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That’s Not Funny

The Stars of "Broad City" Share the Secrets to Their Creative Process

Aug 30, 2016

The Stars of “Broad City” Share the Secrets to Their Creative Process

When it comes to peak TV, the only way to win is to stand out. Comedy Central’s Broad City is just one of more than 400 scripted series, yet it’s made its mark by remaining totally unique—an element that stems almost entirely from stars and creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s creative process. And while it’s known primarily for its infectious sense of humor, the truth is, most comedians don’t just find jokes in what’s funny—they find jokes in what’s not.

In the case of Broad City, the laughs come from the struggles (and successes) of love, the tragedies of life, and even the truly mundane (taking a subway or picking up a UPS package)—all of which is filtered through a comedic lens. As the real-life pals explain, their inspiration doesn’t follow a straight trajectory. Instead, it’s more like a secret sauce that’s flavored with music, film, fan feedback, and a healthy pinch of friendly discourse.

“We’re always trying to inject real things that have happened to us into our comedy to keep things fresh,” says Glazer.

While this “realness” may get tweaked for laughs, they’re just as equally invested in the subtle technical nuances of the show. “Both of us watch a lot of shows and movies that aren’t comedic—there are so many great dramas on TV right now that inspire us,” notes Jacobson. “We get really into stylized, cinematic moments and try to find spots for them in our show; long takes, interesting editing choices. We talk about [British movie director] Edgar Wright a lot.” Look beyond the punch lines and you’ll see ample evidence of this; the show’s visually stunning camera work manages to repeatedly capture New York City in all its beauty and its ugliness.

And it’s not just TV and movies that function as big idea generators. Their work is also heavily informed by music too. From the perfect Missy Elliott parody scored by Drake to certain dramatic sequences that feel like they were lifted straight from a music video, Glazer agrees music plays a significant role in their lives on and off screen. “We talk a lot about it—both for the show and what’s inspiring us for the time,” she admits. “I’ve been listening to Miles Davis this summer— specifically Milestones. I used to play drums to this album, but I knew listening would feed back into comedy.”

But perhaps the biggest influence of all is the actresses themselves and how their more than ten-year friendship has not only shaped the decision-making process behind-the-scenes but pop culture at large. Their two names—Abbi & Ilana—are almost always paired together. You can take online quizzes to figure out which one you’re most like; swipe through enough Tinder profiles and you’ll eventually land on an “I’m an Abbi, looking for my Ilana.” In the mind of their fans, one doesn’t exist without the other. And to hear them tell it, they need this yin and yang to continue to grow and expand both as artists and individuals.

“Being in sync means being able to talk things through. The whole point of working with other people is to hear new and different ideas,” Jacobson explains. “As we live and evolve, so will the show.”

And if the fans have anything to say about it, this evolution will continue to reflect the very things that strike a chord in their own lives: the humor and uncertainty of your 20s and the joy that comes with having a friend who totally “gets” it. 

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Published: Aug 30, 2016