Premiering in 2010, Broad City is a sitcom co-created by Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. In March Comedy Central announced it was picking up the show for a 2014 release, with Amy Poehler producing alongside Jacobson and Glazer. The show is currently in production. It has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Fader and The A.V. Club, among others. This essay is part of Televisual‘s “Indie TV Innovation” series.
The internet is a perfect example of yin and yang. To me, as repulsive and damaging the World Wide Web has been — check out the Deep Web of child sex trafficking, web-purchased slaves and real-time confirmation of murder…murder!!! — it is equally informative, enlightening and richly advantageous.
I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit artistically from the infinitely growing platform that is YouTube. Fucking fuck yeah, YouTube! But also, equally: fuck yeah, human race.
I’m the co-creator/-producer/-writer and -star (all co- with Abbi Jacobson!) of the web-to-TV series, Broad City. It’s a single-camera sitcom about two early twenty-somethings struggling internally and externally in New York City, the sexiest city on Earth (I’ve traveled very little, full disclosure).
When Abbi and I started Broad City, the freedom to do anything we want, try any process, any plot line that struck us as funny, because the internet is one big free-for-all, was the spark for the project.
But the fuel that kept the fire going was the feedback. While YouTube is notorious for having degrading, sexist and racist comments, Abbi and I found the response to our work to be quite the opposite — warm, embracing, and encouraging. It prodded us with this hunger, hunger for more love from our friends and, eventually, one-person-removed from our friends. Then, two-people-removed from the original friend, and so on and so on. We got to see and feel (and taste and smell and hear, of course) the exact rate at which our show became increasingly popular.
We were able to experience and understand how, exactly, the way in which our show was popular. Broad City is not the type of project that produces viral videos – I almost said “there isn’t titty-poppin’” and then realized: there absolutely is. Okay, so there IS, indeed, titty-poppin,’ but it’s blurred out, and we don’t have puppies snuggling, or turtles fucking, or skinny dudes being sexually “squashed” by obese women. That’s viral shit! We don’t got that. We got quality, one-step-at-a-time character development and universal-yet-specific situations inside of a cinematic-yet-casual aesthetic space. Again: this. ain’t. viral. shit.
But what Broad City discovered is possible on the web is a quality-over-quantity cult following. We learned that, with this specific product, whoever watched one episode – if they didn’t immediately X out because we were two young women talking with our shirts on – that person would watch all episodes. And if one watched all episodes, they shared it every week as it came out.
While the web – and all media – is flooded with two-dimensional images that demean peoples and cultures, it’s also, I believe, the most democratic platform for art. It is for the people, by the people, providing instantaneous feedback. It speaks for what’s happening right now.
Ilana Glazer is the co-creator, writer, producer and star of Broad City. She is an alum of the Upright Citizens Brigade and was nominated for an ECNY Award (Emerging Comic New York) for best female standup in 2011. She has performed stand-up at UCB, the PIT, Union Hall, Happy Ending, and Parkside Lounge, among others.