Broad City: How the 2016 election and New York winters transformed the show

Reality bites

Cult sitcom Broad City’s fourth season, on Comedy Central UK now, is its realest – and darkest – yet. Creators and stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer explain how the election and New York winters transformed the show.

It’s no longer always sunny in Broad City

Every season of the show so far has been set in the sweltering heat of a sticky New York City summer. Who can forget, as a result, guest star Seth Rogen trying to deal with a case of “swamp ass” by stuffing a load of tissue between his bum cheeks? Season four, however, is set in the crisp chill of winter, and incorporates the weightier thoughts that time brings, like depression and mortality. “We wanted to see that version of New York and then, when we started looking into it, we were like, ‘It’s pretty depressing,’” says Ilana with a laugh. “New York in the winter is cold. It’s lonely, but it’s also hard to be lonely in New York. It’s darker and heavier. When we started getting into specific ideas it was like, ‘Well, I guess you drink a lot more.’”

Trump is affecting their mojo

While Broad City’s politics is mostly subtle, it’s always had a very obvious set of lefty values – the kind that are directly at odds with President Trump’s. As a result, Ilana’s bedroom wall is now plastered in Planned Parenthood posters and protest signs, and the episode ‘Witches’ sees self-proclaimed “cum kween” Ilana visit a sex therapist when she realises she hasn’t had an orgasm since the election. “The show always stems organically from what we’re talking about,” explains Ilana. “Even since the web series we’d get together, talk, vent, and then get to work.” Reacting to Trump may not have been a conscious decision, but it was something the women felt they needed to do. “We couldn’t stop talking about what was going on in our personal lives, and in the world, and with the country,” Abbi says. “It became necessary. It was just infused in the world.”

Shania Twain is in it!

Throughout the show, Abbi’s been caught in a lie about training Shania Twain at Soulstice, the bouji gym she works at as a cleaner. Finally, season four gives her closure on that fib with a sizeable cameo from the musician. “We never even thought of having her on,” Abbi says. “Someone in her team slipped to someone in our team that she would be really into doing it. We were just like, ‘Whaaaat?!'” Her appearance is a real chance for fictional Abbi to grow, too, as her creator explains. “This season, she starts to deal with the fact that she lies all the time. Not only is Shania Twain at the gym, but this is a thing that’s been haunting her so she actually has to train Shania Twain to get past that stage of living in this haphazard lying way.”

They’re still pulling from their real lives

Part of what makes Broad City so relatable is that its storylines have their seeds in Abbi and Ilana’s real experiences, be they something hugely personal or just things they witness out and about in NYC. Season four takes that to new extremes. In the episode ‘Florida’, the girls join Ilana’s mum (played by Susie Essman) and aunt (Fran Drescher) in the sunshine state as they try and sell her deceased grandma’s apartment. “As we were writing this, in my head I was like, ‘It’s probably going to be filmed in my grandma Harriet’s condo,'” Ilana says. “You ever hear that Roxanne Gay quote where she talks about how women have to cannibalise themselves to be successful with their writing? They have to share so much of themselves and men can do research? She’s fucking right! It was like, ‘Ugh, really? Are we going to do this? I grew up going to this fucking condo community every year of my childhood.’ It’s just so much of my real life.”

There’s a ton of incredible guest stars helping out

Broad City has always managed to attract big name guests to fill bit parts or one-off roles, but season four takes that to new levels of starry. RuPaul turns an upscale sushi restaurant into the service industry equivalent of Drag Race, Shania makes her aforementioned appearance, and an acting legend joins the cast for one episode – Steve Buscemi. Even alluding to what his role entails would be a “big spoiler”, apparently, but Ilana has plenty to say about the experience of directing him (both her and Abbi directed two episodes each this season). “Oh my gosh, it was wiiiiild,” she gasps. “It was definitely ‘fake it til you make it’ with the confidence. At first it felt like, ‘Oh my god, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher – I’ve been watching these people since I was a kid’, and then it just clicked and it was like we were peers playing.”

 

The brand new series of Broad City airs on Tuesdays at 11pm on Comedy Central UK