The Creators of Broad City Graduate from Improv Class

September 06, 2011

Abbi Jacobson, 27, and Ilana Glazer, 24, have been commuting, eating sandwiches and sometimes having sex with losers in New York for about half a decade, developing both their comedic acumen and their friendship at the Upright Citizens Brigade training center. With Broad City, their original sketch comedy web series, Jacobson and Glazer prove that they’ve not only got the chops to make it on their own, but also the clarity and good instincts to be a voice for women in their 20s.

You met as comedy students. What did you study before that? 
ABBI JACOBSON: I went to art school in Baltimore, and then I moved to New York to go to the Atlantic theater conservatory and hated it immediately. I had to make a decision to quit or not. I called my dad crying, and I was like, What do I do? I left Atlantic and started taking classes at Upright Citizens Brigade. ILANA GLAZER: I grew up on Long Island. My brother is four years older, and I followed whatever he said. He went to NYU when I was 14, and I was like, I’m going to go to NYU. My brother wanted to take comedy classes. He’s kind of a pussy, so he waited for me to move, and we started taking 101, UCB’s introduction class, together. 101’s for anyone who wants to get comfortable taking risks. It’s what college is supposed to be. People talk about the craziest, most embarrassing shit. My parents were paying for NYU, but I was paying for all my comedy classes. JACOBSON: After the first class, people start dropping out because it gets harder. If you stay in, you realize you care a lot more than you thought. GLAZER: You care a lot, [so you form] practice groups and work with people outside of class. The practice team we were on together worked every Thursday night for two years. JACOBSON: We paid for a coach, a room and got no money or anything tangible back. GLAZER: Just an extracurricular activity.

It sounds like church. GLAZER: That is exactly correct, actually. You just have to be supportive. You support the team’s story. JACOBSON: The motto of improv theater is “don’t think.” You work your muscle until you get to a place where you make moves without doubting yourself. GLAZER: The muscle is trust. It’s a very vulnerable place to be, in front of an audience with nothing planned. Comedy taught me to not fear bombing.

Why did you leave UCB? JACOBSON: We started Broad City because I felt like I was failing at improv. GLAZER: UCB has house teams named after the Harold structure, a form of improv. There are auditions for Harold teams once a year. This time 500 people auditioned and like ten got chosen. JACOBSON: It’s like being on the football team, being quarterback. I was tunnel vision about improv for years, trying to get on those teams. But I took one class, sort of like a life-coach thing. It was about setting goals and creating material for yourself. I got to a point where I was confident enough to feel like, I’m funny. I needed to prove that I could produce something else. We were both like, We could just do us. GLAZER: Abbi and I had a dynamic that made us laugh. It was a ball-busting relationship, but whenever we busted each other’s balls, there was no fear. JACOBSON: Broad City’s about us, but if we’d met and hadn’t ever done comedy. The characters are ambitious, but in a confused, vague way. GLAZER: You’re seeing my wild half and Abbi’s conservative half. JACOBSON: A lot of people think Ilana is this crazy, sexy slut girl, and I’m prude and insecure. But we have to exaggerate to distinguish ourselves. GLAZER: Because we look like two Jewesses. People aren’t used to seeing two similarly bodied women act together. Usually you’ve got either a dumb bitch or an annoying bitch. Either really skinny or fat. We’re in the middle.

What have you learned from working on Broad City together? GLAZER: From Abbi I’ve learned not to take shit from anybody and to raise my standards. JACOBSON: We can do whatever we want as long as we do it. Everybody can. GLAZER: Failures are really just opportunities to react in a cool way.

The Creators of Broad City Graduate from Improv Class