“Broad City” comedians discuss Judaism, TV success during A&O, Hillel fall speaker event


Courtney Morrison/The Daily Northwestern

“Broad City” stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson speak about Judaism, comedy and TV success. A&O Productions and NU Hillel featured the duo as their fall speakers for a crowd of about 500 people.

Kelli Nguyen, Reporter

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, stars of Comedy Central’s “Broad City,” discussed Judaism and their comedy careers during this year’s A&O’s fall speaker event, co-sponsored with Fiedler Hillel.

“One of my students, in an email, referred to you as the two most powerful Jewesses on television,” said Communication Prof. Catherine Carrigan, who moderated the event.

Although Glazer and Jacobson both agreed that they consider themselves “more Jewy than Jewish,” the pair said they consider “Broad City” a secular show. Glazer said the show is based more on comedy than on being Jewish, but is ultimately drawn from their life experiences in which Judaism plays a role.

Glazer and Jacobson said they both grew up as one of the few Jewish teenages in their communities. Jacobson was the first female in her family to be bat mitzvahed, but today she only attends synagogue when she is with her family. Glazer said although she is not observant, she still appreciates the religion’s role in her life.

“People don’t think I’m Jewish and it cracks me up,” Jacobson said.

The duo went on to discuss their comedy careers and success. Glazer and Jacobson met through Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, an improv theater group based in New York, and went on to create a web series, “Broad City,” that was picked up by Comedy Central.

“It was truly experimental,” Glazer said. “We weren’t aiming to check off boxes … we were truly trying to find our voice.”

When it moved to television, the show retained its original name and Glazer and Jacobson remained the stars of the series, a rare phenomenon in the television industry, Glazer said. Now, it is about to unveil its third season, which is set to premiere on Feb. 17.

The speaker event also featured a student-submitted Q&A session. One student asked the pair what advice they would give themselves five years ago.

“Why would I give myself different advice?” Jacobson told the audience of about 500. “I love what’s happening.”

Glazer said she would tell herself to keep doing what she was doing. The pair then emphasized the importance of writing and collaboration.

“Writing is so powerful,” Glazer said. “You have control, have agency, have discernment over what you’re representing because it matters.”

In regards to collaboration, Glazer and Jacobson said students should remember to take advantage of the people around them and let go of competition.

Jacobson made an example of auditions. She said that when she and Glazer are called to the same castings, they do not feel competitive because they are completely different people.

“Different parts are right for different people,” Jacobson said. “Find partnership that fuels you.”

Weinberg freshman Sophie Anolick said the “Broad City” stars did a good job addressing the importance of perseverance and hard work, while still being humorous.

“They spoke to a lot of different things,” Anolick said. “It wasn’t standup, but it was still comedy and it was really great.”

Organizers said they were pleased with how the event turned out.

“Abbi and Ilana were so personable,” said Lauren Kandell, Hillel communications co-chair and speakers co-chair Lauren Kandell. “They definitely hit on all the things that the audience and we, as an organization, wanted to hear them speak about so I’m really excited and I think it went really well.”

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