10 Fun Facts About Broad City
By Garin Pirnia
What began as a YouTube web series has morphed into a comedic phenomenon. Broad City began its life in 2009 as a short web series on YouTube, starring Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) alumnae Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. When the ladies decided to take the show to network, Amy Poehler, who co-founded UCB, agreed to executive produce. In 2011, FX commissioned a pilot—Abbi’s and Ilana’s names were almost Ali and Eliza, or Carly and Evelyn—but ended up passing; Comedy Central picked it up, and the show premiered on January 22, 2014.
Broad City features versions of Abbi and Ilana (last names Abrams and Wexler, respectively), and their crazy adventures navigating New York City, much of which is based on their own real-life experiences—including Deals Deals Deals. In anticipation of the series' fourth season, which premieres on September 13, here are 10 fun facts about the crass female-friendship sitcom.
1. ABBI JACOBSON THOUGHT ILANA GLAZER WAS ALIA SHAWKAT FROM ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.
Jacobson and Glazer met while working together on an improv practice team at UCB. Jacobson told The New York Times that before they met, Jacobson thought Glazer was Alia Shawkat, the actress who played Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development.
"After the first night of practice, we go to a bar and we’re talking about where we’re from, and it turns out she knew two of my best friends from college,” Jacobson recalled. “And in that moment, I was just like ... this is not Maeby anymore. I would know if my friends were friends with Maeby. We really hit it off immediately; I was just like trying to become friends with Maeby, and then I thought, I’ll just stay friends with this girl.”
2. THEY UPSET WHOLE FOODS.
In the series' third season, Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) extracts Abbi’s wisdom teeth. Ilana gets her hopped up on a weed s’more milkshake called a Firecracker. High as a kite, Abbi wanders off to a Whole Foods in Brooklyn, where she hallucinates that her stuffed animal friend, Bingo Bronson, is life-sized and is egging her to buy expensive items, like manuka honey. During an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, the women said they pestered Whole Foods on Twitter until they let them film there.
“It had to be Whole Foods,” Jacobson said. Whole Foods granted their wish. Turns out, they weren’t offended about the hallucination. “They cared about us truly naming the price of their manuka honey,” Glazer said. “The true price!” Abbi ends up spending a whopping $1487.56 at the store—part of that on manuka honey.
3. THE SHOW IS HAPPY TO USE BARS TO BLUR OUT NUDITY.
Occasionally, the women appear nude on the show. But unlike Lena Dunham on Girls, Jacobson and Glazer use blur bars to cover up their nether regions. “Lena Dunham is awesome,” Glazer told New York Magazine. “I love seeing her body on TV. Lena is like a vessel for the message that normal bodies are so beautiful and sexy and powerful. But I don’t think we would be that brave to be that vessel, even though you still, like, get that and people are like, ‘Wow, they’re not bony!’ Lena’s isn’t for a joke, you know? Ours is always for a joke. We’re very grateful for those blurs. So grateful.”
4. HILLARY CLINTON’S APPEARANCE WAS A POLITICAL STATEMENT.
In a March 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jacobson said that Hillary Clinton's cameo on the show, in which she played herself, wasn’t supposed to be a political statement—but then she backtracked.
“Of course it’s a political statement!” Jacobson told The New York Times in October 2016. “For us, it felt like we were justifying our show in a different way—it felt historic.” The episode was written a year before it aired, when there weren’t other political candidates.
This season, though, the ladies will make yet another political statement when they’ll bleep out the word “Trump.” “It, like, sounds so gross, like every day saying it so many times, and we just didn't want to share air time,” Glazer explained.
5. SOULSTICE IS BASED ON A REAL GYM.
One of Jacobson’s odd jobs was handing out flyers for an Equinox gym, near Grand Central Terminal. “I didn’t even get paid, it was just a membership,” Jacobson told TIME. “But at the time I was like ‘this is amazing!’” At least Jacobson didn’t have to clean up gym vomit like her fictional character did.
6. JAIMÉ'S ACCENT ISN'T REAL.
Arturo Castro plays Ilana’s gay, weed-dealing Venezuelan roommate Jaimé on the show, but is none of those things in real life. “Sometimes people are a little bummed that I don’t actually talk like Jaimé,” Castro told People. “When I see their faces drop I try to put it on for like a second. And then my girlfriend is like, ‘What are you doing?’”
Castro told The Daily Beast people are also surprised he doesn’t sell marijuana. “This guy came up to me in Bryant Park and he was like: ‘Dude, you don’t have an accent?’ and then, ‘So you don’t sell weed either?’ He was really disappointed and walked away.”
7. GLAZER DIDN’T WANT HER BROTHER WRITING FOR THE SHOW.
Glazer’s brother, Eliot, wanted to write for the show but his sister thought “it would be too close for comfort,” he told The New Yorker. “It was a source of tension for a while.” Eliot eventually appeared on five episodes of Broad City as Ilana’s brother, and went on to write for New Girl and Younger.
8. LIKE ABBI ABRAMS, ABBI JACOBSON IS AN ARTIST.
When art-school grad Jacobson first moved to New York City, she sold greeting cards throughout the city. As she told The Huffington Post, she sold them on the streets and tried to get them into the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). “I was really hustling with that, trying to get a big retail store to want them, but it never panned out,” she said. Some of her artwork is displayed in the show, and last year she released an illustrated book called Carry This Book, which became a New York Times bestseller. She also hosts the podcast “A Piece of Work,” co-produced by MoMA.
9. TREY STARTED OUT IN PORN BECAUSE HE WAS A FAILED ACTOR.
Near the end of season two, Trey—Abbi’s boss at Soulstice/love interest—revealed he starred in soft-core porn under the name Kirk Steele. Paul W. Downs plays Trey and is one of the writers and producers of the show (he also dates and collaborates with Broad City director Lucia Aniello). “In the initial script, he got into porn because he was trying to make it as an actor/model/host,” Downs told Vulture. “Then he hit rock bottom after not getting a Kirkland Signature campaign … But as you saw, it was just soft-core porn, you didn’t get anything hard-core. Yeah, probably the most—I guess entry-level for porn?”
10. GLAZER AND JACOBSON DON'T SMOKE WHILE THEY'RE WORKING.
On the show, Glazer and Jacobson can frequently be found indulging in marijuana, but fans shouldn’t expect the stars to smoke with them. “Giving us a joint is one thing—I’m like, ‘Thank you soooo much,’” Glazer told New York Magazine. But Jacobson insisted they can’t work while stoned. “But when people want to smoke with us? Everyone thinks we smoke in the writers’ room,” she said. “It’s like, we would never be able to do anything high!”