Commentary

'Broad City': How to Be Funny Across Platforms

“Broad City” co-creators and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are TV everywhere.  Essential to the comedy’s hit status is the duo's savvy sense that screened entertainment has the best chance for success when it's a multiplatform affair.

That's why it was a perfect fit to have Glazer, 28, and Jacobson, 31, be the kick-off keynote presenters for New York Internet Week, where I caught up with them.  Smart, sassy, and direct, Glazer and Jacobson seemed relieved that I posed a question about their digital strategy, instead of another question about how close they are in real life to the eponymous characters that are perpetually “blazed” and having some wacky sexcapade.   

Glazer and Jacobson boot-strapped “Broad City” and launched it in 2009 on YouTube. “We never got a ton of views,” Glazer said. “We were like the little engine that could.”   While  “Broad City” may not have generated enough views to be a YouTube hit, it did get noticed by fellow Upright Citizens Brigade alum Amy Poehler.  The “Parks & Recreation” star was smitten, and got Glazer and Jacobson to Comedy Central.   

Speaking about those early days, Jacobson noted how the day jobs she and Glazer  had working in social media marketing helped them cut through the YouTube clutter. “I learned SEO,”  Jacobson said. “I used to work for another place where I posted 'Ted Talks.'” Glazer’s job at Deals Deals Deals on the show was inspired by her slacker job at Lifebooker  where both she and Jacobson worked.  

From its inception, “Broad City”  took a by-any-means-necessary approach to marketing  the show. At the Internet Week forum, the duo let slip that in those early days a friend working for A&E purloined a list of industry brass emails that they would send “Broad City” links.

Facebook, they both note, was key to getting the word out in the early days. “Before coming to Comedy Central, we were very used to using social media to do our own P.R., “ says Glazer.  “Now it's fantastic to have ComedyCentral's digital team to work with us. All comedy these days is fueled by the Internet.”  

Jacobson  and Glazer’s digital native experience  does fuel their  creative chops-- they know how Millennials communicate. The premiere episode opens with Ilana skyping Abbi — and as the camera pulls back, viewers realize that this is a “multitasking” call: she’s in bed and on top of her boyfriend Lincoln (Hannibal Buress).

The “Broad City” stars are vocal about how being enmeshed in a “TV everywhere” world is key to both their creativity and their breakout  status.   All the various platforms, from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter, are part of their secret sauce of comic success. The show's Twitter @broadcity has more than 100,000 followers, as do Glazer's @ilazer and Jacobson's @abbijacobson.  The “Broad City” Facebook  page has more than 250,000  Likes, and they have almost 200,000 followers on Instagram.  

“It's essential that we create material that is Web-only, like the bridge content we do — the other short stuff that goes on ComedyCentral.com,” says Glazer.  “That's  the stuff where there's less pressure and that frees you up.”  Adds Jacobson: “Yeah, it keeps us fresh and reminds us of our youth.”

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