time.
Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Hazelnut Sabayon
As we lean into the cushy booth, it’s obvious we’re not in Broad City anymore. That world, explains Jacobson, is all about hustle and grind and grime. “It’s a place where every little thing is a struggle,” she says, “but it’s full of hope and joy and fun, and that’s the motivation for everything.” And it’s a world, both maintain, that they still occasionally inhabit, despite starring in (and writing and running) a critically acclaimed show with serious guest-star power—Hillary Clinton appears in season three!—and having a script in the works for Fox, which they’re producing with Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.
The duo has been hustling for nearly a decade, since they met at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade, a comedy-training group and breeding ground for the funny-as-hell. (Amy Poehler is a co-founder; alumnae include Jenny Slate and Ellie Kemper.) At UCB—where neither had much luck getting cast on house improv teams—Glazer and Jacobson quickly realized they needed to make their own opportunities, renting space and hiring a coach (Bobby Moynihan, now a cast member on Saturday Night Live.) “I’m a firm believer in spending money on your ambition,” says Glazer. “Because you’re going to be like, I need to make this back in some way.”
They didn’t get anywhere with improv and eventually—while both were employed at the deals website that inspired Ilana’s gig on the show—began creating what would become two seasons’ worth of Broad City webisodes. During the second season, they landed Amy Poehler as a guest star. At this point, the duo decided to go for broke and pitch a television pilot. Jacobson had already quit her job, thanks to a mini windfall from an illustration job; Glazer followed suit.
“I swear to you, I knew, I f-cking knew [that Poehler was going to sign on to executive-produce the TV series],” Glazer says. She was right; the trio then met for a business lunch in fall 2011. “I was so nervous, and we sit down, and I was like, Oh, we’re just going to talk,” says Jacobson. “Then Amy pulls out a notebook and had all of these notes on every webisode.”
“Our two-minute webisodes,” says Glazer, still very obviously amazed.“And she said, ‘We’re gonna make you some money.’” Snap.
It’s a story that looms large in their shared history— so much so that recounting it causes both women to burst into tears. “This is very female, and I don’t give a shit. I am a woman, hear me roar,” says Glazer.
Suddenly, a server squad descends, dispensing bowls and small pitchers and various other soup accoutrements (souprements?). “Oh my gosh,” says Jacobson. “This soup is sensual.”
Adds Glazer: “It’s sensual as f-ck.”
Caviar with Poached Egg and Brioche
In stark contrast to their creators, Broad City Abbi and Ilana don’t have much hustle. Abbi aspires to be an instructor at the gym—and also earns some cash for an illustration she sells, unwittingly, to a whites-only dating site. Ilana spends most of her time at work not working, much to the agita of her pushover boss and prissy cube mate. In the third season, however, this could change. “I think the girls are starting to figure out that they have to figure it out,” says Glazer. “Ilana finally bucks up against reality this year in a way that’s so exciting.”
They shot season three last summer and wrote the movie script on Saturdays—a feat Glazer compares to the old Craig David jam that goes “Monday/Took her for a drink on Tuesday/We were making love by Wednesday/and on Thursday and Friday and Saturday….”
It’s an insane number of hours to spend together. “People ask us all the time if we fight, and I’m like, it’s not a reality show,” says Glazer. “What allowed us to rise out of web series saturation was our business mentality. We took it so seriously. I’m a businesswoman, not a cat fighter.” (Veteran comic Hannibal Buress, who plays Ilana’s dentist boo Lincoln and also appeared in the webisodes, agrees. “The web series was really efficiently run,” he says. “It was a small crew and they were working hard.” Buress’s sweet, side-splitting Broad City role has won him legions of crushing lady fans; Lincoln obsessives can catch him in his new Netflix special, Comedy Camisado, dropping Feb.5.)
“I just had my caviar,” interrupts Jacobson. “I didn’t think I could eat it, but this is, like, amazing.”
“You know how you drink white wine with fish? Is that what you’re supposed to do with caviar?” Glazer asks.
“I think you’re supposed to drink vodka with caviar.”
“That sounds cool. I like vodka that’s tasteless. That’s always the most impressive to me.”
“Like you’re drinking water?”
“That’s my goal. But it’s also a little scary.”
The Bread Service
One of the most revolutionary aspects of Broad City is the fact that Abbi and Ilana are #sorrynotsorry about their love of smoking Js and chasing D. (In contrast, remember how in Trainwreck, Amy Schumer’s character had to throw out her weed in order to win back Bill Hader’s straitlaced sports doc?)
