The Broads are Back: NYCC ‘Broad City’ Panel Recap

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I agonized like crazy before 6 pm, trying to make sure there was absolutely no possible way I wouldn’t make it into New York Comic Con’s Broad City panel. For those of you reading who have been to the con, or really any con, before know how crazy it can be. And truthfully, that craziness can make it really hard to see everything your heart desires.
My heart desired this like no other. I did everything in my power to secure my spot at the panel, managing to garner decent seats for me and my roommate. The room was pretty tiny, at least compared to what I expected it to be. The show has completely taken off in the year it’s been on – I truthfully expected to fight my way through a way bigger crowd. But, nonetheless, we were ready. Or at least, we thought we were. But we really weren’t in any way ready for the awesomeness that was to follow.
The panel opened with an amazing trailer of last season, pointing out all the biggest and best moments including a new clip of the girls dancing in the street and getting hot by a city bus. This trailer, being a promotional spot for season 2 in January, was the perfect way to get the ball rolling into this panel. Following the video, the girls of Broad City, the awesome Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, were introduced, and naturally, danced their way out to Missy Elliot’s ‘Work It,’ even grinding up on a security guard pretty hysterically.
Then, Nicole Drespel, the moderator and a lovely friend of the girls who has a bit but magically funny part on the show as Ilana’s aggravated co-worker, regaled the line up of events to us, and I promptly shit a brick: we were getting moderated questions, season 2 footage, a Q&A, AND a live commentary on the brilliant episode ‘Fattest Asses’ from season 1. And if that wasn’t enough to practically stop my heart, they also had amazing ‘BROAD FUCKING CITY’ shirts for everyone in the panel, and if you asked a question at the fan mic, you got a signed poster! I was a blood vessel burst away from an aneurysm.
The panel kicked off with moderated questions and it was lovely to see the intellect behind these awesome characters we all now know and love. Abbi and Ilana are geniuses and it was hard not to feel the palpable energy in the room when they spoke. I did some old school court-reporter style note taking in the panel, so please excuse me paraphrasing quotes from here on out. I promise I’m as accurate as I can be!
The first question was regarding the biggest changes and surprises in the process on television, versus a webseries (Broad City started as a webseries? Yes, go check it out!).  The girls talked about making the  webseries with friends originally, and how making the tv show was just making a bigger version and making it with new friends. They were then able to collaborate with new people, even being surprised by the amount of new people TO collab with.
The next question was about improv, an obvious one to come up in this context, not only because of the comedy of the show but because Abbi and Ilana are UCB alums. So how much improv goes on onset? According to Ilana, they set up pieces of the story first but “actors are more present in character through improv.” Most of the show is actually scripted but improv “flourishes” that script, as Abbi so eloquently put it. She also divulged that they sometimes do casting using improv as well, in an attempt to see what someone will bring to the character on their own. An example they gave us was the scene in ‘Pu$$y Weed’ where Ilana and Lincoln, played by Hannibal Buress, make out and practically drag Abbi along with them, literally. In the script, only a fraction of that was written, but they said once they saw the embellished, improv-ed take, they knew they had to use it.
As expected, the panel was full of laughs. The girls are so funny off screen – at one point, mid-answering a question, Abbi looked at the audience and said, “Can you guys like, see up my dress or…? Is there a thing there?” She sat up a little to try to see the front of the panel table, amidst laughter from the crowd. No one could see a thing.
The next question was about dream guest stars, alive or dead. Ilana immediately named Lucille Ball as her choice, and Abbi chose Richard Jenkins. Then Ilana added Idris Elba and Clive Owen to her list, while Abbi added Frances McDormand. Knowing the great guest stars that have been on the singular season and how great the characters have been, its both interesting and comical to picture all those actors in Broad City-esque quirky characters.
A moderated question I really liked was when the girls were asked how much of the girls on the show are like them in real life. It’s an obvious question for characters based so heavily on their real life personas, but Ilana squashed that a bit by answering that its “15 percent blown up to 100.” Meaning, the weirdest, quirkiest, most off the wall qualities of Abbi and Ilana get blown up and out of proportion and become the Abbi and Ilana of Broad City. It’s them before doing Broad City webseries, it’s shout outs to college, it’s basing things off friends (like the dog Xanax bit and the seafood allergy but from the finale).
The final moderated question was probably the most important to me personally, as an aspiring showrunner with a webseries in development: what advice did they have for someone who wanted to make a webseries to be seen by the right people. The answer was obvious, and Ilana spoke up, “Don’t make a webseries to be seen by the right people.. this is how we were able to create material for ourselves to hone our voice.. we never had the conversation to make this into a tv show, we just wanted to write together. If you can be true to that voice, they’ll see it. They’ll notice.” It struck a chord with me how honest things had gotten – and it lit a fire under my passions. It was inspiring to see how truthful they were being about the process, and the chance of success. It made the struggle seem worthwhile, even if it was just in that hour and a half. It still made me clutch my chest with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face.
Then, as promised, we got a live audio commentary over the season 1 episode titled ‘Fattest Asses.’ The episode itself is hysterical and one of my favorites, so it was great to see the episode with a fresh pair of eyes in a way. Abbi and Ilana were full of silly little tidbits and trivia. My favorites include: Abbi actually was getting waxed in the cold open, Ilana’s email address is a real email address, and the arche du triomph that Ilana refers? to in the end of the episode is something that was on the writer’s room board from day one.
The girls stressed when prefacing the season 2 exclusive clip that the episode isn’t completely finished, is still in editing, and is mid “proce,” short for process obviously. I couldn’t have cared less. I was just full out dying for new material. And the footage we got was so good, it might actually tied me over until the new season actually starts in January. In the clip, the girls are at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, looking for an air conditioner. I don’t want to give too much away but… Abbi is on pretty good terms with several employees. The bit was so funny, I shed a few tears. Seriously.
The final section of the panel was fan questions, and only a few actually made it through. I was on line at the fan mic, but questions got cut off right before it was my turn, of course. A great question that was asked, however, was about their writing process. Ilana talked about how writing the webseries for them was a lot of “dishing” back and forth,  and sending things back and forth on a spreadsheet (which they still have 5 years later). Now it’s both creating and guiding others in creating. And all of the writing staff lives in New York, which they feel is so important to the show. So do I. I was pretty pleased to hear it. Other highlights included Ilana deciding Kim Kardashian was one of her real life “Gross Fucks,” and Abbi talking about how she thought Ilana was Maeby from Arrested Development when they were at UCB together.
The panel closed with some great last words: “It’s easy to stick to your guns when you have a partner you can trust.” Hearing Abbi say that sweetened their relationship on the show that much more, for some reason. It was almost as if I’d known them for a long time, and remembered when they met, or something. I was touched, as strange or silly as it is. I just know this was only the beginning for them. We, as an audience, have a lot to look forward to.
Lex Briscuso | News Cult
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