10 Fun Facts About Broad City

Comedy Central
Comedy Central

What began as a YouTube web series has morphed into a comedic phenomenon. Broad City began its life in 2009 as a short web series on YouTube, starring Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) alumnae Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. When the ladies decided to take the show to network, Amy Poehler, who co-founded UCB, agreed to executive produce. In 2011, FX commissioned a pilot—Abbi’s and Ilana’s names were almost Ali and Eliza, or Carly and Evelyn—but ended up passing; Comedy Central picked it up, and the show premiered on January 22, 2014.

Broad City features versions of Abbi and Ilana (last names Abrams and Wexler, respectively), and their crazy adventures navigating New York City, much of which is based on their own real-life experiences—including Deals Deals Deals. In anticipation of the series' fourth season, which premieres on September 13, here are 10 fun facts about the crass female-friendship sitcom.

1. ABBI JACOBSON THOUGHT ILANA GLAZER WAS ALIA SHAWKAT FROM ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.

Jacobson and Glazer met while working together on an improv practice team at UCB. Jacobson told The New York Times that before they met, Jacobson thought Glazer was Alia Shawkat, the actress who played Maeby Fünke on Arrested Development.

"After the first night of practice, we go to a bar and we’re talking about where we’re from, and it turns out she knew two of my best friends from college,” Jacobson recalled. “And in that moment, I was just like ... this is not Maeby anymore. I would know if my friends were friends with Maeby. We really hit it off immediately; I was just like trying to become friends with Maeby, and then I thought, I’ll just stay friends with this girl.”

2. THEY UPSET WHOLE FOODS.

In the series' third season, Lincoln (Hannibal Buress) extracts Abbi’s wisdom teeth. Ilana gets her hopped up on a weed s’more milkshake called a Firecracker. High as a kite, Abbi wanders off to a Whole Foods in Brooklyn, where she hallucinates that her stuffed animal friend, Bingo Bronson, is life-sized and is egging her to buy expensive items, like manuka honey. During an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, the women said they pestered Whole Foods on Twitter until they let them film there.

“It had to be Whole Foods,” Jacobson said. Whole Foods granted their wish. Turns out, they weren’t offended about the hallucination. “They cared about us truly naming the price of their manuka honey,” Glazer said. “The true price!” Abbi ends up spending a whopping $1487.56 at the store—part of that on manuka honey.

3. THE SHOW IS HAPPY TO USE BARS TO BLUR OUT NUDITY.

Occasionally, the women appear nude on the show. But unlike Lena Dunham on Girls, Jacobson and Glazer use blur bars to cover up their nether regions. “Lena Dunham is awesome,” Glazer told New York Magazine. “I love seeing her body on TV. Lena is like a vessel for the message that normal bodies are so beautiful and sexy and powerful. But I don’t think we would be that brave to be that vessel, even though you still, like, get that and people are like, ‘Wow, they’re not bony!’ Lena’s isn’t for a joke, you know? Ours is always for a joke. We’re very grateful for those blurs. So grateful.”

4. HILLARY CLINTON’S APPEARANCE WAS A POLITICAL STATEMENT.

In a March 2016 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jacobson said that Hillary Clinton's cameo on the show, in which she played herself, wasn’t supposed to be a political statement—but then she backtracked.

“Of course it’s a political statement!” Jacobson told The New York Times in October 2016. “For us, it felt like we were justifying our show in a different way—it felt historic.” The episode was written a year before it aired, when there weren’t other political candidates.

This season, though, the ladies will make yet another political statement when they’ll bleep out the word “Trump.” “It, like, sounds so gross, like every day saying it so many times, and we just didn't want to share air time,” Glazer explained.

5. SOULSTICE IS BASED ON A REAL GYM.

One of Jacobson’s odd jobs was handing out flyers for an Equinox gym, near Grand Central Terminal. “I didn’t even get paid, it was just a membership,” Jacobson told TIME. “But at the time I was like ‘this is amazing!’” At least Jacobson didn’t have to clean up gym vomit like her fictional character did.

6. JAIMÉ'S ACCENT ISN'T REAL.


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Arturo Castro plays Ilana’s gay, weed-dealing Venezuelan roommate Jaimé on the show, but is none of those things in real life. “Sometimes people are a little bummed that I don’t actually talk like Jaimé,” Castro told People. “When I see their faces drop I try to put it on for like a second. And then my girlfriend is like, ‘What are you doing?’”

