If Abbi Jacobson wasn’t already a comedian, writer, actress, illustrator, feminist icon of a generation and, yas, queen, she’d also be a rock star. That’s why approximately 400 super fans (either of Jacobson herself or “Broad City,” the Comedy Central show she co-created and co-starred in with Ilana Glazer) came out to the SNF Parkway on March 20.
Jacobson, 35, a general fine arts MICA grad, and cinematographer Ashley Connor brought the series’ penultimate episode, “Along Came Molly,” back to her old stomping grounds for a sold-out screening and conversation as part of the guest host series, “Contemporary Women Filmmakers.”
The event started with a showing of the episode, which seemed even funnier and more delightful on a big screen surrounded by likeminded art school types. Anyone who has ever watched an episode of “Broad City” knows the show is about two sexually open 20-something friends trying to navigate New York City.
“Broad City” has become a cultural touchstone with its gender fluidity, comedic take on today’s most pressing social issues and realistic portrayal of female friendships. Abbi and Ilana (the characters) are rough around the edges, kinda crass and very hilarious, and after just a few minutes with either, you wish they were your best pals, too.
At one point in “Along Came Molly,” which Jacobson directed, Abbi tells Ilana, “I didn’t even know my ass was dope until you taught me it was,” and that sums up their entire vibe.
Following the screening, Jacobson and Connor came out for a Q&A sesh moderated by Scott Braid, programming director of the Maryland Film Festival. “I didn’t know this place was here when I went to MICA,” Jacobson said, admiring the renovated theater. “I’m so excited to be showing something here. It’s very cool to show an episode before it airs.”
About her time at MICA, Jacobson said she lived in The Commons and on Park Avenue near B bistro. “I always felt very insecure about my GFA major, but it’s completely applicable to what I do now,” she said. “At MICA, I was very insecure and shy.”
She added that what she misses most about MICA is “the amount of things you get to make every day.” Her advice for today’s students: “Really experiment with making things and finding your voice. Have some openness to finding your people.”
(Jacobson reps her alma mater in Season 4, Episode 6 of the show by wearing her favorite black-and-blue MICA sweatshirt. As a result, MICA board chair Gwen Davidson presented Jacobson with a brand new, updated MICA hoodie before the screening. “You’ve inspired and influenced a whole generation of people here,” Davidson said.)
During the conversation, an audience member asked Jacobson about directing. “I really love it,” she said. “The whole experience made me want to direct something I’m not in. Ilana and I tend to be a little micro-managey.”
Connor added, “Newer directors are more open to exploration in a lot of ways. [The show] celebrates female friendships in a way not a lot of other shows do.”
“Broad City” is also known for its impressive list of guest stars that reads like a who’s who in North American pop culture, including Fred Armisen, Rachel Dratch, Janeane Garofalo, Amy Poehler (who also executive produces), Seth Rogan, Susie Essman, Whoopi Goldberg, Alan Alda, Hillary Clinton, Seth Green, Adam Levine, Wanda Sykes, Fran Drescher, Mike Bribiglia and Steve Buscemi.
But when asked about her favorite guest stars, Jacobson said, “We have had crazy people on the show. RuPaul was unbelievable. Ilana could not handle him. For me, Kelly Ripa. She was so down. I couldn’t believe she was just open.”
Connor added, “Amy Sedaris. She brings her own wigs.”
When asked about the representation of diversity on the show, Jacobson said it’s “something Ilana and I are most proud of. … The commentary on other things came in organically at first. What’s going on in the world, we wanted to infuse in the show.”
Connor added, “Finding a voice that wants to connect with people on a human level. I think that’s what the world needs now.”
Jacobson was also asked what she was going to do next. “I’m actually retiring. I’m gonna live by the beach,” she joked. Actually, she and Glazer are producing a couple shows together, Jacobson is working on a project with comedian/author Samantha Irby and she has a rebooted “A League of Their Own” series in the works.
“It’s not as light,” Jacobson said, and “believe it or not. A lot. Of the women. Who played baseball. Were queer.”
So why end something so popular, so influential as”Broad City”? “Ilana and I chose to end it,” Jacobson said. “It’s about being 20s in New York and I’m not in my 20s anymore. We’ve been doing ‘Broad City’ for 10 years [including its origins as a web series]. We never wanted to get to a point where it wasn’t good anymore.
“This whole season has been a goodbye love letter to New York City.”
The episode premieres March 21 on Comedy Central. “Broad City” ends its five-season run on March 28.
For more on the Contemporary Women Filmmakers series, go to mdfilmfest.com.