Why 'Broad City's' Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer Were "Terrified" to Face That Meta Series Finale

The stars and creators set their TV alter-egos free but left a note about friendship behind: "New York City is full of Abbis and Ilanas. We're just one of those pairs," Jacobson tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Comedy Central
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer in the series finale of 'Broad City'

[This story contains spoilers for Broad City's series finale.]

Broad City will live on in New York City. That is how co-creators and stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer wanted viewers to feel when their Comedy Central series signed off after five seasons with Thursday's series finale.

Ever since Jacobson and Glazer began playing exaggerated versions of themselves — first on their web series 10 years ago and then on Broad City since 2014 — their TV alter-egos, who are also named Abbi and Ilana, have never left each other's side. But on the series finale, titled "Broad City" and written by the pair, Broad City split Abbi and Ilana up. After they confront their futures as they respectively approach and hit their 30s, Ilana stays behind in New York City as Abbi moves to Colorado to pursue her art. 

"I feel like the audience started understanding what was going to happen when Abbi first applied to the residency program [at Colorado Art Center] in episode seven. And we were feeling it with them," Glazer says about the final season journey when speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, along with Jacobson. The next two episodes saw Abbi and Ilana riding a wave of emotions as they each came to terms with Abbi's decision to leave, and the finale showed the characters officially saying goodbye in two teary-eyed scenes. "It made it so much more meta for the two of us. We needed that," Jacobson says about the simultaneous goodbyes for themselves and the characters.

Abbi and Ilana's ultimate acceptance of their separation helped Glazer and Jacobson confront their own impending goodbye to their show. "In the finale of our web series with Amy Poehler, we have this dialogue where we needed her to say things like, 'Go with the flow and live your dreams, OK?'" says Glazer. "Just this positive talk. And we did that same thing. We used the show as therapy, and you can feel that this season."

Not only does Abbi go through with the move, but Broad City ends by flashing forward four months to show viewers that the best friends are indeed happy and on their way to fulfilling their grown-up dreams. After a promising FaceTime conversation, the camera pans out to show other pairs of friends of all types walking around Manhattan's Union Square. In a chat with THR, the creative partners go back in time to reveal the "scary" evolution of their characters' goodbye and why they ended Broad City with other New York City pairs.

When looking forward to their show's legacy, the real-life friends realize they are so satisfied with what they created that they're finally ready to brag. "I do really feel like we have left the comedy world very different than when we came," Jacobson says.

Glazer adds, "It’s such a privilege, especially as young women, to be able to end something while it’s strong and powerful and our choice to end it." Read the interview below.

You’ve had a long process of saying goodbye. Now that the finale is here — how do you two feel about what you created?

Ilana Glazer: I’m feeling a lot of pride and a lot of love from our audience in the Broad City world. I was going to say fictional, but it feels like a real world. It feels really good. I also feel scared and sad. I already miss it. But I can’t stop saying that I feel numb. I feel so many things on the full color wheel that it’s like black. It’s like everything and nothing.

Abbi Jacobson: I’ve experienced every single emotion in this process and this week. It is very bizarre and a huge mixed bag for me right now. I really love the way that we ended this show. I’m really proud of it, and I feel really satisfied creatively.

Glazer: I feel that way, too. I love the fucking show. I feel freer now to unabashedly say that I think this is one of the best shows ever. And I've been excited for the audience to see this finale.

Abbi and Ilana realized they were “cripplingly co-dependent” during their Molly high in the penultimate episode. What was it like for you two to come to this realization for the two characters?

Jacobson: That episode took us a really long time to figure out. We knew the end and how we were going to say goodbye, finally. But we simultaneously wanted to go back to the roots of the show and have this adventure in the city while also coming to this conclusion about their friendship. 

Glazer: We wrote another outline first that was not quite right. It wasn't heavy, and it wasn't dealing with it the right way. So Abbi and I stepped back from the writers room to meet, just the two of us, to talk about it. We’ve done a lot of contrasting context with content this year. For example, with Jaime [Arturo Castro], there’s a really goofy thing going on with the girls because there’s a heavy thing going on with Jaime [whom they discover is a hoarder] in episode four. And in episode five, Ilana and Lincoln [Hannibal Buress] are grotesquely stuffing their faces because they know it’s the end of their relationship. It’s been a very mental health-focused season, and we’ve been playing a lot with contrasting the content of what work needed to get done between the characters and the delivery. This scene was the most heightened version of that. The heaviest accepting of loss and grief over their impending separation with a Molly high. (Laughs) .

Jacobson: Molly sometimes allows you to be more emotional and more in tune with your feelings. We were struggling with that ninth episode, and it was very much you, Ilana, who said, this had to be the realest conversation they’ve ever had while dancing the most insane they’ve ever danced. Those two things juxtaposed against each other just felt so right.

Glazer: We found that hook. Every season is its own vibe. Last season, the girls wake up because the 2016 election happened. With this final season, we really wanted to take care of our audience. Just like we needed to take care of ourselves. And that conversation was us speaking to ourselves, too.