Castro told The Daily Beast people are also surprised he doesn’t sell marijuana. “This guy came up to me in Bryant Park and he was like: ‘Dude, you don’t have an accent?’ and then, ‘So you don’t sell weed either?’ He was really disappointed and walked away.”

7. GLAZER DIDN’T WANT HER BROTHER WRITING FOR THE SHOW.

Glazer’s brother, Eliot, wanted to write for the show but his sister thought “it would be too close for comfort,” he told The New Yorker. “It was a source of tension for a while.” Eliot eventually appeared on five episodes of Broad City as Ilana’s brother, and went on to write for New Girl and Younger.

8. LIKE ABBI ABRAMS, ABBI JACOBSON IS AN ARTIST.


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When art-school grad Jacobson first moved to New York City, she sold greeting cards throughout the city. As she told The Huffington Post, she sold them on the streets and tried to get them into the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). “I was really hustling with that, trying to get a big retail store to want them, but it never panned out,” she said. Some of her artwork is displayed in the show, and last year she released an illustrated book called Carry This Book, which became a New York Times bestseller. She also hosts the podcast “A Piece of Work,” co-produced by MoMA.

9. TREY STARTED OUT IN PORN BECAUSE HE WAS A FAILED ACTOR.

Near the end of season two, Trey—Abbi’s boss at Soulstice/love interest—revealed he starred in soft-core porn under the name Kirk Steele. Paul W. Downs plays Trey and is one of the writers and producers of the show (he also dates and collaborates with Broad City director Lucia Aniello). “In the initial script, he got into porn because he was trying to make it as an actor/model/host,” Downs told Vulture. “Then he hit rock bottom after not getting a Kirkland Signature campaign … But as you saw, it was just soft-core porn, you didn’t get anything hard-core. Yeah, probably the most—I guess entry-level for porn?”

10. GLAZER AND JACOBSON DON'T SMOKE WHILE THEY'RE WORKING.


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On the show, Glazer and Jacobson can frequently be found indulging in marijuana, but fans shouldn’t expect the stars to smoke with them. “Giving us a joint is one thing—I’m like, ‘Thank you soooo much,’” Glazer told New York Magazine. But Jacobson insisted they can’t work while stoned. “But when ­people want to smoke with us? Everyone thinks we smoke in the writers’ room,” she said. “It’s like, we would never be able to do anything high!”

Josh Trank Wouldn't Mind Erasing Fantastic Four From Film History

Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Ben Rothstein, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

It’s not every day that you hear a director talking about wanting to completely erase one of their projects from film history. But when the topic of the 2015 box office bomb Fantastic Four comes up, director Josh Trank isn't mincing words. The director tweeted that he would “gladly” donate to a GoFundMe page to have his failed adaptation erased from the cinematic history books.

It's no secret that Fantastic Four is a sore subject for Trank. The production was plagued with rumors that there was a bit of friction on set, particularly between the director and star Miles Teller. Even once the film had wrapped, reports about the troubled production plagued Trank, and eventually led to him parting ways with Disney, for whom he was supposedly developing a standalone Boba Fett movie. (It didn't help that Fantastic Four tanked at the box office and even won a Razzie for Worst Picture).

The topic of starting a GoFundMe page for the film started after Trank responded to fans rallying for a page to get the rat at the end of Martin Scorsese's The Departed digitally erased. When asked if he would support a page to get rid of Fantastic Four, Trank seemed to oblige (though he has since deleted the tweet).


It’s no secret the previous Fantastic Four movies have had little success, but now that Disney and Fox are joining forces, the series could be entering into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe now these superheroes will finally get the movie they deserve.

Hollywood's Brief Love Affair With Young Einstein Star Yahoo Serious

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The theater owners and exhibitors attending the ShoWest convention in February 1989 had a lot to look forward to. In an attempt to stir their interest in upcoming studio releases, major distributors were showing off stars and footage: Paramount led with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Columbia had Ghostbusters II. But it was Warner Bros. that caused the biggest stir.

In addition to Lethal Weapon 2, the studio had Tim Burton’s Batman, a straight-faced adaptation of the comic, and Michael Keaton—who slipped into a screening of some early footage—was no longer being derided as a poor casting choice. Then, in the midst of all this star power, the studio brought out a 35-year-old actor-writer-director with a shock of orange hair and an Australian accent.

The man had never appeared in a feature film before, much less starred in one, but Warner was gambling that his forthcoming comedy about a Tasmanian Albert Einstein who invents rock music and runs into Thomas Edison would be a hit. It had already become the sixth highest-grossing film in Australia's history, besting both E.T. and Rambo: First Blood Part II.

