Alumna Chronicles Life in the Big City with Hit Show

Who knew Broad City, a Comedy Central television series, would be such a hit? The fans did, and they were right. The show, nominated for the Critics’ Choice Television Awards “Best Comedy Series,” is the vision of newcomers Abbi Jacobson ’06 (general fine arts) and Ilana Glazer, series creators and stars.

The no-holds-barred comedy is derived from Jacobson and Glazer’s web series of the same name, airing from 2009 to 2011. It gained a cult following, with the finale featuring famed actress, writer, and producer Amy Poehler, an executive producer of the current television version.

Premiering in January 2014, the half-hour television series takes viewers along as actresses Jacobson and Glazer—as outsized versions of themselves—grapple with adulthood in New York City, with all of their hiccups, mishaps, and selfdiscovery in tow. To the excitement of not only fans, but also Jacobson and Glazer, the hit show has been renewed for a second season, with new episodes airing in 2015. “I was walking home from the subway one night after work and got the call,” Jacobson said. “Those calls are so rare and so sort of, stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of calls. It was such a sense of relief to know we’d get to make more—to know the network believed in the show and that people were watching and digging what we made,” she added.

But before the life-changing calls, the doting fans, and the favorable reviews, Jacobson called MICA home. It was there where she got her foundation and fed her interests in video and television.

“I was always pretty obsessed with SNL as a kid, and in middle school and high school, I was very interested in performing,” she said. When Jacobson came to MICA, she was more focused on non-time-based visual art, eventually changing course, saying, “but once I started [taking] video, it sparked my interests again, and I tried to find more outlets for performance.”

Jacobson seized the opportunity her program provided—to delve into her many different interests. “General fine arts was great for me because I had so many interests and, initially, couldn’t really figure out exactly what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was interested in maps and writing, and performing and exploring nostalgia, and the program allowed me to take all sorts of classes and form a body of work. The video major introduced me to a lot of different ways of telling stories. The combo was really invaluable to me.”

Being a multifaceted artist—a writer and actress—has proven beneficial still. In Jacobson’s work for the show, her creativity flows between disciplines. “It’s interesting, because lately I’m finding myself in stages of the production where I’m really focused on one of those things,” she said.

“Like right now, we’re writing the second season, so I’m in writer mode full force. Soon, we’ll move into the actual production, and then I’ll be much more in actor mode. It’s very fluid, though, as [both roles] are essential throughout the whole process.”

Though it may be hard to believe, a lot of what happens in the show is based on Jacobson’s and Glazer’s real lives. And to keep that creativity continuous, they are always searching for and creating new material. “The satisfaction of seeing it come to life is motivation to make more, and make them grow.

Also, we work with people we love and admire…so it makes every day fun,” Jacobson said. Jacobson and Glazer, alumnae of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a prestigious theater and training center in New York, bring with them an amazing amount of talent. Along with show writers and producers, for season one, they worked with actors Hannibal Buress, John Gemberling, and Arturo Castro, among others.

Jacobson credits MICA’s courses and instructors for teaching her how to “come up with a concept I believe in, create it, edit it, and find the words to describe it and defend it while being able to take criticism.”

“Those studio courses got me used to spending a lot of time looking at one thing and paying attention to detail. I think overall, MICA and the classes I took taught me how many different ways there are to look at the world and that your specific [point of view] is worth exploring and sharing,” she added. To do what you love sometimes doesn’t come easy, or to everyone.

But Broad City forges ahead with the support of millions of viewers, including Jacobson’s family and close friends. “It’s been nothing but positive and supportive. I think it’s still unbelievable for a lot of people in my life that the show is actually on TV. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind.”

Her advice to young creatives: to take advantage of the opportunities colleges affords them. “MICA has such an amazing array of interesting classes that can help you find your voice, which is the goal. Your voice, in whatever your medium, will change over time, but the more you put out into the world, the more you’ll filter what works and where to go next.” Jacobson has clearly found her voice.