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Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer in "Broad City"/ Courtesy Comedy Central

Four, and three, and two, and one!

The quiet radicalism of Broad City

By Brigit Katz on February 25, 2016

Over the past few weeks, I have been dabbling with a new mobile app called Hey!Vina, which is essentially Tinder for female friendships. (Don’t judge, it’s hard to meet people in New York.) Users build a profile, write a bio introducing themselves, and then swipe through profiles for potential “matches.” Several times while perusing the app, I came across women with a rather specific request: “Looking for the Ilana to my Abbi,” and vice versa.

The reference is, of course, to the Weezy-loving, pot-smoking, adorably dysfunctional protagonists of Broad City. Over the course of two short seasons, Abbi and Ilana (played, respectively, by series creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer) have become beloved, culturally-entrenched emblems of female besties. They’re the millennials’ answer to Sex and the City, if the SATC crew had been halved and occasionally relegated to eating old bagels out of a garbage bag.

The third season of Broad City, which premiered on Comedy Central last week, furthers the friendship that has inspired adoration—and maybe a little bit of envy—in so many viewers. The season’s madcap opening sequence is nothing short of epic: a split-screen montage of the ladies in their respective washrooms that is so packed with jokes, you’ll want to watch it more than once. There are parallels in these bathroom experiences. Abbi and Ilana can be seen wearing both versions of “The Dress,” reading the same Hillary Clinton memoir, getting stoned at the same time. Even in the most private of moments, Abbi and Ilana are linked.

Courtesy Comedy Central
Courtesy Comedy Central

Over the next three episodes, the duo trundles through New York City, shopping at a sample sale, visiting an art gallery, volunteering at a food co-op. These humdrum scenarios of everyday life inevitably devolve into deranged, hilarious chaos, but Abbi and Ilana are always in sync. One can tell when the other is lying (“How dare you lie to your wife?” as Ilana puts it). They practically have their own language—punctuated, of course, by many a “Yas queen!” Episode two sees Abbi impersonate Ilana to preserve their membership at the aforementioned co-op. The resulting plot line is a great send-up of Ilana’s zany personality, but also a testament to the friends’ closeness; Abbi is intimately familiar with Ilana’s mannerisms and wonky worldview.

Simply, put, Abbi and Ilana love each other. A little too much, maybe. The season’s second episode opens in the middle of a conversation between our leading ladies. “I guarantee I could identify my butthole in a line up,” Ilana tells Abbi, and then adds: “I could identify yours.”

The nutty intimacy of their relationship isn’t just funny; it’s radical. I can think of no other series that so persistently privileges female friendship over all other callings of adult life: jobs, money, sex, romantic partners. When Ilana’s boyfriend Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) tell her that he “hooked up” with another woman, she starts jumping furiously on the hood of his car—not out of rage, but excitement. “That is so HOT!” she crows. “We are a modern-day Will and Jada!” Ilana is considerably less chill when she finds out that she is a regular fixture of Abbi’s Instagram account. “That means so much to me,” Ilana says, her expression thoroughly somber.

Courtesy Comedy Central

Broad City is far from oblivious to the downsides of two adult women who can’t hold anything together except their friendship. Abbi and Ilana are fun and funny, but hopelessly self-involved. Episode one opens with the ladies partaking in a brunch date, during which Ilana tells Abbi about an article she read on the oppression of Saudi women. Abbi’s response? “Ugh, the bottomless mimosas aren’t on the menu anymore.”

Mercifully, Broad City doesn’t indulge in much hand-wringing over its protagonists’ narcissism. That’s just how they are, and it works, because their world is insular. Nothing goes right for Abbi and Ilana, but it doesn’t really matter. Regardless of how spectacularly they mess up, they end each episode hanging out, smoking blunts, enjoying each other’s company. New York is their universe, and they are the (yas) queens.


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