Big laughs, Broad City

Broad City explores typical New York tropes through a fresh lens with hilarious results.

by James Brown

It’s easy to compare Broad City, the latest sitcom from Comedy Central to Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls; their bones are the same. Both series star young, broke, white, twenty-something female characters in modern day New York City, but that’s where the similarities end. Girls is a direct descendant of Ally McBeal. It’s a melodrama that finds laughs (and at times brilliance) in the margins of its characters’ strained relationships. Even its flights of fancy are grounded in a character driven reality. Broad City isn’t interested in any of that. Much like FX’s Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City trades realism for lots of silliness at supersonic speed. Broad City is a live action cartoon worthy of the Road Runner.

Broad City is based on the YouTube series of the same name. It was created by Upright Citizen Brigade alums Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer and was produced by fellow UCB alum and Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler. Jacobson and Glazer play exaggerated co-dependent versions of themselves without the comic ambition. Abbi is an aspiring personal trainer who begrudgingly works as a custodian at a pretentious health club called Solstice, where everyone bows at each other as they leave room. Ilana is a horrible employee at a sporadically paying, Groupon-ish startup. She’s mastered the art of sleeping with her eyes open after partying all night. Despite all this, her boss begs her to come back. Abbi’s neurotic dreaminess bounces off Ilana’s half-baked Machiavellian schemes into outer space and back again.

The series’ most endearing character is Ilana’s effervescent, on again, off again almost boyfriend Lincoln, portrayed by comedian Hannibal Buress. Lincoln drops in sporadically to observe and comment on the obvious absurdity of the moment. This device was used to perfection in episode four when Lincoln finds Ilana barefoot, dirty, outside of a hipster-ish vegan sandwich shop, stealing day old bagels from a newly dumped garbage bag. He asks her: “Are you eating garbage bagels?”

Unlike the early episodes of many series, Broad City has a clear comic voice and well-defined world. The show’s objective seems clear: use Abbi and Ilana’s relationship as a vehicle to exaggerate and explore typical New York tropes through a fresh lens, no more no less, with hilarious results.


James Brown is a writer living in Rochester, NY. He blogs here. Email him here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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  1. Had thought use of the term “broad” had become seriously un-pc. Ever wonder what it, popular among swinger types in the sixties, came from? Found this:

    “woman,” slang, 1911, perhaps suggestive of broad (adj.) hips, but it also might trace to American English abroadwife, word for a woman (often a slave) away from her husband. Earliest use of the slang word suggests immorality or coarse, low-class women. Because of this negative association, and the rise of women’s athletics, the track and field broad jump was changed to the long jump c.1967