Talking 'Broad City' season three and 'Time Traveling Bong'

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer

Last year, we had a conversation about "Broad City" and how "real" and relatable it was (we'll never forget the pulling-a-head-hair-out-of-your-asscrack line), and how the show and its writing felt like a game-changer for women in comedy thanks to MICA alum Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer's contemporary wit and casual yet honest treatment of stuff like hiding weed in your vagina, pegging, and bank account-breaking city life. The last episode of "Broad City's" third season airs on 4/20, and so does the first part of a three-part series "Time Traveling Bong," starring Glazer and Paul W. Downs (who plays Trey on "Broad City" and also writes for the show, along with his partner and "Bong" co-writer Lucia Aniello), on Comedy Central, so we blazed through season three and the movie and sat down again to discuss how the show handles self-deprecating humor, modern love, internet culture, and more.

Maura Callahan: Let’s talk about this fucking movie “Time Traveling Bong.” We made the mistake of watching it sober, which I realize now is not how it was intended to be watched, since, you know, it premieres on 4/20 and it’s called “Time Traveling Bong.” It’s like you need 3D goggles to watch it but instead of 3D goggles you need to smoke a bowl. That said, it was exceedingly stupid. I’m totally down for stupid weed movies, but this felt like weak stupidity, like it was mostly underwhelming jokes that didn’t make the cut for “Broad City.”
Rebekah Kirkman: Agreed. Even though there were themes about, like, women’s oppression throughout history, which dude-centric time-traveling stoner movies don’t often touch on, the jokes all fell flat, or didn’t seem new to me. It was a pretty standard stoner movie and I was surprised that I didn’t care for it very much. But what I like about “Broad City’s” weed-y humor, which I’ve said previously, is that it doesn’t make a big deal out of smoking weed.
MC: The film chose some really atypical points in history to revisit and allow the characters to alter. Like, when people go back in time, they go to kill Hitler or whatever. That’s not what happened here.
RK: Yeah, at one point, they end up on a plantation, where there are slaves working in the field, and then, later, they go to the 1960s Civil Rights era. And they make some jokes about being “white saviors.”
MC: I guess I liked that, how the show demonstrated—in the weirdest way—that the white savior game doesn’t work. If you’re white and you wanna fight racial injustice, it obviously can’t be to stroke your own ego. And Ilana Glazer and Paul W. Downs’ characters are deeply white: Glazer’s character, for example, wears Uggs and a Northface jacket and has a boyfriend who wears an “All Lives Matter” shirt. A couple times, the characters try to play god but in their self-absorption and stupidity they just made things worse.
RK: And they just get really high then they get to the ‘60s, and they’re like “everything’s great for you guys,” meaning black people, and that’s the joke: that often, white people think that everything was “fixed” during the Civil Rights era.
MC: Yeah they do that in “Broad City” too, where they poke at Abbi and Ilana’s ignorance. Like in the episode ‘Rat Pack,’ when Ilana’s roommate Jaime tells her about cultural appropriation—while helping her pop her backne—and that it’s not okay for her, a white New Yorker, to wear hoop earrings that say “Latina.”
RK: I like the way the show kinda prods “art people.” Like, in the first episode of season three, ‘Two Chainz,’ Abbi’s friend from art school is talking about her work and she’s using the typical saying-nothing-art-jargon, it’s so ridiculous. I guess I like it because it’s coming from Abbi who actually went to MICA in real life and it’s not just like artists are dumb and weird, but it’s still definitely not taking itself seriously. It’s poking fun.
MC: Yeah everyone in this show is kind of ridiculous, but it’s definitely self-deprecating. I don’t think I could handle a show where their perspective wasn’t mocked at all. This season, we get to see a little more of the characters’ lives beyond the sphere of their relationships, as well as the environment of New York City. In the episode ‘Philadelphia’ we meet Abbi’s father (played by Tony Danza) and see the home she grew up in. Later, in the episode ‘Getting There,’ the girls go through some serious tribulations to catch a flight for their Birthright trip to Israel.
