How do you get a true look into someone’s character? Easy: Talk to them, observe them, maybe interview their friends or family. Or you can take the Abbi Jacobson route: take their bags, turn them upside down, and rifle through their stuff. Then judge away.
In Carry This Book, a new illustrated release from the Broad City star available this week, Jacobson marries her sense of humor with bright, inventive drawings that demonstrate what some of the most famous pop culture figures might be keeping tucked away in their “pockets and purses, bags and glove compartments”—in Jacobson’s mind. Much like her hit show, Jacobson’s book, her third, values authenticity and silliness in equal measure, and creates down-to-earth portraits of figures so aspirational that some are even fictional. Jacobson and her comedy BFF Ilana Glazer became millennial icons over three seasons of their cult show, where their characters muddle through a surreal world with only their bond and brazen humor to protect them. It’s lucky for us, then, that Jacobson uses her bright illustrations to share that sense of humor with readers: In a 2016 more absurd than anything on Comedy Central, we need it.
The book plays like a version of Where’s Waldo? made for the People magazine crowd. Take, for example, a spread, over the course of two pages that begins with a pair of impressive headphones and a glasses case from Warby Parker, a fashionable eyewear chain in New York City. Then you spot, a Dave and Buster’s rewards card (instead of an ID, say) with a name etched on it, and realize you’re looking at Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s bag. Of course. Everyone in Jacobson’s book has a fun-loving side, especially an outspoken SCOTUS member.
Broad City’s impact on Jewish culture comes at least partially from its protagonists’ ability to evade—or, really, overcome—stereotypes. These “broads” are economically frustrated and sexually liberated: You won’t find any cliché princesses here. The book continues Jacobson’s work in crafting fully fleshed out characters. Literary call-outs wink at the flaws of some revered figures—she uses an arrow to point out some parts of Gandhi’s memoirs were, in her words, “ a bit racist” —and highlights out little-known quirks in others, such as Einstein’s sock vendetta (yes, Jacobson makes this a thing).
Also depicted are Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Bernie Madoff, whom Jacobson fears may have taken his copy of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff a bit too seriously. There’s the infinitely more admirable Nora Ephron, deep in her copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Jacobson pictures Barbie as the classic Jewish overachiever we all know her to be, and yes, even Abbi and Ilana’s bags make an appearance. Jacobson gives her fictional alter-ego a bounty of Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons and a list of ideas for new illustrations, including a concept that pictures the stuff people carry with them. She carries that around with copies of The New Yorker and O—just another well-read “Jewess trying to make a buck,” exactly as her show once described her.
Shiran Lugashi is a freelance writer, podcaster, and binge-watcher based in New York City