The creators and stars preview a 'darker' — but still 'upbeat' — season for their characters
In the winter-set fourth season of Comedy Central’s Broad City, Abbi and Ilana (played by creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer) must face the chilly prospect of growing up. “In winter, you tend to get a little bit more sad and a little bit more, ‘What am I doing with my life?'” Jacobson says. “These characters are getting older, and when you’re in your mid to late 20s, you’re like, ‘What do I do?'”
Reality has set in for the girls, and that reality includes today’s political climate — the pair have been bleeping any mentions of POTUS’ name — which Jacobson says only affects the season’s tone, not the entire season itself. Below, the pair preview the comedy’s fourth installment, what it means to make a “darker” Broad City for their characters, and which guest stars surprised them the most.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s been a while since season 3. What were your goals going into season 4?
ABBI JACOBSON: First and foremost, for the show to be funny and for us to explore these characters in a new fresh way that we haven’t done before, but also to grow and maintain the friendship and the comedy that we have established already. But in this season, we had this big hiatus, and it’s been a year and a half since we’ve been on and the election happened, so there were definitely more things that we wanted to talk about, including the current political climate.
How much of a challenge was it for you guys to be more topical this season?
ILANA GLAZER: Well, I guess we haven’t been as vocal about our politics because I think when Obama was president, while our show was on during season 1 through 3, it felt like in America, or at least more in New York, there was this agreed-upon [view on] politics… And then with this election, it just seemed like it’s too risky to not be fully precise about what you mean. I think we want to highlight these core beliefs that this year just felt like had to be articulated. Saying what we believed or how we feel as oppressed women, I think we were less afraid of feeling like it was too much.
JACOBSON: Dealing with directly talking about the election or that type of thing is a little bit different from something bad happening in one of the character’s personal lives and turning that into humor. At the end of the day, and not to make a grand statement or whatever, just, a lot of times, the most humor can be found in the s—tiest things, in the saddest times. That’s why comedy is so important.
Sometimes in these interviews, I wonder if we’re putting out this thing that every episode is going to be Trump-related, and it’s not. It’s just sort of like an overall tone shift that is happening with everyone… If you aren’t woke to these issues, now you have to be, or you are more than ever, or you’re trying more than ever to be more aware and more conscious to whatever’s going on. It was us examining how these characters deal with these situations and also what we really want to talk about and how we can do it in an organic way? There’s humor to be had in people just trying to be woke. Like, I love that Ilana’s headboard is completely [covered in] protest posters. It’s stuff like that.
Where do we begin with the girls this season?
GLAZER: So the first episode is kookoo cachoo [Jacobson laughs]. We don’t meet them in present day, we’re f—ing with time, and it’s an origin story. So this is like… do you guys watch Project Runway? Abbi, did you?
JACOBSON: Yeah, in the beginning.
GLAZER: You know that thing that Michael Kors does, where he’s like [raises voice] “He’s a wackadoo!”
JACOBSON: So insane. A wack-a-doo.
GLAZER: So we start the season with an origin story, how the girls first met, and it’s such a wild way to start the season… We’re not picking up from where season 3 ended. The Broad City world lives and breathes even when we’re not watching it, so it picks up a little bit more developed, and they are slowly getting more mature like people do in their 20s. You can see how reality has set in. Also with Trump’s election, their reality is just gloomier, as it is in the regular world.
JACOBSON: Nothing has changed so dramatically that you’re going to be unfamiliar with the world, but the show this season has sort of a shift emotionally that matches the stuff we want to talk about. Because in winter you get — I mean, maybe not everyone — but you tend to get a little bit more sad and it’s a little bit more lonely and a little bit more, “What am I doing with my life?” kind of mentality than when the sun is out. You know, these characters are getting older, and you start to get to a point — or at least I did — when you’re in New York and you’re in your mid to late 20s and you’re like, “What the f—, what do I do?” Luckily, these characters have each other, and it’s still a very upbeat show in a lot of ways, but they’re starting to get to that point, they’re trying to figure out what they’re gonna do next.
I’m assuming Abbi takes that more seriously than Ilana does?
GLAZER: I think Ilana’s following a similar thread for sure. I feel like the mentality [for both of them] is definitely darker. Both women are seeing the bigger picture when we start with them in episode 2, but Ilana’s definitely darker and a little bit more desperate. I think it fluctuates this season, and I think that’s true of this show in general, but also maybe it was more pronounced this year for different reasons… I feel like throughout this season, these girls have their ups and downs in every episode, which is how the world feels these days, just things are so extreme, but Ilana’s definitely at a loss when we first see her this season in present day.
JACOBSON: Yeah, and Abbi starts off the other way.
GLAZER: Yeah, and I don’t even know why, like, they have a higher height to fall from…
JACOBSON: It’s kind of like when you have a job for a little while, like, a couple of years, and then you don’t have that job anymore. If you don’t find a permanent job right away, you kind of bounce back and forth between these quicker jobs, and I think we find both of them sort of in that mode. Like you can’t find what you’re doing.
As far as guest stars go, I know you have a great lineup this season — with RuPaul, Shania Twain, Fran Drescher, and more stopping by — but who gave the most surprising performance?
GLAZER: Like how Abbi and Ilana are similar vibes to us, I think in the show — at least so far — it has really paid off creatively to nail in someone just as they are. The part we wrote for Ru, like, nothing was suprising with him — he’s not playing something different from himself, like a f—ing nun or whatever, but it is so perfectly written for him and so delicious, the dialogue and the performance and the camera moves really honor him. He’s so funny and flamboyant and so alive, you know? I think that’s what’s so surprising. You’re just like, “Yaaaaassssss!” [when you’re watching him]. You never question it.
JACOBSON: We kind of pick people because we want to write to their strengths. Fran Drescher is incredible and fits so well into [the story]. Fran plays Ilana’s aunt and so she’s Susie Essman’s sister and that dynamic was just unbelievable to watch. And it just made so much sense, which is kind of baffling, how perfect it was.
GLAZER: I thought of somebody who is surprising: Shania Twain. She’s really so funny, and, how’d you describe it, Abbi? Not blue, but, like, naughty and hilarious on our show, and that is kind of shocking.
JACOBSON: Her sense of humor about herself as this icon in the world of Broad City, her self-awareness of being down to joke about herself as an icon, that was shocking. [Laughs]
Broad City returns Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 10:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.