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Half of Broad City’s core duo isn’t in Ilana Glazer, Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello’s new Comedy Central miniseries Time Traveling Bong (premiering April 20), but Abbi Jacobson was still an integral part of the team.
“Abbi is a really big influence on the show itself because she actually pitched what is the second installment in the miniseries, which is stealing and saving Michael Jackson,” Downs told The Hollywood Reporter at their Tribeca Film Festival panel on Saturday.
The story has been a collaborative effort between the comedic quartet since 2012 — when Glazer stayed with Lucia and Downs for two months while she and Jacobson were pitching Broad City out in L.A. — and first began as a College Humor short. Although they made two more shorts after that, only one idea made it through to what later became Time Traveling Bong.
Unfortunately, the one left on the cutting room floor was a story of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton breaking up in college. “At Yale, they encounter a young Bill Clinton who’s like, ‘I smell weed. Who’s toking?’ and he forgets he has his first date with Hillary,” Aniello said at the panel. “And she’s not pissed — she’s just like, ‘You’re not for me.’”
“Comedy Central was like, ‘no,” Glazer said, but the trio still has plenty of ideas for sequels. Glazer suggested “Holocaust stuff” and “starting the great Chicago fires [by] not putting a joint out,” while Downs wanted to make Beethoven deaf.
The thing that separates Time Traveling Bong’s Sharee and Jeff from Broad City’s Ilana and Trey is that “they’re just these basic, mediocre white people,” Glazer told THR. She also cites her straight hair and Jeff feeling “more like a real person, a suburban Jersey dude” than out-there character Trey. If they had to pick other people to play their characters, Glazer cites Broad City guest star Alia Shawkat and Tom Cruise, while Downs would love Cruise and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Taboo subjects were common in the miniseries — including slavery, Michael Jackson’s abusive past, and people of many races doing Asian accents — which Downs told the audience was because they “wanted to put the characters on the right and wrong side of history.” He continued: “There is a need to be politically correct and not alienate anyone. But if you operate at the top of your intelligence and try to make everything funny, it’s hard to be offensive.”
At its core, Aniello wanted to give some real talk about what time travel would actually be like for a woman. “A lot of people romanticize time travel, but if you were a woman, or anyone who was essentially not a white man, you probably would not have the best time,” she said.
One of the most shocking storylines comes from the first cousins getting a little too close for comfort.
“There’s a whisper of incest. Not Flowers in the Attic incest; more Arrested Development incest,” Downs told THR. “We wanted the characters to be familial enough to be antagonistic, but also still love each other. We didn’t want it to be will-they-won’t-they, but we still kind of did that. They’re identical cousins, which means their moms are twins.”
The stories in Time Traveling Bong are crazier than the New York City hijinks on Broad City, and that comes from a very fast-paced production.
“It was like a 24-hour film festival for three months … we shot in 12 days. It was really quick,” Downs said at the panel. “It was physically more taxing. So ambitious in a different way,” Glazer added, calling the project “Comedy Central’s O.J. [FX’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson]”
Whether or not the miniseries becomes a ratings juggernaut, it will definitely be a fun trip — including a little song and dance.
“Paul teaches some pilgrims ‘Gangnam Style,’” Aniello teased. “Paul does always say any good comedy needs choreography.”
Time Traveling Bong premieres on April 20 at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.
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