'Broad City' is God's Vagina: CP writers go deep on Comedy Central's hilarious, sex-positive show

City Paper

If you don’t like “Broad City,” we don’t like you. The Comedy Central show, created by, mostly written by, and starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson (who graduated from MICA in 2006), depicts two twentysomething best friends in New York, trying to make it through their unsatisfying day jobs, scrounging up weed money, and getting laid. Fact-checking coordinator and arts writer Rebekah Kirkman (who graduated from MICA in 2014) and calendar writer and arts writer Maura Callahan (who graduates from MICA in 2015) sat down to talk about our favorite show the best way they knew how—belching over burgers in Maura’s apartment. Topics include pegging, early 20s anxiety, and the dearth of women stoner comedies. 

Rebekah Kirkman: There’s a type of weed that my friend told me about that is so potent, so sticky and eye-opening and glorious, that it’s referred to as “God’s vagina,” like in that movie “Pineapple Express.”

Maura Callahan: “Broad City” is like God’s vagina.

RK: Yeah, it really is. In really simple ways, it’s so relatable and funny. They pick up on random little scenarios and common experiences that I’ve never seen in a television show before. Like in the first episode of season two, when Abbi hooks up with “male Stacy” [played by Seth Rogen], and it’s summer in the city and she doesn’t have air conditioning so it’s awkward and almost impossible for him to take her pants off—that’s just so real. The way they portray friendships among women is also so real, and it’s one of my favorite things about the show. It shows these most beautiful moments—like when you find out that your friend got laid or you know just by looking at them that they got laid, or that they’re about to get laid and you have this overwhelming happiness for them.

MC: Yeah, it’s not even like you’re living vicariously through your friend. It’s just being genuinely happy for someone else. I feel like that’s a rare thing that’s mostly limited to strong friendships like Abbi’s and Ilana’s. Like in the season-two episode ‘Knockoffs,’ where Abbi pegs Jeremy, her neighbor that she’s been crushing on, and Ilana’s just ecstatic, partly because the thought of Abbi pegging someone turns her on, but mainly she’s happy that Abbi is getting what she wants and is trying new things. It’s like a bromance, but not idiotic.

RK: Yeah. And it doesn’t have to have a stupid name like bromance. It just is what it is.

MC: Sometimes it’s kind of a romance. Like when Ilana is looking for Abbi in the third episode of this season, she asks a convenience store worker something like “Excuse me, did you see a beautiful sumptuous model type?” And it’s great because Abbi doesn’t have a “model body” but Ilana just sees her in the light of a goddess.

RK: I wanna go back to how open they are with each other. In “Broad City” it’s like a fun-house mirror image of intimate friendships among women, to the point of absurdity sometimes. In the first episode, when Ilana is Skyping with Abbi and she’s having sex while she’s Skyping—“just keepin’ it warm.” That’s a fucking great opening to a show. There are moments in the show that remind me so much of my cousin; we’re really good friends and we used to say we’d call each other before, during, and after we hooked up with someone. It wasn’t totally serious but it was an expression of like, “that’s how much I love you, I would call you and tell you this personal thing right away.”

MC: [belches] Sorry . . .

RK: Going back to the pegging episode, the way the show treats it as a totally normal thing, a very natural thing that could come up in your experience with someone. You find out what they like, what they don’t like, and you try things, you don’t try things, and it’s really cool that they make it funny without making fun of it. That’s a really sex-positive message. They could have made the joke like oh, finally, they’re fucking each other, but wait! Now it sucks because he wants to be pegged and that’s weird! It doesn’t paint it like that at all, it paints it as a very normal thing.

MC: Yeah and I feel like in the other rare occasions where pegging or other forms of sexual female dominance has been shown on TV, it’s always like a dominatrix or some extreme character. But here it’s just Abbi, who’s the most relatable character I’ve ever seen on TV. And she’s uncomfortable at first, but once she tries it, she’s into it. 

RK: In that improv episode (‘Stolen Phone’) where Ilana hooks up with the beautiful man that she doesn’t know, that whole scene is fucking brilliant. He says he’s bisexual and then he says “just tell me you don’t shave down there” and Ilana says “you are truly evolved.” When he tells her he’s going to go down on her for 45 minutes, she says, “don’t ever let society change you.” But then he turns out to be horribly unfunny.

MC: He just makes really bad jokes in improv, which I love because you know that they came from improv and they’ve seen these kinds of performances before. He makes these really stupid, insensitive sounds and gestures. I remember he pretends to be a deaf person.

RK: Yeah, and how he also interrupts everyone all the time, oh, classic white-boy phenomenon. Just like in the day to day. Not all men.

