By Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are two of the funniest people on TV right now. The comedy duo, better known for playing fictionalized versions of themselves on their critically acclaimed show Broad City, are seen by many as the spiritual heirs to the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler axis of funny – and rightly so, with Poehler herself descending from the heavens of humor to executive-produce (and cameo in) the Comedy Central incarnation of Broad City. What started out as a web series became a sleeper hit on cable, and is now being toured around the country as a fully fledged, semi-interactive live experience. And while Broad City Live is by all means a very funny show, there are still many kinks to work out to bring it to par with its online and televised versions.
I was at the 9:30 Club on Thursday, November 6, for the biggest show on the Broad City Live tour. While Jacobson and Glazer’s brand of humor has been called “sneak attack feminism” by the New York Times, it was great to see that the audience was fairly evenly split along gender lines. There was a palpable buzz in the air, a real sense of excitement to see how this would play out. The show started with an extended trailer for Broad City Season 2, which drew vigorous applause from the sold-out (seated) crowd, and then segued into a couple of video clips featuring some of the supporting cast members from the show who successfully hyped up the crowd for opener Naomi Ekperigin. Ekperigin is a stand-up comedian who wrote for the second season of the show, and was perhaps a much more natural fit for this experience than our two protagonists – you could tell that she was much more accustomed to presenting jokes to a live audience, and she drew some of the biggest laughs of the night. Her performance was tight, to the point, and felt like it was just the right amount of time to keep us wanting some more. Unfortunately the headliners for Broad City Live don’t quite have that same level of polish in their stand-up bits quite yet – but this can only get better over time.
Jacobson and Glazer are extraordinarily quick-witted and creative, and have been able to present to us a version of New York (and reality) on their show that is slightly off-kilter, full of eccentric characters and situations. This might be an homage to magical realism, or just a nod to the fact that some strange shit happens in New York City. Either way – the ability to script, film and cleverly edit content really suits the brand of humor that these two are cooking up on the regular, and the TV show is a work of genius. Unfortunately, translating this perspective to the live stage is a difficult task for even the most accomplished of comedians. Broad City Live has some growing pains ahead of it, but the raw ability is already there. They played beautifully with and against stereotypes of being both women and Jewish, and there was a delightful air of anarchy to all of their jokes. However, most bits went on for a little too long and lost some of the sheen and sparkle, and the show itself felt like it went on twenty minutes more than it should have. At just under 2 hours from beginning to end, you definitely got your money’s worth of these two comedic forces, though I do wonder if we didn’t get a little too much. At the moment, the duo are still much better as sketch and improv comedians than they are at stand-up. The contrast is much sharper when you take into account that they surround themselves with seasoned stand-ups like Ekperigin and Hannibal Burress (who plays Ilana’s hook up, an affable dentist named Lincoln, on the show).
Broad City is one of the funniest shows out right now, and Season 2 promises to be even better. It is what Girls could be, if Girls wasn’t so far up its own ass showing us the worst people in the Five Boroughs (or the whitest parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn). This is a representation of an actual friendship, with the expected ups and downs, but ultimately the chemistry between these two women is what holds all of this magic together, and it translates to the stage. You can tell that the connection and interplay between the two of them is genuine, and it really is infectious. Hopefully, some of the jitters fade away, the show is tightened up a bit more, and we get to see this live show grow into an incredible live experience.