Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson Takes on Trump: Our Comedy Matters Now More Than Ever
It’s a luxury to have a platform to use your voice, ‘Broad City’ star Abbi Jacobson tells The Daily Beast at the Sundance Film Festival. “I’m so happy we’re on TV right now.”
Donald Trump is president, and Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are ready for the world to end.
Rather their Broad City counterparts are, in a short released minutes before last week’s swearing-in ceremony titled “Inauguration Uncensored.”
“People are just gonna be grabbin’ shit! We’re gonna have to wear cups now! People are just gonna be peeing on other people now,” Jacobson says in the clip. “I’m foaming at the mouth now.”
Since Broad City premiered in 2014, Abbi Jacobson, along with her partner-in-crime Ilana Glazer, found themselves, through their show and comedy, becoming celebrity icons of female empowerment for a generation of young millennials desperate for permission to belt out, “Yas, kween!”
The Comedy Central series’ portrayal both of female friendship and the simultaneously aimless, ambitious, and frustrating struggle of twentysomethings was catharsis by comedy: two flawed, hilarious women whose self-confidence and worth wasn’t manifested in Manohlos, cosmos, and “couldn’t help but wonder”-ing in a fancy New York Post column, but instead by normalizing the sometimes sad, sometimes silly experience of just figuring it all out.
In its three seasons, the show has matter-of-factly discussed sexual power, identity, women’s rights, entitlement, agency, harassment, success, selfishness, friendship, fighting the patriarchy, and feminism, all through a voice that finally seemed relatable to a certain “us”—albeit much funnier than “we” could ever hope to be.
It’s fitting then that Jacobson and I are speaking on the eve of the Women’s March on Washington, as she preps to premiere her first film in a starring role, Person to Person, at the Sundance Film Festival.
How does that make her feel about her work, I ask her? Broad City is a raucous Comedy Central series. But it is also so vital.
“I definitely feel it’s very important as a person to continue to make things with my own point of view, and reflect the things that I believe in that the new president clearly does not,” she says. “I’m so happy we’re on TV right now.” “What a luxury it is to have a voice to get to talk about the things we want to talk about on that scale, in a time when they need to be talked about,” she continues. “And through comedy. What more could you ask for? It’s so important.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Hillary Clinton made a splashy appearance on the show, a booking that, depending on who you spoke to, represented the then-presidential candidate’s desire to appeal to millennials, a distracting political sideshow, or a major turning point in terms of the level of credence given to Broad City’s larger statements beneath the jokes.
When Clinton was first announced to appear on the show, Jacobson and Glazer were quick to say that it was not a political endorsement. But later in the campaign she clarified that it absolutely was a statement of support.
“It was such a special day for us, and still is,” Jacobson says. “I’m so happy that was part of our show, even if this [the election results] happened. It was a turning point for the show to be talking about things we care about on a different level.”
It was on weekends from shooting the show that she filmed her role in Person to Person.
Person to Person is one of those teeny-tiny, quiet, and lovely indie films that actually seem like indie films, evoking a DIY spirit and feeling of time and place, produced on a shoestring budget, unlike the direction the industry has been heading (Silver Linings Playbook, for example, was considered an indie film).
It’s an urban ensemble film set in New York City, shot in a way in which you can sense the dusty air. Jacobson, along with Michael Cera and Tavi Gevinson, lead the cast, a sprawling group of characters each engaged in their own intimate vignettes that are only loosely connected to each other.
There’s one scene, for example, that begins with a couple arguing as they cross the street. As the camera follows them, character actor Philip Baker Hall then comes into the frame. He turns and the camera then follows, tricking anyone who assumed it was the couple whose story we’d be following.
Jacobson’s interactions are largely with Cera and Hall. Cera is an editor at one of those New York tabloids, chasing the next scandal. Jacobson plays the new reporter he just hired, who is sent to stalk a recent widow who may have killed her husband, but is haplessly uncomfortable with intruding in the woman’s life in any way.
Throughout the entire trying experience, her character struggles through a self-reckoning: mustering up the ambition to execute this, a real job, but also being spiritually at odds with every element of it, debating whether to quit.
It’s certainly something that Jacobson could relate to.
“Before we got Broad City, I was working these shitty jobs and just—not even shitty, just jobs I didn’t care about,” she says. “I was an assistant to this guy, and it’s just hard to fake that. If you can’t find something to latch onto in a job it’s just really tough.”
Then there was the job that forced her to make cold calls. “It was terrifying,” she says. “I hated it. And in this, she’s going and asking people these questions, intruding in someone’s life that there’s no way for her to be comfortable.”
Person to Person is Jacobson’s first major film role, following a cameo in the recent Neighbors sequel. Earlier this year, she released a book that she illustrated herself called Carry This Book, in which she imagined what would be in the bags of famous people like Hillary Clinton, Oprah, Beyoncé...and Donald Trump.
Glazer, too, has used her time off from Broad City to pursue her own projects, like the Netflix miniseries Time-Traveling Bong and Seth Rogen’s Christmas comedy The Night Before.
“We’ve sort of created a joint voice together and we each have our own voices,” Jacobson says, a distinction that’s she’s relished the opportunity to delineate in recent years.
“We’ve always had our singular bodies of work and then our joint body of work,” she goes on. “Obviously Broad City is what people know both of us from the most. So that partnership only makes anything else we do together or separate better.”