REVIEW | Two Broads: Bridging Gender Gaps of Humor, Culture and Success


“Broad City”: A Bed Bath & Beyond-obsessed illustrator who works as a cleaner in a gym and a frenetic frizz-haired weed smoker who stores pot in her “nature’s pocket.” Drop these two women in New York City and you have the formula of Comedy Central’s new show, which is now in its second season. And the outcome? Success.

Broad Appeal

Mentioning the show in a room of devoted watchers brings up remembered moments that erupt into laughter.

“The one where she smokes weed to remember where the remote is!” offered Janie Day Whitworth, a sophomore German and Geography major from Crozet, Virginia.

The scene is typically “Broad City” – typically hilarious. The frizz-haired weed smoker Ilana has lost her remote to a marijuana-engendered haze. She lights up a joint and, with tokes as Sherlock Holmes-ian as possible, her memory of the night when she lost the remote slowly returns as the camera zooms dramatically in and out of her face.

Carly Evans, an International Affairs Sophomore from Atlanta, Georgia, recalled the last episode of season one when at an upscale restaurant Abbi (the Bed Bath & Beyond devotee) accidentally stabs herself in the leg with an epi-pen, filling her system with adrenaline. She then jumps on top of a table, crushes a wine glass in her hand, and carries the allergy-addled Ilana out of the restaurant and down the street.

The rampant enthusiasm expressed for a comedy show isn’t anything new; Comedy Central shows often build zealous followings. What is unusual is the demographics of “Broad City’s” following. Many of the biggest fans are female.

While shows like “Workaholics” and “Futurama” easily draw a male following, Comedy Central has left potential female viewers untapped.

Their recent “Inside Amy Schumer” was fairly successful in drawing a new audience, but it tended to alienate male viewers with its women-centric humor.

Enter “Broad City”: Coming on right after “Workaholics,” “Broad City” shows how the kind of humor associated with shows like “Workaholics” need not be exclusive to men. Both feature 20-something characters stumbling through life with comedic missteps.

Whereas “Workaholics” capitalizes on a stoner-inflected form of “bro humor,” “Broad City” dishes equally foul but shrewdly crafted comedy. The craft is rewarded with an extensive viewership that spans the gender gap.

The Method

Comedy Central has never had a problem with taking jokes to that point – the point that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many potential viewers. Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobsen, the creators, head writers and stars of “Broad City,” manage to avoid this reaction with their intelligent approach to gross humor.

“They walk the line very well. They make really disgusting jokes, but there are also really culturally relevant jokes. It’s obvious when watching it that it was created by two intelligent and culturally aware individuals,” said Hannah Brown, a Magazine Journalism Sophomore from Decatur, Georgia.

Their intelligence is attested to by something as seemingly stupid as Ilana’s iffy lines about black men. They come off as slightly uncomfortable for the audience – a wonderful effect that is balanced out well when Abbi tells Ilana: “Sometimes you’re so anti-racist that you’re actually really racist.”

In this instance lies another great quality of “Broad City”: its ability to comment on hot subjects with an even touch.

In this series, unlike many others from Comedy Central, the comedy doesn’t rely on reinforcing “isms” (racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc.). Instead, they flip these realities on their head.

In the memorable first episode of the second season, Abbi commits what may have been rape against her dinner date Stacy (played by Seth Rogen), who passes out in the middle of their bedroom session from heat exhaustion. The episode winds around the topic with Ilana and Abbi offering subtle reflections of what rape culture is in America and often getting the definition not quite right.

When it first appears, the topic of rape seems almost out of place, another spectacle for the sake of humor à la other Comedy Central shows. It soon becomes clear that they are satirizing discussions about rape and rape culture in America in order to point out inconsistencies and impractical viewpoints.

What “Broad City” Means

“Broad” refers to an often-offensive term used in reference to a woman. By integrating it into their show’s title, Glazer and Jacobsen have made an attempt at the term’s reclamation, hopefully shedding it of negative connotations.

In the light of reclamation, the show can be seen as a sort of a claim from the woman in comedy. In a time when women like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are controlling larger shares of comedy television, there still persisted a gaping hole: there were too few comedy shows with two female leads. Though there have been stellar depictions of girl-to-girl relationships in comedy, it was never thought of as important enough for the basis of a whole show.

Now, “Broad City” has crossed a threshold in more ways than one. Two female leads drive the action of the show. Cultural hot topics become objects in its satirical context. Women are telling foul jokes and still being feminine.

Most importantly, “Broad City” means something because it’s actually funny – fall down on the floor laughing funny. Two broads made a show… and they made it a hit.

Image via Here

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