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On Comedy Central’s Broad City, Two Jewesses Just Want To Have Fun

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s new show is refreshingly entertaining

Stephanie Butnick
January 23, 2014
Broad City's Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. (Facebook)
Broad City's Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. (Facebook)

Broad City, the new show created by and starring UCB alums Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, premiered on Comedy Central last night, and if the comedians I follow on Twitter are any barometer, it’s the next big thing. The show, produced by fellow UCB alum Amy Poehler, is an extension of Jacobson and Glazer’s popular web series of the same name, and is one of the most refreshing 30 minutes of television I’ve seen in a while.

That’s because Jacobson and Glazer, who play best friends who are broke and in their twenties, spare us Hannah Horvath’s inert over-analysis of her 25-year-old existential state and Frances Ha’s immobilizing fear that everyone she went to college with is moving on without her. They don’t care about any of that that. They just want to have fun, and frankly, it’s about damn time.

They have crappy jobs, bad apartments with terrible roommates who have even more terrible boyfriends, and almost no money. What they do have is each other, and the creativity that comes with their presumed liberal arts degrees to embrace whatever situation they find themselves in. It’s far more entertaining—and, let’s be honest, realistic—than most recent television and film portrayals of young women. They’re not obsessed with jumpstarting their confusingly trendy cupcake business, like on Two Broke Girls, or trying to get/stay famous in a glamorous big city like on pretty much every reality show. Their lives kind of suck, and they need to do something to distract themselves. Every day.

In the first episode, that includes Glazer hatching a plan to get tickets to a secret Lil Wayne show at Bowery Ballroom, which she shares with Jacobson over a videochat session. But like any good 21st century 20-somethings, they’re multitasking even then: Glazer is having sex with a guy who really likes her but to whom she insists things are “just physical,” and Jacobson is trying to work her vibrator. Have I mentioned the show is a bit raunchy? It’s not Sarah Silverman raunchy, heaven forbid, or even Amy Schumer raunchy, but the kind of raunchy you might expect from two women hell-bent on entertaining themselves through the rocky patches of early-adulthood.

“We’re just two Jewesses trying to make a buck,” Glazer writes in a Craigslist ad, with the hopes of securing the funds they need ($200) for the Weezy show. She’s at her place of work, Deals Deals Deals, and has just learned the dubious start-up’s paychecks aren’t going to be in in time for payday. Jacobson, meanwhile, is a wannabe spinning instructor at Soulstice, the most perfect send-up of the Soul Cycle/Flywheel craze I’ve seen so far (and I’ve been looking), relegated to washing sweaty towels, unclogging toilets, and dealing with whatever one imagines is a “pube situation” in the women’s showers. You can’t blame her for trying. But you also can’t really blame her for bailing in the middle of the workday at Glazer’s request to make those tickets happen.

But back to the Jewesses thing. The show is super Jewish, but in that new tacit, casual way that’s more Andy Samberg and less Adam Sandler. It’s not New Girl’s Schmidt dropping lines about his bar mitzvah and seeking his rabbi out as a therapist when the show’s plot stalls. They’re just Jewish (on the show and in real life, duh), and it plays into their act as much as any other of their characteristics (young women, broke, middling bucket drummers) do. Like I said, refreshing.

In what should surprise no one watching the premiere, the two end up in the apartment of an unbelievably creepy Fred Armisen, having been hired via Craigslist to clean. In their underwear. “We’re just two gals cleaning in our underwear for an hour,” Glazer cheerily explains to Jacobson, though she soon realizes their situation is pervy going on completely terrifying. Still, they came here to work, and work they do—cleaning the apartment in their skivvies as Armisen watches, Jacobson using one arm to cover her stomach in vain and Glazer, who has very clearly gotten them into this situation, committing to all fours to clean the floor. It’s gross, and entirely ill-advised, though they seem to be aware of the fact that they’re not in any direct danger. Or if they are, they don’t seem to really care.

When the hour is up, Armisen cries baby (literally, he’s wearing an adult diaper) and says he can only pay them in blocks, not money. So they trash his apartment, to his delight, then grab a bunch of coats and liquor and bolt.

They’re not going to make it to the concert after all, though they quickly rationalize their disappointment. Jacobson still doesn’t understand who Lil Wayne actually is, and Glazer admits he’s so short they probably wouldn’t see him over the crowds anyway. Plus the drinks are expensive, and Jacobson’s overactive bladder would have them stuck on the bathroom line for most of the show. They’re resilient, as any disappointed millennial has against all odds figured out how to be, and they’re already on to their next adventure.

“Tomorrow’s going to be the day that we’re going to look back and be like, That was the day,” Glazer tells Jacobson as they sit on a stoop drinking out of Armisen’s crystal liquor carafes. Preach, sister.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.