'Broad City' Duo Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson "Bare Their Souls" in Final Season

The stars and creators speak to The Hollywood Reporter about the process of saying goodbye to their Comedy Central series. "We were sitting across from each other and we were both just crying," says Jacobson of writing the series finale.
Courtesy of Comedy Central
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson in the final season 'Broad City'

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer aren't quite finished with Broad City. The co-creators and stars will be editing the fifth and final season of their Comedy Central series through February, adding another layer to a goodbye process that began back in November 2017.

"We have known how the show would end for a long time. We didn't know exactly how we would get there, but we knew what the last scene would be," Jacobson tells The Hollywood Reporter. And the ending, Glazer promises, will be a satisfying one. "It's uplifting and hopeful, too," she adds.

Jacobson and Glazer gave birth to their TV alter-egos — who are slightly younger, more exaggerated versions of themselves, also named Abbi and Ilana — 10 years ago with their web series. In 2014, with the support of executive producer Amy Poehler, the show moved to Comedy Central and found a wider audience as Abbi and Ilana continued to fearlessly navigate New York City, their 20s and being women under President Trump. 

After four seasons, including a more political 2017 run that bleeped the president's name amid the explosion of the #MeToo movement, Jacobson and Glazer let their network in on the big secret they had been discussing between themselves. "It was very theoretical at that point, the idea of it ending," says Glazer. Once they had the conversation with Comedy Central, the pair spent 2018 working on Broad City's final chapter. "I’m so confident in the episodes. It’s just that we bare our souls in this show, so it feels extra vulnerable with it being the end."

The final 10 episodes, which premiere Jan. 24, will tackle milestone moments as Abbi and Ilana barrel their way through life for one final TV run, leading to a "much bigger shift than we've ever seen" when the series concludes, says Glazer. In real life, the creative partners and friends have since branched out to write memoirs and pursue other film and TV roles while also developing upcoming projects for their soon-to-be former network. Below, Jacobson and Glazer speak to THR about growing up and saying goodbye to Broad City, while getting emotional along the way.

What was the conversation like when you officially decided you were going to end the show?

Abbi Jacobson: We had made the decision more internally before we went to Comedy Central and talked it out with them, because it was a big convo.

Ilana Glazer: It was in this break between seasons four and five that we realized we had to approach this. We wanted to know creatively that we were going to end the show. We don’t just want to cut off and say — that’s the end! We’d want to have a big buildup to our ending, so it was important to be honest about that so that we all can make the best final season of this show.

How did you two feel once you made the decision?

Glazer: I think at first, in November of 2017 after we talked to Kent [Alterman, president of Comedy Central], I couldn’t really process it. We had just made this decision, and it was hard to pull this thing out from inside of us, the thing that we had been considering for a while — when is it going to end? — that once we said it to him and he announced it and agreed with it, it didn’t feel over then.

Jacobson: It’s interesting because we’re still in it right now, and every step of this ending has been different and still does not feel quite like the end yet. It’s starting to sink in more and more, but I think when we finally had that conversation with Ken, that felt like a little bit of relief, because we’d been talking about it.

Glazer: It was very theoretical at that point, the idea of it ending.

Jacobson: We’ve become very close with him and to a lot of people at Comedy Central, so it really brought us on the same page to have him finally know how we’ve been feeling. And then we had a lot of those conversations with different people who are involved.

What was the emotional roller-coaster like once you started to say goodbye?

Glazer: Abbi and I have been doing Broad City for 10 months a year plus a month of press, so 11 months a year for six years. And we’ve been creating this world for 10 years, since 2009, when we started the web series. It’s the actual making of the show that makes it feel over. The entire time during the writing period, I was processing the ending because we were building up toward it narratively more than we had ever built up to a 10th episode before. Shooting felt final in its own way, and editing is feeling final in its own way.

Jacobson: For me, the writing is always the hardest part, because Amy [Poehler] always likes to say, "We’re starting at the bottom of show mountain," and you don’t have anything. It’s the most stressful part. Is this going to be good? There’s more pressure this season because it’s the end, and we want to make sure it’s as good as the rest of the seasons. Slowly, once the scripts were written, I’d keep going, "I love them." Then we shot it all and I thought, "Ok, this went really well." And now that we’re in the edit and cutting — and this happens every season for me — I am like, "Ok, this is awesome. I love these episodes." And I start to feel more at ease,. But then it adds another layer, because it’s also the end.

Glazer: It's such a feeling every year when we have these episodes and then put that out into the world. It goes from it being our private project to the world’s Broad City season. And since it’s the final one, it feels especially vulnerable. Like when you ask someone out and finally do it, and it’s so scary after you make yourself vulnerable. It’s so amplified, that vulnerability, after showing people. 

Last season you took on Trump and #MeToo, and the tone shifted a bit. When it came to making the final episodes, what did you have to say about the world and these characters? Would you define this as a “growing up” season?