Jacobson: It’s the most silly and also the most real. Even when my character falls in between the two buildings [hanging by the boot on her injured foot in episode seven], that was a pitch that Paul Downs’ mom, Regina Downs, had in season one. It came up every season and we were like, “How are we going to do this?” I can’t believe we actually did it. That is the most ridiculous thing to happen, but it was the most essential thing to happen to Abbi for her to realize how stuck she feels. To truly pick the biggest metaphor and realize she needed to change things.

Glazer: We had that pitch for so many fucking years, and it actually ended up like we put it off so it could be used in the most perfect way. This year, we really learned our balance between our comedy and the emotions. Because this season we had to go further than we’ve ever had to go before, emotionally, to make it right for the audience.

You said you always knew that the end would be a goodbye. Why did you feel they needed to split up in order to grow, and why did it make sense for Abbi to be the one who leaves? 

Glazer: This is a very good illustration of how Broad City has been therapeutic and has helped us grow in real life. We’re in L.A. writing part of the season. Paul [W. Downs] had a dream of most of the finale, at least the broad strokes. He told us his dream and we wrote it down — because we all know men have the best ideas.

Jacobson: Well, we always thought Abbi was going to be accepted to a residency program. That was something we had been talking about for a couple of years.

Glazer: We had been building this season to the girls moving. So we had this whole joke where Abbi goes to a residency program in Boulder, Colorado — we have joke pitches and real pitches, but we had been really pitching this — and the girls are FaceTiming and then Ilana reveals that she’s FaceTiming Abbi from down the block.

Jacobson: She’s in Abbi’s phone reflection.

Glazer: Then Ilana would be say, "I moved here. I got into grad school here." And Abbi would say, "Really? My residency program is like four months."

Jacobson: Then they would walk away figuring that out. But they were together because we thought they had to stay together. The girls stay together, they just leave New York. That’s what’s happening. (Laughs)

Glazer: Then there was one night where I was like, "Guys! Let me just say this one thing." And I’m going back and forth between a joke and real pitch.

Jacobson: You were being nervous about it.

Glazer: I was terrified! My heart is racing and I’m like, "What if Ilana stays in New York?" Beat of silence, beat of silence. And we’re all like, "No! Just kidding!" It couldn’t be.

Jacobson: And then we were together writing in New York and we came back to it. And it was like, "Yeah. That’s right."

Glazer: One of our producers, Eric Slovin, asked, "Well, what do you think if Ilana stays in New York?" I’m still figuring this out, but I think I’m a New York forever person, I just think it’s true. I had pitched it, I had been scared, and we put it away because it was too scary. But it really feels like it’s what needs to happen for the show and for our audience. To feel that thing of how life moves on, it doesn’t end. There are these prescribed changes in growing up where you have middle school, high school, college and then you’re a real person. But the changes in adulthood are so much scarier and less written. It helped us to end the show [in real life], to understand, well, the girls are splitting. "Right, right." It's comforting to us, too.

Jacobson: It made it so much more meta for the two of us. We needed that. 

How real were the tears during both during the Brooklyn Bridge scene and the final goodbye on the street? And were you speaking those words as your characters or as each other?

Jacobson: I think it went in and out. I tend to really process things at the last moment — I will be a mess Thursday — and the bridge was, to be very honest, such a difficult shoot day. It was absolutely freezing in New York. It was hard to even talk or move your mouth, and I’m wearing a T-shirt.

Glazer: We were like, "This is why we’re ending!" There were a lot of moments in production this season where we said that. The New Yorkers passing on the bridge were screaming at us, and the bikers were yelling.

Jacobson: So that day sucked. But watching it again, the two goodbyes felt very real in terms of the amplification of me. Abbi doesn't know that’s their last goodbye, she isn’t processing leaving yet on the bridge. Then for myself and Ilana, all the party scenes with everybody were shot that night, followed by us saying goodbye on the sidewalk into around 8 a.m. We made sure that production scheduled it in order. So we went away by ourselves to have a conversation about how this was the last scene we were doing together. That was the last scene that we shot in New York. So we just talked about the show and about the last 10 years and got into a mode of it being simultaneous goodbyes, if that makes sense.

Glazer: We wrote season five mostly in L.A., and I was having a tough time being there for that long. I hadn’t left New York for that long ever. It was too heavy and real to not include. Writing this show has been so hard, but a good hard, because it’s made me grow in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. I had more trouble writing the last season than shooting or editing, but that day shooting, I felt for the first time I took the space to process the show ending, and that felt very real. The tears and the words. Some of them are written. Some are improvised. But I hope to learn from this artistic process and make that space in my real life. I really have learned so much about my life and adulthood through Broad City first, and I hope to take that as a lesson and take that time for myself. For Broad City and the end of Broad City at large.

The show jumps four months ahead to show Abbi and Ilana separated by distance, but happy and still just as close. Why did you choose to then focus on groups of friends as the final moment? 

