Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer
The hilarious, often gross and frankly weird saga of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer debuted in 2014, as a web series, with the two stars and co-creators playing heightened versions of themselves: Young women living in New York City, drifting from one small adventure to the next, often making mistakes (like Ilana’s occasional appropriation of black culture), rarely getting what they want, but always taking comfort in their friendship. Abbi, an aspiring artist and the more timid of the two, works as a cleaner at a gym called Soulstice; Ilana, the wild one, spends her days sleeping in the bathroom at her sales job, an online company called Deals Deals Deals.
The two struggling comedians would see their careers explode after Comedy Central turned it into an untraditional sitcom, thanks to comedian and executive producer Amy Poehler. Through it all, Jacobson and Glazer have remained the closest of collaborators. “We came with these essential parts to creating a partnership that moved each other forward,” Glazer tells Newsweek, which spoke to the girls—as they call themselves—and their many collaborators about the story of Broad City, as it draws to a close.
“Tune in to Comedy Central on March 28 and get ready for a cry fest,” says one of those collaborators, Lucia Aniello, her own voice quavering with emotion.
Jacobson was 23 and Glazer 19 when they met in New York City in 2007, the only female members of a small improv team, Secret Promise Circle. The two Jewish women from the suburbs of Philadelphia (Jacobson) and Long Island (Glazer) had an instant rapport. Each was taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade, the legendary improv theater founded in 1990 by Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh.
THE WEB SERIES
Broad City made its YouTube debut on February 15, 2010. In a grainy two-minute video, Glazer makes change with a homeless man asking for money on the street, to Jacobson’s dismay.
GLAZER: For the finale of the web series, we wanted to go big. We reached out to Amy Poehler. Our teacher at UCB, Will Hines, had been her former student, and he owed us favor, so we asked him to reach out. Amy had seen the web series and wanted to be in it. We freaked out. Abbi was out of Lifebooker at that point. She had gotten money for some drawings.
JACOBSON: It was like $5,000, and I was like, “Buh-bye!”
GLAZER: We later played on that with the $8,000 cold open with the Drake [song]. But it was more than five—that would have been stupid to quit on.
JACOBSON: OK, yeah, I sold three drawings for $5,000 each.
GLAZER: Then I also gave my notice, because Amy joined on the web series [for the finale], and I literally knew what that meant: We were going to sell the show.
Poehler’s appearance in the web series finale was, indeed, a game changer.
AMY POEHLER (executive producer): Abbi and Ilana were partners in all the best ways. Young women figuring out the world and having each other’s backs as they do it.
GLAZER: We met Amy in the West Village, and we all got along immediately. We were the same height, so we literally and figuratively saw the world in the same way. We were hard workers—all “Fuck you, mister” types. Hard women who were small but knew that they had to fill up space in the comedy scene.
We had a big party to introduce the finale, at 92Y Tribeca, which doesn’t exist anymore. I believe it was May 11, 2011. People lost their minds when Amy came on screen. There was a gasp across the room.
JACOBSON: I remember we were up on stage together, and when the gasp happened, we were like, “Holy shit.”
GLAZER: At the end of Season 2, with the help of our then-manager Sam Saifer, we had a pilot written. We had planned on pitching the show with this pilot in August in L.A. We said, “You know what? We’re going to fucking ask Amy.” We asked her, “Do you wanna come with? Do you want to be attached to this project?” And she did.
POEHLER: At Paperkite [Poehler’s production company], we are always looking for unique voices that have a strong point of view. Broad City felt fresh and original. Plus, the women behind it were ready to work hard.
PITCHING THE PILOT
With Poehler on board, the three women flew to L.A. in August 2011.
DOWNS: Lucia and I had just moved to L.A., so when Abbi and Ilana came out to pitch the show, Ilana slept on our couch. We called her our house cat because she was always falling asleep in odd positions and areas. It was a fun, special time when we were all broke and dreaming of what could be.
JACOBSON: FX bought the script, and we were over the moon. We developed it for almost a year, and then they passed. We were devastated. Amy was pretty extraordinary in that moment.
GLAZER: She said, “FX wasn’t the right move anyway. They were like a cold boyfriend who doesn’t really want you. Comedy Central is going to be the good girlfriend or boyfriend who is ready to love us and support us.” And she was right.
KENT ALTERMAN (president of Comedy Central, Paramount Network and TV Land): Abbi and Ilana came in with Amy to pitch their vision for this show, and we were taken with them right away. It was clear their talent was rare and special; they had amazing chemistry on screen. But they also had very strong producorial minds. They had basically done the first two seasons of the web series by sheer force of will and talent.
There was a conventional wisdom when I came [in] that everything on Comedy Central should reflect the core audience, which is males 18 to 34. I felt like there was a way to develop shows that wouldn’t be at the expense of our core but also would have the potential to build beyond it. Broad City was a controversial pickup—there were supporters, but there were people that really weren’t sure it belonged on the network. I’m not by nature a vindictive person, but I do feel some vindication.
GLAZER: Amy was on Parks and Recreation at the time, so she was like double-timing, mother-producing us too. Everyone was really busting their asses the first and second season. We used to be so nervous, stomach’s wrenched, sitting 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the edit room.
It’s safe to say that Broad City will have a life beyond its finale date.
POEHLER: I’m just proud that I made an honest and funny show that held female friendship in high regard.