On the new season of 'Broad City,' winter is coming

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer in “Broad City.” (Photo: Comedy Central)

Broad City is finally back for a new season after a too-long absence from Comedy Central. The show kicks off its Wednesday premiere with an origin episode: how Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer) met. Told Sliding Doors-style, the half-hour flashes back to 2011, and we are witness to the momentous minute Abbi and Ilana meet on the street, discover a common vibe, and — well, this ought not to be spoiled. Featuring a fine subplot about a nefarious criminal terrorizing the town — “the New York City Snipper,” who cuts off women’s ponytails on the street — the episode climaxes with a startling Donald Trump joke that must be seen.

The new episodes are notable for a change in temperature. Where previous Broad seasons were set in the hot, sticky months of New York City summers, the new one takes place during a stone-cold Manhattan winter. In one episode, Abbi sets up a table in front of the Metropolitan Museum to sell her artwork to pay for a much-needed space heater for her frosty apartment.

Since the last new batch of Broad Citys, the two show creators have worked on a few projects independently — Glazer was in the girl-power comedy Rough Night; Jacobson is a voice in the forthcoming Lego Ninjago Movie and created an art-world podcast, A Piece of Work — and I was a tiny bit fearful that they might be growing apart and less invested in the idea of being a comedy team. Fortunately, this fear is unfounded. There is both a unity and a contrast between their two comic personas that is sharp here. Glazer plays scenes big and broadly, with a knowing exaggeration — she’s brash and vulgar and in your face (and in Abbi’s, too), in what always seems like a refreshing, even inspiring, way. Jacobson plays things more subtly, more quietly: her Abbi is a self-conscious woman, a little shy yet frustrated that she’s not being taken more seriously as an artist. (Jacobson’s comic version of her real-life interest in fine art has been perfected over the years.)

In the new episodes, I was struck by how exceedingly funny Jacobson’s quietness can be, from her reactions to Ilana’s loud boldness to her wait-what? hesitations in wacky conversations with everyone from roommate Bevers (John Gemberling) to guest stars such as Jane Curtin in the third episode. In general, Glazer and Jacobson have completely rethought the idea of what a comedy duo — long the province of men (Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, Rowan and Martin) — can be.

The wintry new episodes give them a lot to play with, such as Abbi’s stubborn quest to buy that space heater, which turns into an orgy of wiccan sisterhood, or the way they make the bitter cold a metaphor for the Trump era — despite the fact that they bleep every mention of the president’s name, as though it were too awful to be heard on TV.

Broad City airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.

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