This story first appeared in the April 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
We’re not an hour into breakfast, eggs and bacon scraps still on the table, when Ilana Glazer decides, without warning, that she’d prefer playing the part of interviewer.
“So, I gotta ask,” the Broad City star leans in, “how do your boobs feel?”
I had let my pregnancy news slip when she and her co-creator, co-writer and co-star Abbi Jacobson sat down at the Greenwich Hotel eatery earlier that morning, and now I see the 28-year-old firebrand has been waiting patiently to start rattling off questions.
“Are you like, ‘Oh my God,’ and just so aware of them now?” she asks, clutching her own chest, which already had earned plenty of airtime during the meal. “And, like, does it feel good? You know, at sexual times? Because I hope so.” Jacobson, 32, has questions, too: “Yeah, does it feel like you have your period? You know how that feels. Like, gross.”
Before I realize what’s happening, my guard comes tumbling down, and I’m dishing about cup sizes with two women whom I met for the first time only an hour earlier. But then, Glazer and Jacobson, who play slightly younger, slightly wilder versions of themselves on TV, have built a cultlike following for that disarming mix of raunch and relatability. A latter-day Laverne and Shirley, the Long Island-reared Glazer and Pennsylvania-born Jacobson have served up a brazen, hilarious take on being young, heedless and often high in New York City.
Their critically celebrated series, which regularly draws 1.1 million linear viewers, began as a web show before moving to Comedy Central with the support of executive producer Amy Poehler in early 2014. In the three seasons since, Glazer and Jacobson have not only recruited guest stars including Seth Rogen, Kelly Ripa and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton but also earned themselves a spot in the pop culture vanguard. In addition to at least two more seasons of Broad City, the pair is at work on several other projects, some of them together (a top-secret film collaboration with Paul Feig, which they won’t star in), some of them apart (Glazer has the pot comedy Time Traveling Bong premiering April 20 on Comedy Central).
The partners, best friends since they met doing improv at Upright Citizens Brigade nearly a decade ago, open up about how to make sex scenes funny, why they’re not moving to Los Angeles anytime soon and, yes, their boobs.
When you started, Amy Poehler’s advice was that you’ll need to be the policemen of your own brand. How have you had to do that as that brand has grown?
JACOBSON Saying no is a new thing for us — but I think now more than ever we have to say no to opportunities that just don’t feel right.
GLAZER And it’s gross to have to be like, “You guys don’t get it.” But sometimes it’s like, you guys don’t get it.
What’s the worst advice you’ve received along the way?
GLAZER We’re young women, so people have told us a bunch of shit, thinking that they’re going to help us. But I have limited space in my brain, and I’m not taking shit unless it’s gold because we have gold available [from Amy].
Has being young women helped or hurt you in this business?
GLAZER Oh, I think it’s helped us. Young jewesses are really hot right now. (Laughs.)
You can no longer run around unrecognized in the city, which in the past would provide you with fodder for the show. How has that impacted the storytelling process?
JACOBSON It’s definitely a thing. We’re not drawing as much from exact experiences anymore. We’re more drawing from the way things make us feel. So it’s a little different from Ilana and I going out one night and having this adventure because that’s very different now, especially when we’re together.
GLAZER And that part is such a bummer, honestly. High jinks come from anonymity. But I do think it helps to be physically normal. In L.A., everybody is skinny — but in New York, somebody walks down the street and you know they’re a model. We look like everybody else, so it’s not as like, “Whoa! Whoa! It’s them!” As we meet people who are famous or who have been famous or who are suddenly hugely famous, we have the opportunity to see those different levels, and we think ours is a cool level.
JACOBSON I love this level.
You realize it’s very unlikely you’ll stay at this level, right?
JACOBSON Well, I don’t know. I think New York allows you to stay at a different level. Whereas in L.A., it’s like, door opens and everyone looks, “Who’s in here? Who’s in here? Check the room.” And in New York, I’m able to forget what I do sometimes because everyone isn’t f—ing obsessed. Everyone has other lives here.
With Broad City, you’ve captured life as young people in New York. What would that life look like in L.A.?
GLAZER I guess it looks like waitering and bussing and then going on auditions. So many people are there without purpose, and that’s tough.
JACOBSON I like how people wear their ambition on their sleeve here, whereas in L.A., it just feels like, “Oh, my day will be one meeting, and it’ll take up the whole day.”
“It was a real trip,” says Glazer of having Clinton guest as herself on season three’s episode “2016.” Adds Jacobson, “It was a very long process and surreal to see the episode.”
And often there isn’t an express purpose to those meetings in L.A.
GLAZER Yeah, a “general.” Can you believe that’s a noun and not a descriptor?
JACOBSON But then don’t you feel very productive? It’s like, “It took me an hour to get there and parking was kind of stressful and then I did the meeting and then I went home and I’m like, ‘Well, I worked really hard today.’ “
GLAZER It’s an easier life in L.A. And with regard to the industry, you don’t have to have as much existential dread because you’re sharing it with a whole city, no matter what level you’re at. In New York, it’s like, “What am I dooooing?” And sure, everybody’s like, “What am I doing?” but not necessarily about the same thing. Everyone has their own struggles in New York.
Part of your appeal is your relatability. People see themselves in you. How challenging is it to maintain that when your profile rises and suddenly you’re being invited to exclusive events?
