Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson (‘Broad City’) on being proud the show is ‘hard comedy’ [Complete Interview Transcript]

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson picked up their first Emmy nominations as performers for their web series “Hack Into Broad City” this year, an offshoot of their Comedy Central series “Broad City.” Glazer and Jacobson are nominated in the category of Best Short-Form Actress.

Glazer and Jacobson spoke with Gold Derby contributing writer Charles Bright before the Emmy nominations about the decision to end “Broad City,” their favorite guest stars over the years and more. Watch the exclusive video interview above and read the complete transcript below.

Gold Derby: I’m here with Ilana and Abbi here to ask them why they felt it was time to wrap up the show. I was gonna say why are you doing this to us but I’m sure there’s probably good reason.

Ilana Glazer: We had been talking about the end of the show for a few seasons, for a few years. Once the characters started making little growth moments, which I feel like was Season 3, they start learning stuff, just now in retrospect, that’s when it started to be like, “What is this show?”

Abbi Jacobson: We started to develop more arcs for the characters.

IG: And then when we got the Season 4, 5 pickup, that was also part of the event. I also feel like we just started thinking about the rate of growth that we wanted to cover just creatively, really. It felt right and we had been circling around that question for a couple seasons.

AJ: “Broad City” has always been based around our experiences living in New York in our 20s and we kind of figured out that that’s what the show is. Once one of them is out of their 20s, it felt right that the show would end and leave space for whatever comes next because that’s such a specific experience. We’d been doing “Broad City” as a web series before the show so we’ve been doing it for 10 years now and it just felt really right, creatively.

IG: We wanted to write it so that it really felt like a real ending, the season and also an ending to the series. We needed to know before Season 5. We had to make that call right before Season 5, which is when we made the call.

GD: Over the years there have been so many great episodes of the show. I’m curious if there were any ideas that you had for episodes that you were really passionate about but for one reason or another just didn’t make it as an episode in the end.

IG: It’s funny, we checked a lot of boxes this year. We had a lot of stragglers, just miscellaneous ideas that we hadn’t gotten to and we got a lot of them.

AJ: Like the Brooklyn Bridge, we really wanted to do a Brooklyn Bridge episode in Season 2 but it’s one of the most difficult places to shoot, obviously. If you watched the last episode you could tell why ‘cause it’s open. We couldn’t close it down. It’s live. New York City is on the bridge with us but we finally managed to figure it out for the last episode. But I think we managed to get most of our bucket list places and storylines in there.

IG: There’s episodes we’ve written and then rewritten. We were gonna go to Israel for the season finale of Season 3 but some infantata had just happened and it felt not cool. We were like, “Nah.” We’re really happy with what we ended up with, “Jews on a Plane.” (Laughs.) I love that episode.

AJ: We were sort of forced to rewrite a bottle episode on an airplane. Those limitations are sometimes little bursts of luck because it’s like that ended up being so bizarre and fun and probably way better than the Israel episode would’ve been.

IG: But that episode was so funny. I loved that script, the Israel script. It actually was. Honestly, I’m like, “Ugh.” It just felt too complex and not like what we wanted to do. We honestly made the call, Lucia [Aniello] was on her way to the airport to Israel and she got the call from us. We were like, “Dude, we don’t feel safe about it or right about this.” She was like, “Okay.” (Laughs.)

GD: The show has also been, in my view, a great antidote to the era of the current occupant of the White House. I’m making my best effort not to say his name because you guys didn’t actually say his name on the show, which I thought was brilliant. Did you have to do any major reworking of the fourth season because of the outcome of the 2016 election or was it still a blank slate after that?

AJ: Yes, we did. We wrote the fourth season before the election and we knew we were gonna have to come back and do some rewrites regardless but when we came back we were very distraught and it was just all we were talking about. It seeped into the show like most of our real lives tend to do in one way or the other. We ended up reworking that main script, which is the “Witches” episode where Ilana can’t orgasm because of he who shall not be named, or since he’s been elected. And then it seeped into other episodes in smaller ways but there was an overall tone. We happened to be shooting in the winter which is why we pushed that anyway ‘cause we really wanted the opportunity to shoot in New York in the winter ‘cause we always shoot in the summer and the fall. That married well with the way we were feeling.

GD: Because of this show, you two have gotten to do so many incredible things. You’ve gotten to go to award shows as nominees, you got to present at the Emmys last year, which I loved because I heart John Mulaney so much but you’ve also gotten to present at the Mark Twain Awards to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. What’s been the most thrilling thing you’ve gotten to be a part of?

IG: Good fucking call. That was so special. I love PBS so hard and I love the Mark Twain Prize and I fuckin’ love JLD. Props to Sara Schaefer, the comedy writer Sara Schaefer who wrote that bit for us and we talked it out with her and brainstormed but that was one of the scariest things. The puking, we were so hyperventilating at that dance. We were wrenching after it (laughs).

AJ: Yeah, that was really incredible. I will also say, to present at the Emmys was really special. You mention that we’ve been to award shows as nominees. I think that was one time, the Critics’ Choice Awards. We have never been nominated for an Emmy in any way for anything and have never been. We’ve always watched from TV like everyone else. For us to even be in that room was so huge and to be able to be funny on that stage. We love our show so much. It is our baby but the comedy category is ruthless. It’s really hard to be considered and also comedy itself is not always funny anymore.

