UPDATE: Congratulations are in order for Conestoga High School graduate Abbi Jacobson, as her series “Broad City,” just earned another season on Comedy Central. In order to get started right away, she and co-writer Ilana Glazer will postpone their tour, which included a show March 5 at the Trocadero. The announcement came via YouTube, and tickets will be honored in the fall, when they come back around. Check back with us for updates.
How does a nice girl from Wayne become the newest voice of snarky twentysomething New Yorkers? Good question. Abbi Jacobson and pal Ilana Glazer are the creative team behind Broad City, an irreverent sitcom executive-produced by Parks and Recreation’s Amy Poehler and now in its first season on Comedy Central. Not bad for someone who couldn’t land a role in a single Conestoga High School play.
MLT: Did you think about being a comedian when you were in high school?
AJ: Conestoga’s Junior Cabaret was my first big break. I was one of the hosts in 11th grade. Of course, I wasn’t asked to participate in the actual cabaret. I can’t sing; I mean, I’d like to sing. I’ve tried to sing. But I just can’t do it. In fact, I tried out for a ton of musicals at Conestoga—and even in middle school—and I never got cast. Not once. But I did host the cab-aret show, and that gave me opportunities to stand on stage in front of a crowd.
MLT: Did that inspire you to get training in comedy or theater?
AJ: I took classes at Walnut Street Theatre and at the Actors Center in Old City. But my main interest was in drawing and painting. My father is a graphic designer, and my mother is an artist. She works with found objects and other materials, and has a booth at the Manayunk Arts Festival every summer. So I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art, thinking it’d be an easier career. Turns out, it’s not. But I worked as an illustrator, even while we were doing the Web series. It paid the bills.
MLT: What led you to pursue comedy professionally?
AJ: When I moved to New York in 2006, I enrolled in classes at Atlantic Theater Company, thinking I’d be a legitimate actor. But that was not for me. My roommate told me about the Upright Citizens Brigade, which has classes in improv, sketch and stand-up comedy. It was love at first sight—the perfect place for me. And UCB was founded by Amy Poehler, which turned out to be quite
an amazing connection.
MLT: How does one enlist Amy Poehler as a guardian angel/executive producer?
AJ: People responded so well to the Web series that Ilana and I decided to pitch it as a TV show. We wrote a script for the pilot and wanted to get someone big to make a guest appearance. We reached out to Amy through UCB, and she agreed to do it. We rewrote the script to include her and shot it on the street in the West Village. Then we asked Amy to be the executive producer of the whole show. She said yes. I’m still amazed.
MLT: As you’ve gone from Web series to TV show, how has your creative process changed? Do you have one of those famous writers’ rooms?
AJ: We do. Ilana and I collaborate with a team of four people. But Ilana and I still work from
a Google document we share. It has hundreds of ideas. We take that into the writers’ room and develop those ideas or new ones. We base everything around something that happened
to us or someone we know.
MLT: Just so we can tell our friends at parties, what are a few of your favorite local spots?
AJ: My dad lives in Villanova, my mom lives in Berwyn, and my brother and sister live in Queen Village, so I have favorite places throughout the area. Gryphon Cafe and Minella’s Diner—before its renovation—have special places in my heart. The Point was a great spot, and I’m still really bummed that it’s not there. But I’ll tell you what I love to do when I come home: drive. I don’t drive in New York—at all—and I forget how much I miss it. So when I come home, I drive to Valley Forge park, which is an amazing gift of wide-open space I don’t have in my daily life. New York has almost everything, but it doesn’t have that.