Glazer: I think so. Thematically, yes. Last season was almost like a learning and consciousness season, and this is definitely a shift out of our 20s and into our 30s, and the girls realizing that there’s a lot of life left and — what do they want to do with it? Before, there was nothing strategic. They were doing and being. The characters are now more thoughtful in that way.

Will there be some big life realizations for Abbi and Ilana by the end?

Jacobson: I don’t think we should go too specific, just because there’s such a buildup throughout the season.

Glazer: There are big life moments happening in each episode, actually. Because we’re creating a much bigger shift than we’ve ever seen. Before, the joke was how little they’ve grown, and now there are big life moments all season.

In the three episodes screened for press, Abbi turns 30 and explores the idea of dating a woman, and Ilana and Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) powwow about their future. 

Glazer: These episodes are more steps for them. Those topics cover a lot of ground for us personally and creatively. I don’t think we necessarily gave more than we did seasons before to this season, but it felt like there was more to give, knowing it was the end. When you start processing this journey from 2009, or when we met in 2007, it felt like there was more to rip off of our bodies and then hand over the audience. It was like, "Would you like this arm of mine?"

Will the door be left open for you to possibly revisit them down the line? Given the reboot craze, is that something you had in the back of your minds? As you said, they do have a lot of life ahead of them.

Jacobson: I don’t think we’re planning on doing that. I think it would really be a little lazy for us to be planning a reboot when we haven’t finished yet. (Laughs) We want to come up with a lot of new ideas. It’s not really something that we’re thinking about. Right?

Glazer: Yeah. I think it’s just counterproductive for us personally and creatively to think about it right now. I think we need at least a 15-year pause. This has been 10 years of our lives, and I can’t really imagine it quite yet, because we’re still in it. There are so many reboots and remakes. I love what it is right now.

You said that you both weep in the series finale. What were the emotions like when you wrote, filmed and then edited that episode? And how do you each feel about it now?

Jacobson: We haven’t seen it yet, actually. We have a couple we haven’t seen yet because the editors just finished, so we haven’t gotten to it yet. Even when we were writing the last script — we write the first act together and then we each take an act. We were sitting across from each other and we were both just crying across from each other at the table.

Glazer: And then looking up and laughing and then being like, "Ok, ok," and then going back to writing, and then crying at our ending and having each other crying and laughing. It really mirrored the content and exactly encapsulates the product.

Looking back, did you envision that Broad City would run this many years? When was that moment that you realized people were watching and that it was launching your careers? 

Jacobson: I don’t think we ever thought this. When we started the web series, I think we were just hoping we could get staffed on another show. Then we realized that maybe we could star in it and really try to harness our voice as both writers and actors. Then season to season, for a while, we got picked up one season at a time. Season one we had no idea if we were going to be picked up again; same with seasons two and three. That’s why all of the finales for those seasons are really grand, as if they’re a series finale, because we never knew If we were going to get to make more. Which is so great, creatively, because that unknown, I think, made us work harder. I don’t think we could have imagined exactly what happened.

Glazer: That feeling of what you are saying started for us on Facebook. When we were making the web series, we were putting it out on Facebook, and that’s how it gained some sort of following. I remember when we were averaging 2,500 views a week, and that was the first time for me where I was like, "Holy shit, this is what it feels like for people to watch your stuff and ask for more." 

What do you hope Broad City’s legacy is?

Jacobson: Obviously, for us, this has felt like such a pivotal ten years of our lives. Broad City has been a lot of our lives so far. And — I hope this makes sense — I hope that the audience feels like they were a part of something the way that we do. And that it was this thing that happened in this time, because it’s very pop-culture reference-y and it’s very specific to right now. I hope they feel like they were in it with us.

Glazer: That’s perfectly said, and just to add, I feel like people feel not alone when they watch it. If they don’t have an Abbi or Ilana, then they have the show for the meantime until they do. We all have our shows that we watch to comfort ourselves. We’ve heard that Broad City provides that kind of comfort for our audience, and I hope that lasts. Because that’s a really valuable thing in television.

You are continuing your partnership professionally and developing shows with Viacom with your first-look deal. What are you most looking forward to when it comes to both your professional and personal relationship after Broad City?

Glazer: Professionally, the two of us have gotten to be such a well-oiled machine as producers and that’s really exciting to usher other projects in but have it not take up all of our time like Broad City did. I think we can do that better now. We’re also writing a show for them. It’s exciting to me to have something that we’re less precious about, that we’re just cranking out and trying stuff and we’re being a little more flexible with, because it’s not every ounce of our being. Being a little bit lighter about our work together. And the other thing is just having more time to be actual friends, which is going to be a huge privilege.

Jacobson: We have spent the last ten years simultaneously being friends and having the episodes be our friendship, and writing everything down. And now we can just be in it and not looking at it as well.

Glazer: It’s challenging. It’s habit now, but there’s something so beautiful in not capturing a moment but living in it. Oh my God, I’m going to cry!

Jacobson: You got her! She hasn’t cried yet today!

Broad City premieres Jan. 24 at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.