JACOBSON We haven’t really gone to anything crazy, and I think if anyone were to see us at something like that, they’d feel like it’s them there. It’s still this thing where people feel like they’re us getting into something. I don’t know how that’s happened, but …
Does that come with a certain amount of responsibility?
JACOBSON Yeah, it’s like I can’t look too good. I gotta still maintain this level of extreme relatablility. That’s the burden I have to take on. (Laughs.)
What’s your most common fan interaction?
JACOBSON Recently I’ve had trucks drive by, moving men, and I’m stopped at a light waiting to cross the street, and these guys who you would not think would watch the show are yelling out, “Broad Ciiiiitttty!” And I’m just like, “Yeaaaah!” That’s my favorite.
How often do people ask to get high with you?
GLAZER Oh, all the time. But it’s like, “No!” (Laughs.)
What are young viewers connecting to on this show that they haven’t found elsewhere?
GLAZER Most TV and film is so fake. I’m not saying that our show is reality, but it’s based on authentic moments, and most TV and film is not. When people have chemistry, it’s like a shock. Because most shit you watch is so fake. You’re like, “These people do not talk otherwise,” and I’m laughing thinking about how they don’t talk otherwise. But you’re just in it with us because we’re real friends, and we wrote it.
A lot of attention’s been paid to how Broad City is edgy or raunchy. Is the rest of the landscape just populated by a bunch of prudes?
GLAZER Oh, I think the landscape is prude but also the level of conversation in the media is light and fakely polite. But they don’t say all that stuff about us as much anymore. Early on, it was all, “They blaze so much. They’re f—ing raunchy.” And now it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s how people talk.”
You open your March 30 episode, “B&B-NYC,” with a scene in which you’re on the phone with each other while you’re both defecating. You’ve muted the calls, but a) you’re on FaceTime, and b) the audience can hear all of the noises. That certainly feels edgy …
GLAZER It’s so gross, but it’s also so f—ing funny. And I do it on business calls all the time. I mute and then flush and then I’m like, “Uh huh. Yep.”
What’s the goal of a scene like that?
JACOBSON We’re doing it so everyone can be like, “I do that.” Everyone does that.
GLAZER I remember the joke in middle school or high school that girls don’t fart or girls don’t shit, and it’s like, f— you. Because that’s not a funny little joke; that’s a big statement that women are somehow property of men, and they should stay in line, missy.
I was surprised to hear you say you were comforted — relieved even — by the blurring of certain body parts in your nude scenes?
JACOBSON So much comfort! (Laughs.)
GLAZER Oh, yeah. Abbi has a big butt. I have big boobs. And I’m sensitive about my boobs. If I had smaller boobs, I think it’d be less of an issue for me. But it’s like, “Yeeeah, not my precious tits.”
Most would assume you wouldn’t care …
GLAZER I know. Well, we don’t give a f— within Comedy Central’s censorship [parameters]. The show really fits on that network for so many reasons, and that’s one of them. I’m sorry to do the thing that we tell people not to do and compare us to Girls, but it’s a different feel on that show, where it’s more up inside them — literally. And by the way, I love the sex scenes on that show.
JACOBSON Look at our pegging episode, “Knockoffs” [from season two]. I’m wearing a strap- on, but I’m also wearing underwear and a bra.
GLAZER You’re also wearing a hard, plastic, green strap-on because we couldn’t do a f—ing dick strap-on. I think you would’ve felt different it if it was a dick.
JACOBSON Yeah, it can’t look like a dick on Comedy Central. But if this were on HBO, you’d be like, “Why is Abbi wearing all of these clothes?”
Lena Dunham has said she no longer even bothers with the vagina strip when she’s filming sex scenes on Girls.
GLAZER I love and admire that about her. She’s walking around naked and then, like, jumps behind camera. She’s f—ing awesome.
JACOBSON I’m not as confident. I’m an insecure person, which you see on the show. My character only gets naked when no one’s home.
GLAZER I am confident. But for me, I’m just like, “I’m not giving this (motions toward her body) to my crew.”
You noted how much you dislike the Girls comparisons. Are there any you do like?
GLAZER To me, at this point with any comparisons, I’m like, “Great. We’re in the zeitgeist.” But first season it was more like, “We’re making our own thing.” And it’s frustrating that all 20-something white girl shows are the same. But that happens to everything except white dude shows. So yeah, that is frustrating … for everybody. So we can all sit and point fingers at the white dudes because they’re like, “Oh, isn’t this show unique,” and they can generate their own think pieces about themselves that they can jerk off to or whatever.
What conversations are you surprised you’re still having?
GLAZER Whenever we talk about raunchiness and weed, I’m really surprised. Everybody f—s, and everybody gets high in their own way.
JACOBSON For me, when anyone brings up female-driven shows, female comedy, female showrunners, I’m like, “Well, maybe if we stop talking about it, it wouldn’t be a thing.” But then it’s also important to recognize it. It’s this thing that I hate and also find important.
You recently had Hillary Clinton guest on the show. If Donald Trump called tomorrow and said he wanted a turn, what would you write for him?
JACOBSON I would say no!
GLAZER Well, what if we were throwing eggs at him and he was in a diaper with a ball-gag in his mouth in the fountain at Washington Square Park?
JACOBSON Oh, I would totally do that.