With its second season coming to a close Wednesday night, Comedy Central’s “Broad City” has quickly become a cult favourite.
The show’s casual and off-the-cuff feel is part of the appeal, but behind-the-scenes there’s a long writing and production process before anything makes it onto the air.
“Writing is the first act of our three act experience of the show of acting, shooting, editing,” one of the show’s stars and creators, Ilana Glazer, tells Business Insider over the phone.
“It’s pretty stressful, the deadlines come quickly,” she adds, “but those deadlines actually make us feel like we’re running around Broad City, too. It has the same feeling of the show and we feel like the process of rushing to come up with good ideas for an outline and make it into a script, the process feeds the product.”
Despite the improv backgrounds of “Broad City” creators and stars, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the show is actually written by a whole team of writers.
“What it looks like is a room of writers who we came up with here [in NYC] in the comedy community, and we all come up together with these bigger concepts of what the episodes could be and we all kind of write every episode,” Glazer explains. “We come up with the outlines and a writer or a writing team may go off and write the script but I think the whole writers’ room is all over every episode.”
Adds Jacobson: “Yeah, because the script then comes back into the room and we all go over the script together. The whole process is very collaborative.”
And for the most part, all actors stick to the script.
“The show is very, very much scripted,” says Glazer. “We use some new little details in and out of scenes, but we do stick to our script a lot. Just in general, how it works on set is we do two or three scripted takes and then we say to the actor: ‘OK, now just put it in your words, just so it feels natural.’ What we usually end up taking from people’s improv is flourishes people put on.”
Adds Glazer: “The way the shows feels very present and in the moment is exactly how we write it. Our No.1 goal is always the comedy and the funniest thing over other goals of like plot, or where they end up. I feel like we’re very much about the moment that the characters are in and what’s the funniest expression of their experience.”
Jacobson agrees that one of the most important aspects of the show is keeping the characters and their story lines in the moment.
“I don’t think there’s so much huge growth happening,” she says of her character. “I think it’s just like, you’re in your twenties, you may envision where you end up but maybe it’s just better to focus on the day ahead of you, and that’s what the show does.”
But, Jacobson says of the future of the show, “Ideally we just get to continue playing with things we find funny and exploring New York and the different facets of New York. I don’t think that I could speak to any kind of plot of where we want to go because I think it’s more about this exploration and playfulness of the show that I want to take to another level.”
And while Glazer and Jacobson are off “exploring New York,” they tell us that Comedy Central let the duo do their thing.
“We love working with Comedy Central,” says Glazer. “Their main thing is to nurture our artistic vision and we’re so lucky that we are at the network right now. The people there are great, they just get it. They get the artistic process, and we get to continue to refer to our work as ‘art’ and think of it that way.”
The network does, however, offer a few pointers here and there.
“We actually like their notes when they give them to us, which they do,” Glazer says of working with Comedy Central. “They’re just like our other executive producers, just like Amy [Poehler]. They give outlines on drafts. We don’t take every note, but we really appreciate them. It’s happily collaborative.”
As for that other EP, Amy Poehler, who helped bring “Broad City” from web series to network TV, both Glazer and Jacobson have nothing but praise.
“Just working with her and getting to know how she operates in all of the different roles she plays as a producer, as an actor, as a businessperson, it’s just sort of learning how she operates has been the biggest thing for me,” says Jacobson. “It’s a good person to watch and learn from.”
“But on a specific level,” she adds, “I think she has a bigger picture view of the show. We’re so in the show that she sees it from a step back, and that lends to looking at things from a different point of view, which is really important.”
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