RK: It is cool to see them as separate characters, it fleshes them out a bit more. Even though the show doesn’t need to do that—it could just be a show about two girls getting into and out of trouble in New York—I like when we get to learn more about their characters, even when it’s just quick, little things.
MC: You can tell in little ways how shaped they are by New York—the way they dress, the way they talk, even how they maneuver around their surroundings—and when they’re separated from the city, it’s like foreign territory, even if it’s distantly familiar like Abbi’s hometown. Or even if it’s not so much about physically leaving a place, but on the plane in the final two episodes, they’re suddenly surrounded by people who seem to be from a different world, although they share their Jewish heritage.
RK: One sore spot this season was the episode ‘2016,’ the one with Hillary Clinton.
MC: Yeah I am probably never going to watch that one again.
RK: It wasn’t good.
MC: Season three was my least favorite season, all because of that episode. Like what the fuck, man? Abbi and Ilana’s worship of Hillary—practically to the point of orgasm when they meet her—seems inconsistent with their characters. I remember just before that episode aired, Hillary’s “the Reagans were great for AIDS awareness”-gate happened. And not long after, her lack of respect for “Black Lives Matter” became increasingly clear in the way she dealt with protesters, not to mention that fucking “CP Time” joke with Bill de Blasio. The timing of the episode probably couldn’t have been more awkward. One of my favorite things about “Broad City” is how well it speaks to our generation, and this is very much a departure from that. It’s not like I wanted a Bernie Sanders cameo—that probably wouldn’t have gone over well either—but at least that would’ve been more in line with the characters. On the other hand, it seems at least theoretically a good idea for the characters to reject, in some ways, the millennial template, but I don’t think that was their intention here and, bottom line, it wasn’t funny.
RK: Right, this episode felt like a pandering endorsement of Hillary, which you could read as a statement about our political climate, this blind and blathering support of candidates on all sides, but I don’t think that’s what they were going for. I mean, even on their own social media Abbi and Ilana have posted about Hillary and how it would be so great to have a woman leading our country and I obviously don’t disagree with that, but I have a problem with those kinds of blanket statements. Not that Hillary hasn’t been supportive of women in this country; she has introduced and supported legislation for things like closing the gender wage gap, making birth control more accessible, protecting women’s rights to abortion. But here, it seems more like blind support of Hillary just because of her gender. And, especially when we think about the issues that you just mentioned, it’s like Feminism™, the brand, the “support all women because all women are great” kind of feminism.
MC: Back to what “Broad City” does well, setting the Hillary nonsense aside; this season continued to tap into twentysomething life in 2016 in really precise ways. Some of that is relatively new shit like online hookup culture, and then there’s that kind of millennial nostalgia for early manifestations of digital culture like “Salad Fingers.”
RK: Oh yeah, Ilana explains “Salad Fingers” to her coworkers and contextualizes it in the internet phenomenon known as randomcore, that it’s like a subsect of internet humor, from the early 2000s; just posting and saying the most random shit, often in an obnoxious way. It’s weird but it also makes sense. I feel like the internet has made us, or has made me, at least, think more in this free-associative, less linear way; everything’s accessible, everything’s floating around.
MC: Sometimes this show is like both the culmination of and a lesson in the history of social media culture.
RK: As always, “Broad City’s” jokes about dating feel truthful to a person who has some experience dating these days, especially with Tinder, OkCupid and stuff. And they’ve mentioned Tinder on the show before (like in season two’s ‘The Matrix’) but in season three’s ‘Rat Pack’ episode Abbi uses Tinder for the first time, and it’s the whole instant gratification—the high that she gets from swiping right and matching with all these dudes. That’s mainly what Tinder is for. And then one of the dudes informs her about swiping left.
MC: I have never used Tinder and I know that you’re supposed to swipe left or swipe right.
RK: And people not looking like how they look in their pictures, it’s all the things that everyone knows. But it’s good. A lot of stuff, romantically-speaking, happens for Abbi this season.
MC: Let’s talk about boyz. In general, there was not enough Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) in this season.
