Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, the duo behind “Broad City,” are looking more mature than their alter-egos on the Comedy Central series.
Sitting down to talk about the fourth season of the show – which includes the duo’s reaction to living in the Trump era – Glazer is in a smart black summery dress and Jacobson wears a black blouse paired with a maroon skirt that would be well-suited for a business meeting. It’s unlikely you would ever see the Abbi and Ilana on the series sporting such classy outfits.
“The characters are idiots,” admits the curly-haired Glazer. “They’re struggling way more than we are.”
She and Jacobson first met while trying out for an improv group in New York City. Neither made the group, but they hit it off. Having trouble getting backing for their own projects, the pair created “Broad City” for the Web, where it ran for a few years.
“We started making it just because our friendship was this dynamic of us being pretty different,” explains Jacobson.
Eventually, Comedy Central decided to bring it to a wider audience. The show has been a success for the network and has already been picked up for season five. The solid ratings – with a weekly audience of around 4.3 million viewers – only hint at to the cultural impact of the series, which has been described as “sneak-attack feminism” by the Wall Street Journal.
Last year, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even made an appearance on the “Broad City,” which is executive produced by Amy Poehler, in a bid for young voters.
This season, Glazer and Jacobson have taken over showrunner duties for the series. Meanwhile, both are taking on projects outside the series and apart from each other.
Glazer says she feels things are changing for the better for women comedians. “People once wondered if women were funny. That literally used to be a question.”
On the show, best friends Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler are now reaching their late 20s, a few years younger than their real-life counterparts. They are still smoking weed and are always financially scrambling. Abbi is a struggling artist who takes commercial jobs to make ends meet. Iliana has less defined ambitions and more schemes, which she usually drags Abbi into. Iliana is also more sexually adventurous than her friend. They don’t live together, which allows for separate adventures.
This season, the characters are dealing with getting older and facing grown-up situations, along with feeling anxiety about living with the Trump administration.
“You don’t want to keep playing 23-year-olds,” says Glazer, 30, who grew up on Long Island. “The characters are thinking more about their lives than in prior seasons.”
The Pennsylvania native Jacobson, 33, says this season her character is wondering what she’s doing in her life. “Abbi has had these grandiose ideas about who she should be. When you live in New York City, it allows you to be a little stunted.”
Glazer says they have been weighing how to deal with the characters growing more mature along with getting laughs. Last season, the characters traveled to Florida when Ilana’s grandmother died, which gave the characters time to reflect on their lives. They ended up filming the episode at her real grandmother’s retirement home in the Sunshine State. Unfortunately, not long after, Glazer’s other grandma passed away.
“It’s really bizarre how life imitates art and art imitates life,” she observes.
The duo wrote Season 4 months before the 2016 presidential election, but by the time they came back to shoot the season Donald Trump had been elected president, which they felt necessitated making some creative rewrites to the show.
“One of the questions was how are these characters coping with a president who would hate them if he met them?” says Glazer.
Jacobson adds, “For us to not be talking about it as friends in the show would have been insane and would have felt wrong.”
In one episode this season, Ilana (the character) becomes traumatized that she realizes she hasn’t had a satisfying sexual encounter since the election and seeks out a therapist to help. Meanwhile, political statements are subtly part of the show: Abbi’s refrigerator is covered with political-activist reminders while Ilana’s bedroom is littered with Planned Parenthood posters.
“I think that is how everyone is – just really trying to be more woke about what’s going on and be informed,” says Jacobson, “and I think we try to infuse that into the characters.”
To make the point of Abbi and Ilana’s distress, Donald Trump’s name is bleeped each time it’s used in an episode — a practice usually reserved for expletives.
“We just didn’t want to share airtime. He’s got enough, and we don’t even want to hear the word,” says Glazer.
But the season isn’t all politics. It’s just peppered into the wacky situations “Broad City” gals inevitably get into.
“We may be more different than the characters now we’ve gotten older, but we still get in those stupid situations,” acknowledges Glazer.
The pair is committed to at least one more season of “Broad City,” but the two are involved in other projects though remain close friends. “We are like sisters in that whatever Abbi gets to do I get to learn from when I get into she gets to learn from,” says Glazer.
What: Season 4 premiere of the comedy about two stoner Big Apple women, starring Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.
When: 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: Comedy Central.