Q&A: 'Broad City' writer and star Abbi Jacobson talks about her time at MICA, Lady Gaga, and more

While we were hacking away last week at our discussion about the Comedy Central show "Broad City," we received confirmation that we would be granted a solid 15-minute phone chat with one-half of the creative duo that created the show and stars in it, Abbi Jacobson. Hyped up on caffeine and adrenaline, we felt prepared to ask Abbi some hard-hitting questions involving her character's Oprah tramp stamp, whether she'd rather be cellmates with John Waters or Lady Gaga, and about some of her haunts while she was a student at MICA.

Maura Callahan and Rebekah Kirkman: Hi, Abbi!

Abbi Jacobson: Hey guys, what's up?

MC: Hey, how are you?

AJ: I'm doing well, can't complain. I have a little more scratchy voice than usual this morning, I think I'm getting something.

MC: Well, first we just want to say that we're huge fans of the show and we watched last night's episode ['Hashtag FOMO'], and you were especially magical.

AJ: (laughs) Thanks.

RK: So charmed.

MC: So Rebekah graduated last spring and I graduate this coming spring . . .

AJ: Neat! That's awesome.

RK: So how was your experience at MICA overall?

AJ: I really loved MICA, especially when I came back. I actually transferred out; I went to Emerson College for a semester 'cause I thought I wanted to be an actor (singsong voice)! And then I transferred back because I did not like it up there and I only went there for a semester. But when I transferred back I had this new appreciation for MICA, and loved it. I was GFA [General Fine Arts] and minored in video. And it was at the beginning of the video major, like I think I was the first generation that had the Brown Building. So that was new. Yeah, I mean I loved it. I like that you're sorta on your own creating stuff, and it was the first time that I was really satisfied when I finished things, and that definitely comes into play a lot now.

MC: So while you were in Baltimore, where did you hang out? Do you remember?

AJ: Where did I hang out? Well it wasn't that long ago. Yeah, I feel like I hung out at, well obviously, at Mount Royal Tavern a lot. I hung out at Brewer's Art a lot. I worked at . . . man, what's it called now, it might be called On The Hill?

MC: [nervously overexcited] Holy shit dude, I am eating an On The Hill burrito as we speak!

AJ: It wasn't On The Hill then; I think it was called . . . the Hidden Bean or something? It was called something else, but I worked there. And there was this bar that I went to all the time that's kind of by the Rite Aid.

RK: Dougherty's?

AJ: Yeah, Dougherty's. And I also worked at Donna's at Cross Keys, which was kind of near Hampden. I love Hampden. I actually want to come down to Baltimore soon because I really want to see what it looks like now.

MC: Yeah, it's changed a lot in last 10 years. So, I want to move onto a really important question that I have for you: Is your Oprah tramp stamp real?

AJ: (laughs) No, and I think it's so funny that people think it is.

MC: Dude, that means that I have to get one. I don't know if you read our piece that ran yesterday—

AJ: No, I'll have to check it out.

MC: —basically, the two of us just hung out at my apartment and dished about the show.

AJ: Whoa!

MC: I said that I wanted to ask you if your tramp stamp was real, and if not, why not, and if you don't have it, then I will get it. So now I have to do it.

RK: It's in print.

AJ: No, you don't have to. I actually don't have any tattoos. And in real life I do love Oprah, definitely not as much as Abbi on the show. I used to watch Oprah every day after school with my mom, and that's how I got into her. Definitely have much respect for O, but I definitely would not put any ink on my body that has a face on it.

RK: That's good to know.

AJ: But if you [Maura] did, I would respect you, you know. It's OK. I would really think about it long and hard.

MC: I will, but I'm glad that I have your blessing. Thank you.

RK: So with regard to the episode last night [where Abbi gets blackout drunk and becomes a jazz singer after stumbling into a secret bar], we were also wondering, is Val real? Is she a real part of you?

AJ: It's funny because I was tweeting during the episode; so Val, like the name Val, this sort of drunken alter ego that came out when I was at MICA. I drank a lot more than I do now, I think as all MICA students do.

RK: Yes.