Ilana sleeps with Lincoln on the reg but also goes after “pink dick” (a.k.a. white boys) whenever she pleases, and in season two makes out with her doppelgänger, played by Alia Shawkat. Abbi hooks up with a totes boring dude solely for sex, proceeds to get off with another as he passes out in her non-air conditoned apartment, and, in one highly memorable episode, pegs her neighbour crush.
“The way we’ve portrayed sex on the show was a conscious thing, in that it was just how we were living our lives,” says Jacobson. “Neither of us was seeking a relationship in our early 20s.” Glazer now has a long-term BF; Jacobson is single.
They credit Poehler for the show’s sex-positive stance. “She once said something really funny—that everyone under 30 is gay,” says Jacobson. “That idea has clearly driven the show,” Glazer adds. Aside from Ilana’s liaison with Shawkat, her lust for Abbi is a running gag. But Glazer maintains that her character would never label herself pan or bi: “The definition is so futile.” She loves writing sex scenes, she continues, because when you’re writing, you’re looking for an action, the key to a character’s personality. “Sex is the best. You know, ‘He keeps his shirt on.’ I know exactly who that person is.” With that, a wad of pretzel croissant shoots out of Glazer’s mouth and across the table. Several minutes of hysterical laughter ensue.
Cauliflower Roasted with Crab Butter
Broad City’s truest romance remains the friendship between Ilana and Abbi, which Jacobson likens to those in Sex and the City. “In that show, there would literally be a voice-over that said, ‘Maybe the real relationship is with us, and the men just come and go.’”
Glazer has a slightly different take: “But this was usually after the dudes failed. Whereas Ilana is like, Well, a guy would really take a lot of time away from Abbi.”
“I don’t think we seem like Abbi and Ilana, in a good way,” Jacobson continues. “They’re very much past versions of ourselves,” adds Glazer. (So much so that their characters’ wardrobe is largely composed of their own cast-offs.)
That said, it’s impossible not to conflate Glazer and Jacobson with their Broad City iterations. Ilana Wexler’s zany expressiveness is in top form throughout dinner, as is Abbi Abrams’ wry delivery. Very obviously, as well, IRL body issues made their way into the show, with Ilana making frequent references to her boobs and Abbi’s ass.
“I think we both have these bodies that, because you just see such thin people represented all the time, when you have any tits, any ass, it’s like va-va-voom,” says Glazer. “I am very sensitive about my boobs; I was literally nine when I got them, and for so many years, before I got to enjoy my body, it was for other people’s evaluation. To enjoy your body on a comedy level is a whole other level of pleasure. Boob humour: it’s like, this is not for you—it’s for me.”
Chestnut-Stuffed Chicken with Foie Gras Sauce
“Dang, here we go,” says Glazer as the night’s most substantial course—massive stuffed chicken breasts topped with foie gras gravy—towers before us.
“Oh my goodness,” says Jacobson. “Oh my god,” says Glazer. “I am giddy. This is hilariously delicious.”
Throughout our conversation, there’s this constant back and forth, catching and receiving, Glazer and Jacobson’s improv background and deep friendship at play. As business partners, they also have each other’s backs, although like anything, running their own show was a learning curve. “There are some people who don’t work with us anymore, and that’s been a really interesting part of the process,” says Jacobson.
“Being a boss is so hard; sometimes it’s like, I don’t want to f-cking smile right now,” says Glazer. “But it’s great to have a partner you can trust. Sometimes I see, oh, Abbi’s being the good cop. And it’s like, Gotcha, bitch.”
At the end of the course, Glazer wonders whether it’s gauche to take the rest of her chicken home; Jacobson asks our server to wrap up both of their leftovers in the same box.
A Selection of Cheeses
As this primo dining experience draws to a close, we have guffawed at our good fortune each time a new course came to the table, shot partially chewed croissant out of our maws and consumed roughly 7,000 calories each—and that was before the cheese cart swung by. The ladies mock-decree all future interviews shall be conducted at The Modern. “Yeah, Abbi and I only do interviews when we get eaten out under the table,” says Jacobson, calling back to Glazer’s earlier bit. Glazer, as always, runs with it—“We have two extra assistants for interviews”—but Jacobson shuts her down, careful not to make them sound like divas in front of a reporter, even in jest: “Don’t even say that.” She’s got her back.
Photography: Danielle Levitt.
Styling: Kemal & Karla, The Wall Group.
Hair: Peter Butler, Tracey Mattingly.
Makeup: Kim Bower, Charlotte Tilbury, Exclusive Artists.
Nails: Geraldine Holford, Dior Vernis, The Wall Group.
Art Director: Jed Tallo.
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