RK: Yes. He’s got a new lady in his life, which he (very reasonably and maturely) brings up to Ilana who, initially, is literally wildly enthusiastic about it (“We are bi, we are poly, we are queer,” she informs him). “Broad City” has often tapped into casual dating and “non-traditional” relationship structures, especially with Lincoln and Ilana’s relationship, but this season also shows them unraveling.
MC: Right, and it didn’t end in a way that said polyamorous relationships cannot work; it was more like, it can’t work right now for these two people. I’ve been in the same monogamous relationship since pre-Tinder, basically, so I can’t speak much to this, but modern dating seems very tricky in the sense that sex-only or poly relationships are more on the table now, but many people are still only interested in monogamous, romantic pairings. And of course there’s nothing wrong with either. So it’s like modern dating is more exciting, in a way; there are more options with less stigmatization, but at the same time it might make it more complicated to find a compatible partner, or partners.
RK: And at that point in time, monogamy wasn’t an option for Ilana, even to save any kind of relationship with Lincoln—she didn’t change her mind. How did we feel when Trey and Abbi kissed the first time?
MC: Um, hard—as Ilana would say.
RK: The tension between them had been building up for a long time, since at least season two, but the ups and downs of their relationship in this season all happened so fucking fast. I was overwhelmed. And in this season, Abbi went from her usual casual dating/hooking up, into what could be a strangely good thing with Trey, who she’s known for a long time. And it feels tragic when it comes to a screeching halt in the ‘Burning Bridges’ episode. It’s everything at once, from being in a new/potentially good situation and not wanting to fuck it up, but then comes the self-sabotage, brought on by Abbi’s shame for having feelings for him. When Ilana found out, Abbi assured her “he’s like a joke”—which is very cruel, and Trey’s right there when she says it. She’s worried about what people would think—especially Ilana—so she keeps it a secret until it blows up.
MC: Okay, okay, okay, okay… Blake Griffin. In the episode ‘B&B-NYC’ Ilana meets him at a club and they leave to hook up, but once the clothes are off she quickly realizes that his enormous dick won’t fit her body. Whenever you see jokes about, I don’t know, big dicks, it’s all bros comparing or horny women being stoked to get it in—which is legit, like a big dick is an exciting thing if you’re into big dicks. But in reality it’s like a big dick is not always the right thing for penetration because sometimes it’s really too big. The show presented that very real issue here and not in a way that shamed the dude—which would be fucked up—but in a way that’s like oh, these parts of our bodies are incompatible with each other—that’s not a big deal; we can do different things. And so they do all of these fucking crazy things, like I remember at one point Griffin picks Ilana up and cradles her like a baby; it was like the most hilarious and on-point sex ed video ever.
RK: I would love to have an experience like that, where like the dick is just too big and I can’t—
MC: —I mean I wouldn’t want to experience trying to—
RK: —I mean I want to reenact the episode is all, I just want to do all those silly things.
MC: You can still do that with a guy that doesn’t have a huge penis.
RK: Right, right. Anyway, Ilana knows her body, which is IMPORTANT. I fucking love that about this show. That’s how it should be. “Broad City” often makes the real absurd, and then there are also moments where they imagine a better future in a way. Although I think today, generally speaking, the notion of women loving their bodies and knowing their bodies and their sexuality has become much more accepted than in the past. But that is my experience, in my social circles, where we’re all on the same page there, but it’s cool to imagine this as the accepted standard. That’s the world I wanna be in.
MC: And there’s a spectrum here: Ilana knows her body really well and is very in charge of it; Abbi is always learning more about her body. She’s always in charge but also pushing her boundaries sometimes. Oh, and speaking of Ilana’s body, she really knows how to use it. Aside from her adventurous sex life and tap-dancing skills, she used period blood-stained pants (in the ‘Getting There’ episode) to mask the smell of weed hidden in her vagina to get through security at the airport—and then when a dog smelled it, the discomfort of seeing scary uterus blood made the male security guards back off.
RK: Yeah, she flips the shame and stigmatization of periods, makes it funny—and practical!
MC: Weed. Genius.

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