MIPTV: Amy Poehler and 'Broad City' Cast Talk Comedy Authenticity and Global Reach

Eric Michael Pearson
"Broad City"

Staged comedy is not appealing to the youth market that shares viral content globally.

CANNES – The Broad City crew, including producer Amy Poehler and creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, hit the Croisette for a MIPTV talk about their journey from a social media hit to Comedy Central and what appeals to the younger demographic now.

"I think there's a universality about young people's ability to tell when something isn't authentic," said Poehler, who brought the show to Comedy Central after filming a guest spot when it was a popular web series with a strong Facebook following. "In countries all over the world people are finding and needing something that feels true and real to them, and also being very suspicious when it's not."

"They're able to sniff it out in a way if people are thrown together and cast in something that's created by someone else with no real origin story. Young people are very savvy now," she said.

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Comedy can be lost in translation, but as clips gain traction on social media and are shared worldwide, people will gravitate toward the same content, the panelists said. Consumers are at a transition point where "second screen" – what executives are still calling web and mobile in a world where people are increasingly consuming entertainment on their tablets and phones – will become "first screen" and broadcast television will be considered the secondary viewing apparatus, Viacom senior vp international program sales Caroline Beaton suggested.

"At some point things are going to merge and we are going to have global comedy taste. We're on the cusp of that now," Beaton said, citing The Daily Show With Jon Stewart's universal popularity and what she termed proprietary research from parent company Viacom.

Development will increasingly come from creatives who first experiment on the Internet, said Comedy Central president of content development and original programming Kent Alterman, calling the web "an incredible incubator."

"Technology has gotten so cheap that anyone can have a camera and editing equipment in their hands," he said. "Ultimately the cream always rises to the top and gives people access and exposure."

However creators have to have a strong point of view not just popularity. "A lot of time people confuse how many hits something gets with how well it would do in that translation to television, and that's somewhat irrelevant," he warned. "Ultimately what matters is the vision of the creators and their ability to expand it so there are full stories being told and if it will resonate as a show. That's independent of how many views it gets."

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When Jacobson and Glazer decided to capitalize on their Facebook buzz, the duo mapped out the web series with a broadcast mentality before Poehler expressed interest.

"Midway through we took a month off to write every episode and treat it like it's a television show for the web, [as well as] mini-episodes, which were video chat conversations that we ended up using in the TV show."

Poehler joked that the process was much easier. "We started talking about collaborating and we put our hands and heads together and said 'I'll see you in Cannes' and here we are."