The man’s real name was Greg Pead, but Warner Bros. introduced him as Yahoo Serious, Hollywood’s next big comedy attraction.

 

To understand Warner’s appetite for an unproven commodity like Yahoo Serious, it helps to recall the peculiar preoccupation American popular culture had with Australians in the 1980s. Energizer had created a hit ad campaign with Mark “Jacko” Jackson, a pro football player who aggressively promoted their batteries in a series of ads; meanwhile, Paul Hogan parlayed his fish-out-of-water comedy, Crocodile Dundee, into the second highest-grossing film of 1986. (Serious would later bristle at comparisons to Hogan, whom he referred to as a “marketing guy” who sold cigarettes on Australian television.)

Born in Cardiff, Australia on July 27, 1953, Serious grew up in rural bush country and mounted car tires at a garage in order to pay his way through the National Art School. When he was expelled for illustrating the school's facade with satirical jokes that the faculty didn’t find particularly funny, Serious moved on to direct Coaltown, a documentary about the coal mining industry, and pursued painting.

Serious would later recall that the desire for a larger audience led him away from art and into feature filmmaking. ''It hit me like a ton of bricks one day,” Serious told The New York Times in 1989. “I remember having a cup of coffee and I went, 'Well, look, there is a giant canvas in every little town everywhere around the world. And on this giant canvas there are 24 frames of image on that screen every second and it's the most wonderful living art form.'” It was around this same time, in 1980, that Serious changed his name.

To get a feel for the language of film, Serious sat through repeated viewings of Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove; he aspired to have the kind of total autonomy over his movies that directors like Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin enjoyed.

In 1983, Serious was traveling along the Amazon River when he spotted someone wearing a T-shirt depicting Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out. The image is now pervasive, appearing on posters and other merchandise, but it seemed unique to the performer, who was struck by the idea that Einstein was once young and never took himself too seriously. And the concept for Young Einstein was born.

 

Serious's idea, which transplanted Einstein to Tasmania and imagined encounters with Sigmund Freud, Thomas Edison, and the atomic bomb, took years to assemble. He borrowed camera equipment and sold his car to help finance the film; he shot an eight-minute trailer that convinced investors he was capable of making a feature. His mother even cooked meals for the crew on set.

In order to maintain creative control, Serious gave up profit participation in Young Einstein, which he starred in, co-produced, co-wrote, and directed. When the film was released in Australia in 1988, it made an impressive $1.6 million at the box office and drew the attention of Warner Bros., which likely had visions of a Crocodile Dundee-esque hit. American press had a field day with Serious, who appeared on the cover of TIME and was given airtime on MTV.

Critics and audiences weren’t quite as enamored. The Orlando Sentinel suggested that "Tedious Oddball" would be a more appropriate name for the film's creator. In his one-star review, Roger Ebert wrote that, "Young Einstein is a one-joke movie, and I didn't laugh much the first time." In the U.S., Young Einstein grossed just over $11 million, a fairly weak showing for a summer comedy. It was bested in its opening weekend by both Ron Howard’s Parenthood and the Sylvester Stallone action-grunter Lock Up.

 

Although American distributors quickly cooled on Serious, Australia's enthusiasm for the filmmaker didn’t dampen. When Serious released 1993’s Reckless Kelly, a fictionalized account of outlaw Ned Kelly, it made $5.4 million in Australia—three times as much as Young Einstein. Serious took a seven-year sabbatical, then returned with 2000’s Mr. Accident, a slapstick comedy about an injury-prone man who tries to thwart a scheme to inject nicotine into eggs. Meeting a tepid critical and financial reception, it would be his third and (likely) final film.

At roughly the same time Mr. Accident was released, Serious took issue with upstart search engine Yahoo!, alleging the site was piggybacking on his popularity. He filed a lawsuit, which was quickly dropped when he failed to prove the URL had damaged him in any way.

Yahoo Serious attends an event
Paul McConnell, Getty Images

The amused headlines stemming from that incident were the last examples of Serious capturing attention in America. Having completed just three films, no other projects have come to fruition; Serious launched a website detailing some of his background and to air some of his Yahoo!-related grievances.

Now 65, Serious currently serves as founding director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, an Australian aid organization dedicated to improving the living conditions of Papua New Guineans. The board’s website lists him as Yahoo Serious, which is the name he claims that all of his family and friends have called him since he changed it in 1980.

“You can choose every aspect of your life,” Serious once said. “Why not your name?”

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