The immediate comparison that can be made of Broad City is to Lena Denham’s Girls: both are female centric shows, both attempt to be raw depictions of young adulthood, and both do so using a comedy brand reliant on hipster grunge. But while the latter has become an amalgamation of privileged characters and loathsome friendships, the former is a smart take on one’s early twenties and the often frustrating trials of everyday life. Born from the minds of real life friends, Abbi Jacobson (Inside Amy Schumer) and Ilana Glazer (The Night Before), the series evolved from a web-series created by the two that was quickly picked up by Comedy Central and jettisoned to popularity.
The show chronicles the lives of two twenty-something best friends in New York, as they deal with relationships and rent, and all while fearing ever having reason to go to the crusty Upper East Side. Abbi (Jacobson) is a struggling artist, who hates her roommate’s repulsive boyfriend (John Gemberling), and spends most of her time working as a gym cleaner with aspirations of one day becoming a trainer. Ilana (Glazer), on the other hand, treats her job at a Groupon-like company as an after thought, preferring to instead take multi-hour weed breaks or sleep through most of her day, while resisting committing to her long-time casual hook-up (Hannibal Buress).
The humour mainly stems from the mundane situations, turned into outlandish and disastrous events, that the two women must navigate. Everything from doing taxes to dealing with problematic bowel movements is covered, but done with the kind of naivety and trepidation that comes from dealing with these types of issues and still feeling fraudulent whenever labeled as an adult. But there’s a lot more on offer than just this and it’s comparable to some of the funniest Television shows of the past decade: there’s the quirky and abstract awkwardness of Flight of the Conchords, the stoner-comedy of Workaholics, the observational style of Louie, and even the social commentary of Inside Amy Schumer.
While another show might be bogged down by engaging in so many forms of comedy, or at least struggle at transitioning between each, Broad City flourishes in having so many colours on it’s palate to paint with, and notably does so in a seamless manner. It’s also not deterred to engage in humour that’s been mostly reserved for men in the genre, with its stoner-bro tendencies that pop up in Illana and Abbi’s relationship, and all while actively avoiding the tropes of women in comedies past that would otherwise see the two depicted as near perfect (but tragically clumsy) women waiting (ironically or not) for the one to appear.
Yet, the strongest elements of the show are Glazer and Jacobson themselves. Having both been members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, co-founded by Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), who executive-produces and also guest stars here, the two have a solid history in improvisation and an impeccable sense of timing that’s clearly on display. Ilana is distinctly the more eccentric of the duo who’s always down for anything, but while Abbi may at first seem like the straight woman, she soon shows that she has her own form of crazy with her Bed, Bath and Beyond obsession and drug-induced freak-outs.
Most importantly though, is the shows progressive handling of the bigger issues that all twenty-something’s encounter and must traverse early on. Its representation of sexuality is consciously constructed, with characters never boxed within cookie cutter ideas of orientation or shamed for engaging in healthy sexual relationships, and refreshingly, unlike almost any other female friendship on television, the show never attempts to capitalise on drama between the two women and instead allows them to have a consistent and caring relationship.
Whether their inability to pay their rent, their attempts to deal with the struggles of the adult world, or their unfailing desire to drop all things and get high, there’s enough in Broad City for most people to find relatable, although these adventures will no doubt resonate the most with the generation that is currently living them.