Glazer: We’re trying to tell our audience that they are 100 percent and fully our partners in this project because our audience inspires us. Something that we’ve always loved is when people tag us on social media in their pictures with friends. And it’s not about Broad City, it’s just about two friends. Women or men and boys and gender-nonconforming people. We come from theater and improv, standup and sketch, and we’re really used to our audience being a part of the process. We know that we’re not the ones to tell the "struggling in New York in your 20s" story anymore. Everyone can live in Broad City if they carry that kind of spirit of friendship and love and respect and partnership.

Jacobson: We’re just one of those pairs in New York. New York is full of Broad City-s, and Abbi and Ilana are just one. That’s what makes the city so dope and relatable and why we love it so much. It felt so right to pull back and be like, "Oh, it’s everywhere." That vibe.

Glazer: Our friend is living between New York and Paris, and she was telling me that in Paris, people hang out in groups of 10 or so and that’s how you meet people. I’ve hung out with big groups for comedy, but otherwise, this is not really a city for groups. It really is a city of pairs. And in that final shot, some of them are cast by us and even in background, but then as the crane lifts and shows more of the city, there really are pairs walking around. And it just felt really true: You need a partner in this city, because it’s a tough one.

Where do you see each of them in five years? What about 10 years?

Jacobson: Oh man. I have not really gone there.

Glazer: I picture them fulfilling their dreams. Our generation now has so many different jobs and gigs and careers in a lifetime. I feel like 10 years is enough for them to master what they’re setting out to do in the finale. I don’t think Abbi feels like she has to be this one kind of artist. I think the character Abbi will be so happy when she’s just making money on art, and I think she’s going to do it in many different ways. She is resourceful and will end up being an artist and businesswoman. And I think Ilana will be a really great therapist in New York.

They planned to meet up in St. Louis. Have you thought about doing a catch-up or revisiting them some point down the line?

Jacobson: (Laughs) That meet-up is for the apocalypse! No, we’re not thinking about that yet.

Glazer: We just finished the show. Give me a break, girl!

What scares you most about leaving your alter egos behind? 

Jacobson: The thing that scares me most about moving on from Broad City is that Ilana and I have gotten to a place where we really know how to work together and create something that we both feel really confident in. In comedy and with art, the product is full of a lot of things that we care about in all the aspects of the show. I guess I’m scared for my future projects. One of the hardest things about this industry is the people that you work with and figuring out the dynamics in those relationships. That is something that makes me really nervous. And just figuring out how to tell stories as well, again and again.

Glazer: It’s not fresh, but my fear is that Broad City is the best thing I’ll ever do. But I have to say, if it is, fucking yeah. Fucking nailed that shit. The show is made for me, so I love it. But I really feel it’s one of the best shows that’s been on TV and if it is the best thing I ever do, God bless! (Laughs) I’m so proud of the feeling it creates. I also learned that I am an artist and I learned how to be an artist from Broad City, and now I feel clearer about my job. There is, I think, a whole body of work ahead to be made and had and consumed. I just want to give my future projects the love that I’ve given Broad City and hope that can be translated the same way to the audience.

You are continuing your partnership with Comedy Central with a first-look deal for Viacom. You aren’t starring together in any of the shows you are developing. What are your thoughts about starring together again down the line?

Jacobson: That’s the thing that sucks. I feel like we would forever be associated with Abbi and Ilana, especially in the near future, if we ever did anything together. Of course I would love to, but I just think that we have to give it some space and time.

Glazer: It’s such a privilege, especially as young women, to be able to end something in this way — while it’s strong and powerful and it's our choice to end it. And also that our choice is being supported by Comedy Central. So I just want to revel in that for a while and feel what that feels like, because that’s a rare privilege.

Abbi, you are working on a League of Their Own series for Amazon. Can you talk about the projects you each have next?

Glazer: I have some movies and standup that I’m lining up for this year. But beyond that, I’m still in a nebulous place regarding sharing it.

Jacobson: I don’t really have anything new to say about it. Just making a pilot right now.

On a closing note — what are you most proud of accomplishing with Broad City's final season? 

Glazer: I’m really proud of Abbi for sharing her life experience with opening herself up to dating women. That was a brave vesselage of oneself and was fucking cool. That was such a perfect — in real life and in the show — response to Ilana’s fluidity, and it was so fun for the girls to talk about it and to have that tension between the characters. It was brave and strong and vulnerable.

Jacobson: I’m most proud that we attempted to tackle more serious or life-changing plotlines for the characters, both individually and together. And that the last couple of episodes have been simultaneously sad and funny, and that’s a difficult balance beam to walk. I’m really proud of the fact that within some of these episodes we manage to still be laughing in these sad scenes, and that’s the kind of comedy I love. Because it comes right back to being grounded. I was thinking lately that I’ve always been confident in the show, but now I do really feel like we have left the comedy world very different than when we came.

Glazer: Same. Now that it’s over, I feel like I’m ready to brag.

Jacobson: I don’t feel like that’s bragging. Maybe it is. I guess we just don’t say that very often, so it’s OK?

Glazer: It is OK. It’s time. When we first started doing this, people were telling us what the show meant feminist-wise. I feel like I have a real grip now on what we’ve done and what it means to people. I just fucking love Broad City! I feel like the whole thing is such a privilege and a blessing.