Broad City takes SXSW on Day Two

Madison Seely, the communications lead on the ground for DDB at SXSW, reviews one of the panels she was most looking forward to at this year’s festival – and talks about how it didn’t disappoint.

Broad City is a groundbreaking show for women in comedy. And as a woman who dabbles in comedy when I’m not dabbling in advertising, I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was to find out the stars and creators of the show, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, would be speaking at SXSW Interactive. Interviewed by Anne Fulenwider, Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire Magazine, Abbi and Ilana led an in-depth conversation about Broad City, their path to success, and how surreal it all feels. Here are a few of my key takeaways from the conversation:

  • Abbi kicked off the conversation by elaborating on the central element of Broad City: Abbi and Ilana’s remarkable friendship. She said that the relationship is really about discovering who you are in the transitional period that comes with moving to a new city in your early twenties, and how special and transformative that time can be for discovering your identity and who you want to spend time with.
  • The show’s writing process is incredibly fast. In conjunction with the show’s writers room, Abbi and Ilana with the team work to create an outline for each episode that is then submitted for feedback to the network. Once they get the outline back, the full script for each episode is due in about a day and a half!
  • Each season takes about ten or eleven months to make. Abbi and Ilana say they could have some time off if they weren’t so committed to being in the edit room for every episode. “I don’t feel like one, but I am?” said Abbi about being a ‘control freak.’ Ilana added that if they were able to take some time away from being so involved in the production process they could have that time to themselves, but they wouldn’t get the same quality product for the show.
  • Abbi and Ilana first became friends while performing at the famous Upright Citizens Brigade improv theatre in New York. During that time, they were desperately trying to make it onto one of the house improv teams, but no matter their attempts they couldn’t get cast. As their friendship solidified, and as their attempts to succeed on the house improv track were repeatedly shut down, they decided to quit the process altogether and make something of their own. And thus, the web series Broad City which would later go on to be the cable network phenomenon it now is, was born.
  • A special SXSW announcement: Hillary Clinton will guest star in this Wednesday’s upcoming episode! Ilana and Abbi said that they wrote the whole episode with a central Hillary Clinton story line, without any confirmation about whether or not she would actually appear in the show. Despite the uncertainty they moved forward with the script, and then in the process they got word that Hillary was interested.
  • Ann brought up the point that Broad City is “off-handedly, not a big deal, incredibly progressive about so many things,” which the girls were happy to hear. About whether or not this is how Abbi and Ilana personally identify, Ilana said the following: “The characters are inspired by us and then blown out to absurdity for the sake of comedy. We don’t put anything out in the show that we don’t believe in.” She went on to say, to the audience’s applause of support, “We have this privilege of living this liberal life, and it’s fun to show just how liberal it can be.”
  • Abbi and Ilana say the success is still surreal from time to time. They’re consistently blown away when a guest star, such as Whoopi Goldberg (who donned a habit for about five seconds of a recent episode from season three to briefly reprise her Sister Act 2 role), are interested in collaborating. Even SXSW, Abbi said, still feels pretty surreal. Ilana added that for her, some of the success that means the most to her has to do with the demographics of who end up liking the show. “When people are older and love the show there’s a particular sense of accomplishment there,” she said.
  • On a non-Broad City note, Ilana mentioned she has an new and upcoming three-part miniseries called Time Traveling Bong, which will air on Comedy Central after the season three finale of Broad City on April 20th.
  • In the rapid-fire question portion of the interview, Ann asked both girls what the last three items on their credit card statements were. For Abbi: a coffee, a humidifier, and a “disgusting” amount of markers. Lana: the dress she wore for the morning panel, rubber ice cube trays, and nut bars at the airport. Both girls remarked immediately afterwards about how cool they were.

Watching Abbi and Ilana talk candidly was as insightful and fun as expected, and the best way I could’ve imagined starting Day 2 of SXSW. For those of you who’ve never seen Broad City, watch the St. Mark’s episode (season two finale). If you aren’t swept up in Ilana and Abbi’s world and friendship by the end, I’ll personally buy you an oversized novelty tee from a New York souvenir shop.

For more on their conversation, search the hashtag #MCxSXSW on Twitter.

Madison Seely Corporate Communications Associate DDB North America