AJ: And basically, this friend that I went to college with and I, whenever I got blacked out I would become like a better version of myself. Like most people that drink become mean or something; I would become such a confident version of Abbi. And we would talk about it the next day, like, "Oh my god, Val came out!" I was hittin' on guys; you know what I mean? It was a better version of me. You know, in the writer's room, we were talking about it last season; we'd been talking about Val for a long time, just seeing this Val bar. Like Ilana stumbles into this Val bar which is this place where Abbi hangs out that she doesn't even know. She always stumbles in there when she's blackout drunk. And then we really heightened it into this really . . . It's not a fake world, like that's intended to be a real bar in New York. New York sort of has these overseen places that are kind of secret. It was intended to be a real place, but it feels very surreal, because it's like, what is going on? I don't know if you guys saw a little nugget from the first episode that calls forward to this episode. In the subway scene, in the first scene in the first episode, someone calls out "Val!" It's really weird, in the moment she's like, "Why is she doing that?" But yeah, it's an existing persona that we wanted to create because when people black out, they are a different person. Most of the time it's negative.

MC: That was just very real. The whole show, for both of us, is just extremely real. And that's what we love about it.

AJ: That's awesome to hear.

MC: Especially Abbi, the character. Ilana in a lot of ways is this person that we want to be, in certain ways.

AJ: I read those comments and try to take them in a positive way.

MC: Oh it's definitely positive, because your character is also what we want to be, but it's more relatable and achievable.

AJ: Yeah, it's totally OK. It's really OK. (laughing) She's also like, not exactly me.

RK: So how high are you guys on set? And mainly how high is Ilana, if you want to disclose.

AJ: People ask us this a lot. We are never high when we work on the show. Writing or acting or anything. Totally sober.

MC: That's actually not surprising.

AJ: I don't know how we would do it otherwise.

MC: I think we should move onto some rapid-fire questions. We have some quick Would You Rather questions. Are you ready?

AJ: I'm ready.

MC: Would you rather speak only in dolphin noises or have backward-facing hands?

AJ: (long pause) Hm. Probably backwards-facing hands because I could explain them and they'd still work, just facing the other way. I would just like use scissors behind my back.

RK: Would you rather have glow sticks for hair, or have a touch screen on your forehead?

AJ: (longer pause) I think glow sticks for hair because it's a choice. I don't know, a touch screen is like inviting negative things to happen.

MC: Would you rather be prison cellmates with John Waters or Lady Gaga?

AJ: (very long pause) Oh, this one's gonna get me in trouble because I love me some Gaga. I think I would pick John Waters because I just really want to talk to him.

MC: Abbi, I have to tell you, if we had a lot more time, I could talk about Lady Gaga with you at length. That whole scene [where Abbi dances naked and lip-synchs to Gaga's 'Edge of Glory'] was probably the most real thing on the show for me.

AJ: (laughing)

MC: I have done exactly that, and that's not something I share with a lot of people because liking Lady Gaga isn't exactly cool.

RK: Nah, it's cool.

AJ: It's on the verge of being a guilty pleasure.

MC: Yeah, definitely.

RK: What would you want to chat about with John Waters if you had the chance?

AJ: Oh man, I don't know. I feel like anything. I just feel like he would have an interesting point of view on any topic. He'd have the best stories.

MC: So on the first episode of season two, did you have a hard time getting that angry at a kitten?

AJ: (laughs) Yeah that was difficult because it was so cute. We had a lot of them on set. Bevers [Abbi's roomate's boyfriend on the show] has a bunch of them.

MC: They're all named after gods, right?

AJ: Mythology, yeah. Yeah, it was very difficult. But actually the way we shot it, the kitten wasn't in the scene for me the whole time.

MC: That makes it easier, because I would personally have a hard time yelling at a kitten.

RK: Yeah, without laughing.

AJ: Yeah, it was tough. Never again.

RK: Don't put yourself through that again.

Eve, the PR person: Hey guys, it's time to wrap it up.

MC: Okay, I think that's a good stopping point.

RK: Thank you for your time, Abbi.

MC: Yeah and when you come back to Baltimore, hit us up at City Paper.

AJ: I'm gonna hit you guys up.

MC: Thanks so much.

AJ: Yeah thanks guys, and I’ll definitely check out your piece!

R+M: Bye!

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