MC: But men though, they really do have to be heard. Like women go, I go unheard all the time and it’s whatever. If men aren’t heard, it’s like they explode. Not all men, but in a way, kind of all men.

RK: Yeah, definitely.

MC: But not Lincoln, Hannibal Buress’ character.

RK: He’s great. I think his relationship with Ilana is really cool, and it’s funny and sad sometimes because you can tell that he wants to be more committed. It seems like a really healthy casual relationship; it seems like they both know the deal, regardless of whether or not it’s what they both eventually want.

MC: If he were a different guy in the situation he’s in, he’d be like, “I’m getting friend-zoned.” But he doesn’t; he just takes it for what it is. He doesn’t expect her to do anything for him. He respects her.

RK: There are other definitely shitty dudes they encounter, but for the purposes of the show, it’s just funny—they just always laugh at them. You know, it’s never “ah, this person really hurt me.” Abbi and Ilana are never made into wounded characters.

MC: What I think is really interesting is Ilana’s desire to be intersectional and progressive in every aspect of her life. But at the same time, sometimes she fetishizes people of other races. Like in the episode where they go to the improv show that Ilana’s new white fuck-buddy is in, and Ilana says, “What’s hotter than a pink dick with a sense of humor? I mean, a black dick.” And Abbi says, “You know that you’re so anti-racist sometimes that you’re actually really racist.” So the show is very conscious of this problem Ilana has with being over confident with her progressiveness and unaware of her own ignorance—which I’ve seen in a lot of young people, including myself at times.

RK: It’s important to acknowledge that. This is not to make excuses for when people forget about their privilege or they’re not being intersectional, but I don’t know if there’s a perfect feminist. There might be an ideal . . . you get it right sometimes but you still fuck up. The show kind of reminds you through comedy to be more mindful.

MC: The whole show is such a well drawn portrait of young people, especially women in their early 20s. It captures that awkwardness so accurately. The show deals with being a woman in your early 20s, done with school—which, I am not quite finished, but I feel, it’s very close and it’s very scary—and just having to deal with not really having money, and not knowing what to do with yourself.

RK: And at different times you can relate to both those characters, and in some ways, the two of them are like a whole person. You know, sometimes you feel really apathetic about shit, and sometimes you feel really passionate and motivated. Or you feel really frustrated because you’re not where you want to be or sometimes you’re just like, fuck it.

MC: Yeah, it’s like Abbi sort of embodies that angst about being in that limbo state of adulthood, and Ilana is just embracing it and not really caring. She just lives in the present, which I think is really great. That’s the part of Ilana that you want to be, even though she totally doesn’t have her shit together.

RK: Which also fits her personality, being a bigger stoner than Abbi is.

MC: Yes. But even though there’s plenty of weed in the show, it’s not really a stoner comedy because the treatment of smoking is so casual. But in another way it kind of feels like the closest thing to the first women’s stoner comedy. Because I feel like there hasn’t been anything like that for women. And often, especially with young men, there’s this sort of mystical quality applied to the pot-smoking woman. Like they’re different, like they’re “one of the guys,” but it’s so normal. Just as many women smoke weed as men do, but it’s still seen as this kind of stupid man-cave kind of activity.

RK: Yeah, they’re so smart about it—you could never put “Broad City” in the “stoner comedy” box because they cover so much and make so many other things funny.

MC: I think it’s just making comedy in general better. There are so many jokes to be told from a woman’s perspective that can’t be told from a man’s perspective, unless it’s really, really insensitive and stupid. A lot of the jokes to be told by men have been told, but there’s so much left for women to laugh at. And like in all good comedy, they pick up on these funny moments in life that you don’t normally think about, like in the pegging episode where Ilana talks about when you’re in the shower and you get a hair from your head stuck in your ass. She talks about the satisfaction of pulling it out, like that was so unashamed and honest. They don’t give a fuck how unsexy their characters can be.

RK: And their characters are still getting it, even if they do embarrassing weird shit—and that’s just how it is. It doesn’t matter, they don’t have to be cute and pretty and ladylike.

MC: Another thing that I love about the show is how the dumb stuff that Abbi and Ilana talk about is the kind of stuff that I think about. Like when they were talking about what kind of dog they would be if they were dogs—I think about that question every day. I think I would be a Samoyed, by the way.

RK: I think I would be an Irish setter.

MC: So, I’m trying to think of the questions I would ask Abbi and Ilana. I think I would ask Abbi if her Oprah tramp stamp is real. And if not, why not?

RK: Yeah that’s a good one.

MC: I hope it’s real.

RK: Yeah, me too.

MC: If she doesn’t get it, I will.

RK: Yes.

MC: Not even to honor Oprah, but to honor Abbi.

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