It’s been a funny few weeks of TV-watching. The Olympics have been on, forcing most of my favourite shows into hiatus, yet I’ve been laughing out loud more than usual. This was the week that I finally checked out Key and Peele (a sketch show that critics and friends alike have been saying I really should watch.) Would recommend. Not usually a fan of late-night television, I decided to watch Jimmy Fallon’s first episode on the Tonight Show for the novelty of sharing an experience with those who probably do care who the host of the Tonight Show is. I was pleasantly surprised. Would watch again. I also re-watched Extras on DVD, and like clockwork, laughed at David Bowie’s impromptu song about Andy Millman. The phrase “See his pug-nosed face” never fails to amuse.
While enjoying this sampling platter of comedy TV, I found two shows that I’m really excited about. Both are half-hour comedies and both are on Comedy Central. Very few TV shows consistently make me laugh out loud, and even fewer make me LOL while recalling past episodes. Even though using the phrase “LOL’ing” makes me sound like a dumb-dumb, I stand by it, because LOL’ing is exactly what makes me fall in love with a comedy. I can appreciate a show that makes me smile inwardly, but loyalty is forged through the act of laughing out loud.
The first show that I’m really excited about is Kroll Show, a sketch comedy show starring Nick Kroll and friends. The sketches on Kroll Show mostly parody other TV shows, with sketches that include “Gigolo House” (10 gigolos living in a house together), “Nash Ricky’s Rockin’ Reunion, Sponsored by Stamps” (a Bret Michaels/Rock of Love parody) and “Making Friends” (a reality show where the goal is to make friends).
At various moments during a quiet work day, I will think about “Wheels Ontario”, a recurring sketch on Kroll Show, and start chuckling to myself. “Wheels Ontario” stars Kroll as “Legs”, a new student at a Degrassi High-esque high school. The tone of the parody is spot on, and as a Canadian, I naturally love anything that makes fun of anything else Canadian.
The second show I’m really excited about, and the one I’m going to talk about more at length, is Broad City. Broad City is written by and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. Both are comedians and UCB alumna. Onscreen, they play versions of themselves, best friends who spend almost every day together. In comedy duo tradition, one is the straight man (Abbi) and the other is the colourful one (Ilana). Here’s a quick clip to acquaint yourself with Abbi and Ilana.
As the name suggests, Broad City employs broad comedy. I like urban dictionary’s definition of broad comedy: humour that is particularly physical, over-the-top, indecent, or otherwise unsubtle nature. While taking notes on the show’s five episodes, I noticed that 2/5 episodes included clogged toilets and puking, 3/5 episodes referenced Abbi being good at/needing to clean up a pile of pubes and Ilana making out with a dude while touching Abbi somehow, and 5/5 included heavy drug use/drinking and prat falls.
While I wouldn’t make the blanket statement that I love broad comedy, I love Glazer and Jacobson’s broad comedy. Onscreen, Glazer and Jacobson have charming chemistry between them and seemingly endless energy. Both are excellent physical performers. Highlights so far include Abbi doing awkward parkour to impress her boss and Ilana trying to dance to church bell techno music at a chic rooftop party. Glazer also has an hilarious way of pronouncing certain words for emphasis like “vaa-hine-ya” (it’s “nature’s pocket”) and “saa-hawnd-witch shuppe?”
My bond of loyalty was forged early in the first episode, “What a Wonderful World”, when Abbi asks her roommate’s boyfriend why he ate her entire, clearly labelled, block of cheese, and he responds that she should have labelled all six sides. This is the line that I was LOL’ing about in days after the first watch.
I fell in love with Broad City at the end of that episode, when after a night of heavy drinking, Ilana skypes Abbi while crying on the bathroom floor, hugging the toilet. A good friend will hold your hair back but a best friend will skype with you while puking. Ilana asks Abbi if she wants to come over because she just ordered pizza. Abbi responds, “What kind?” That’s friendship.
Perhaps my two week long comedy-binge forced unnatural comparisons between TV shows, but I found Broad City to resemble Extras at its core. Both shows feature a set of best friends, one who is the straight man (Abbi, Broad City and Andy Millman, Extras) and one who is the quirky one (Ilana, Broad City and Maggie, Extras). Both “straight” characters are aspiring creatives – Abbi is an illustrator and Andy is an extra. Both shows feature an extensive list of funny celebrity guests. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, both Ilana and Maggie favour the question “Would you rather?”
Ilana: Who would you rather go down on you, Michael Bublé or Janet Jackson?
Maggie: Would you rather have your face and body but the brain of a chimpanzee or be a chimpanzee but have your human brain?
Watching the two shows side by side affected my perception of Broad City. I found that while the Broad City is an awesome hang out comedy, with two well flushed out characters, both Abbi and Ilana lack vulnerability. Whenever something bad happens, it doesn’t seem to affect them. They can get locked out of both their apartments, fall in garbage, get maced, puke, clean a dude’s apartment in their underwear, all without really getting hurt. As long as they are together, things are relatively ok. While this ability to have a thick skin and a steadfast best friend is enviable in real life, it doesn’t make for overly dramatic TV. The only real tension occurs in episode three, “Locked Out”, when Ilana realizes she has ruined Abbi’s day. She feels really bad and apologizes right away. Abbi also apologizes for “being a bitch.” Small problems, easily solved.
On Extras, setbacks hurt. When Andy Millman embarrasses himself, the tabloids pick it up, or an old acquaintance overhears. Something always makes his humiliation worse, and Andy has to eat crow and change his ways. Not only that, but Andy routinely takes for granted the importance of his friendship with Maggie. Things get worse and worse for him and he doesn’t seek support in his best friend. Things only start to turn around when Andy finally realizes how important their friendship is.
I’d like to see the depths of humiliation (and hilarity) that Broad City can reach when the two leads aren’t invincible. But if Broad City continues to be this laugh-out-loud funny, and if Abbi and Ilana do nothing but smoke pot and clean pubes, I will be happy, loyal watcher.
Where to find full episodes of Broad City and Kroll Show online: