They’re the ballsiest, most outrageous women on TV. As Broad City returns, its creators – and stars – talk sexual liberation and female friendship with Lucy Vine
There is a scene in episode four, series two of Broad City where TV comedy broke one of the nal sex taboos. In it, leading lady Abbi strides into the bedroom where her date, Jeremy, waits patiently in bed. Wearing mismatched underwear, with hands on hips and a strap-on dildo determinedly bobbing at her crotch, Abbi instructs him, ‘Turn around.’ And thus, ‘pegging’ went mainstream.
This week, season four of arguably one of the best shows on screen, Broad City, begins on Comedy Central. The series follows two broke and single 20-something New Yorker millennials called Abbi and Ilana. Played by real life best friends Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, we see them trying to be adult, as they navigate hideous dates, deal with crappy flatmates, get stoned in the middle of the day, and regularly lose their jobs. And years on from that legendary pegging scene, the stars/ creators/writers/producers are still crushing taboos under heel. Nothing is off -limits for the pair, who met a decade ago in an improv class and became ‘sisterly immediately’. They joke about periods, drugs, poo, masturbation (extensively) and sex (extensively). And they now have a range of sex toys with Love Honey (yes, there is a ‘Pegasus Pegging Kit’ and, so far, it all has rave reviews). ‘The show is so sex positive that we felt like the toys aligned with what we were trying to say,’ Abbi tells Grazia. ‘We collaborated on design and names, but we weren’t sitting around sketching dildos!’
Abbi, 33, and Ilana, 30, both laugh when we ask about their boundary- pushing, and laugh even harder when we ask if no one tried to stop an incest storyline in season one. Abbi says, ‘Looking back, I am like, “Why were we fighting so hard for that?!” We in no way promote incest. But we were like, “You gotta let us do this!”’ Down the phone, Ilana is close to losing it, as she laughs, ‘ That is so funny, why did we do that?’ Adding, ‘We’re always full-steam ahead with things.’
Of course, other comedy shows have taken on taboos – Curb Your Enthusiasm, Rick And Morty, BoJack Horseman (a show they’ve both appeared in) – but all have men at the forefront. Being a woman who jokes on screen about who they would ‘gross-fuck’ (someone you nd repulsive, but still kinda want to get it on with), while wearing stained pyjamas and no bra, somehow feels much scarier. But it’s gained them fans around the world. ‘Writing the show has made us braver,’ says Abbi. ‘And we wanted it to feel as real as possible. I have a problem when I’m watching something where the people in it are too made up. We care a lot about that. On the day I’m like, “Oh, I look terrible!” But I want these characters to look how they really look when they wake up; all dishevelled. TV and film have a bullshit portrayal of women. People watch and then think they’re expected to look like that in their everyday lives.’ Ilana adds,‘I don’t think about it as being a thing until afterwards. But I don’t feel like I’m in a liberal bubble. I’m in a strong women wind tunnel. And that’s really fucking cool if we’re making women feel braver.'
That doesn’t mean, though, that Abbi and Ilana don’t encounter the same level of abuse as other outspoken women. Ilana recently announced she was leaving Twitter calling it a ‘fiery hellscape that terrifies and depresses me’. She adds now, a little wearily, ‘I just needed a break from social media. You look and then you have to look away because it hurts so much. It’s such a level of abuse at a mass-produced level. I just needed some self-care time.’
It seems relevant, then, that our interview comes the same week hordes of women, including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cara Delevingne, came forward with shocking stories of sexual misconduct involving producer Harvey Weinstein. ‘I mean, I’m not surprised,’ Abbi says, in a quiet voice. ‘I feel like there’s probably so much more of that to come. It’s really so important that these women are coming forward, and exposing this power dynamic that is so f--ked up. It’s so upsetting and so ingrained within our society. It’s not OK.’ Have they experienced anything like that, with a man in a position of power over them? Ilana answers slowly. ‘We’re lucky because we haven’t been in that situation a lot. We’ve certainly been patronised, condescended to and creeped out by people. We’ve dealt with shit, but it’s never been that extreme. Actors are targeted more than people who create their own content, like we have.’ Abbi goes on, ‘We have a lot of women on set. But we also have men who care about these issues as much as we do.’
For Abbi and Ilana, whose Broad City characters are based on them ‘when we were in our early to mid-twenties – to a heightened degree’, the problem tends to be more rooted in fans crossing the line of familiarity. It’s easy to want the girls to be your best friends – and even feel like they are. But Abbi describes a situation recently at a music festival, where, ‘these girls came up to me – I was by myself – and they shouted, “Ass of an angel” [a line from the show], and slapped my ass. I was like, “I can’t believe you think that’s OK.” It was really bizarre. It is so f--ked up, imagine if it were a guy! I didn’t even know what to do, I just left.’ Ilana continues, ‘That’s some backwards feminism.” I feel like Abbi and I have talked a lot saying, “I wish I’d said this, I wish I’d done this in situations.”’
Which brings us back to the main theme of Broad City: their solid, non- bitchy, competition-free female friendship. The characters – and the actresses – adore each other. ‘We’re so glad to be part of the conversation about why that feels controversial,' says Ilana. 'Like, why haven’t we seen characters like this before layered in the same way we’ve seen men?’ Abbi continues, ‘Our friendship is why we started this show back in 2009. Our friendship and working relationship has only grown, on screen and in real life. And in this world, we need female friendship and support more than ever.’ And, also, definitely, the Pegasus Pegging Kit.
‘Broad City’ is on Tuesdays, 11pm, Comedy Central UK