IG: That’s the thing. When you say ruthless I’m like, “What do you mean?” It feels like comedies these days are this mood or a look book. It’s like lifestyle shows, comedy shows, whereas I’m so proud of “Broad City” being hard comedy. That’s not really honored usually.

AJ: It’s not honored at the award shows so for us to get up there and get to present and to do our thing up there, even if it was really quick, was huge.

GD: Another aspect of the show that I think works so well are the incredible guest stars that you’ve had over the five years of this show, whether it’s Blake Griffin playing himself or Tony Danza or Fran Drescher or Jane Curtin. There’ve been so many. Who has been a personal favorite for each one of you as a guest star?

IG: I was gonna answer your question about what’s the best thing we’ve gotten to do, and I’m like, the other stuff has been funny candy experiences and it’s fun but the show has been the richest part of the whole experience. Every stage, but shooting is just so wild. The guest stars that we’ve had, they’ve been so specific. Even Blake Griffin in there does make sense with Whoopi [Goldberg] and Shania Twain and Ru[Paul], it’s kind of random but also the quilt of talent that we’ve gotten to, the tapestry we’ve gotten to luxuriate in, has been such a blast and such an honor to have these people. “Broad City” is such a unique show. You get it if you get it, and that’s the same with the guest stars. RuPaul, for me, I felt like we were an ice skating duo. He is just eleganza. He blessed our set with such a rich spirit. Vanessa Williams. Vanessa was so funny. Shaina Twain, honestly, I can’t even.

AJ: There’s so many. I’m just trying to think. Seth Rogen to do the first episode of Season 2, that was early on. That was incredible and to go for it, we were schvitzing the whole time. Kelly Ripa. It’s just unbelievable. Steve Buscemi.

IG: Buscemi. I was in lurve, oh my god.

AJ: It’s been such a treat. Alan Cumming. We could go on and on and on.

IG: We were just talking about Wanda Sykes’ new standup special, which is so funny. I was watching it the other day. She was on our show. Wanda is so funny. I’m like, “What coolies, the guest stars we’ve had.” Whoopi Goldberg, was that Season 2 or 3?

AJ: 3.

IG: That was the same episode as Vanessa. Whoopi, come on. Whoopi to be her own character to be self-referential like that in our show was crazy.

AJ: She came on and didn’t even say anything. It was crazy. “Sister Act,” I owned it on VHS, I watched it constantly. For her to be like, “Yep, I’ll come on. I’ll be Sister Mary Clarence for a fantasy scene.”

IG: Do you remember, I was talking to her and I was totally keeping it up, keeping it cool, “I’ll be right back!” And then I ran and cried and that set, we worked in this abandoned building as a stage and I was amongst rubble in a building site (crying).

AJ: I’ve learned so much from our guest stars, too, about how to be… People are so humble and how to be on-set and how to treat crew.

IG: And what the industry looked like. Not only are we pretty young, we’ve been legit in the industry…

AJ: We’re really young.

IG: Like 19 pretty much like. We were like 19.

AJ: No we weren’t.

IG: I was making a joke but then I took it seriously. We’ve been up in this for five or six years but these people to share their experiences with us and share their experience and who they’ve curated themselves to be on our show, damn. We’re so lucky. All the guest stars. Who can we choose above anyone else? It’s been so fun. Seth Green.

GD: One of the things at the Emmys that they have you do is if you were to get nominated, you have to submit an episode. What I was wondering is not what you would choose for yourselves but what would you choose for this past season for each other’s episodes. Abbi, what would you choose for Ilana and Ilana what would choose for Abbi?

AJ: I think I would maybe choose… it’s tough. It’s tough because I’m like, “Funny.” I think 8 is Ilana’s most juicy performance because it goes really dark but I think 4 for Ilana might be the funniest, with the therapy. It’s hard. Or 7 with the eye. It’s really hard.

IG: I was just talking about how hard the comedy is in our show but your storyline is hardest in this. Mine’s like emo. Episode 5 at MoMA, I don’t know what it is about that episode and maybe it’s because I directed it but you were so raw and tender in that episode. You just were so exposed. It was a really beautiful performance. I love 5.

AJ: I had a really good director.

IG: I don’t know. There was something very raw.

AJ: I would pick that one too. What would you pick for yourself?

IG: I don’t know. I really like 10. I love just how we let it actually happen. That was so up and down and also the toilet cracks me up. I’m so gross and then it’s so sweet. I love 10.

AJ: The one I was most excited about, it begins the arc, is 1. I’m so proud of Episode 1 because there are so many jokes per minute and we took such a risk and made this, I consider a piece of art for the technological phase we’re in right now in society. We were terrified of making that episode and it came out better than we could’ve ever imagined. Nick Paley, who directed and edited it knocked it out of the park. It is also very emotional. You know something’s coming but it’s also really hard comedy.

IG: I would nominate that episode. I was thinking about that as a performance too ‘cause I was watching with my friend, Matt, and he was like, “Oh my god, I was sad in this.” He was so moved by it. That was such an accomplishment in those little blips. That was such a gorgeous episode. I would pick that as an episode to nominate.

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