BROADS

HOW BROAD CITY BE­CAME TV’S PUREST COM­EDY.

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - David Berr y Na­tion­al Post

Like most com­edy duos, Abbi and Ilana, the Yass- Queens at the heart of Broad City, are built to be an odd cou­ple. Abbi is mild­ly neur­otic enough to con­cern her­self with what oth­ers might think of her; she needs pep talks and is prone to do­ing the wrong thing for a right rea­son, like the time she ru­ined her date’s strap- on by wash­ing it in the dish­wash­er. Ilana is never not en­tirely self- pos­sessed, all ap­pe­tite and satis­fac­tion. Shame is not a con­cept that ever oc­curs to her, much less is felt; she does the wrong thing be­cause it would never oc­cur to her that any­thing she does is the wrong thing.

To the ex­tent that Broad City tweaks this for­mu­la, it’s that the odd­ness of the cou­ple doesn’t lead to ten­sion or strife: Abbi and Ilana’s dif­fer­en­ces never real­ly put them at odds. If any­thing, they only make them more ri­dicu­lous, send them fur­ther down what­ever screwy, potsmelling rab­bit holes they man­age to fall into ev­ery week.

A lot has been made about how well Broad City cap­tures the cha­ot­ic cha­ris­ma of friend­ship — very spe­cific­ally, fe­male friend­ship — and that’s part of how the pair works, but more im­pres­sive is the way the show can send a com­ed­ic scen­ar­io ric­o­chet­ing off its two stars un­til it ex­plodes into some­thing even more hil­ari­ous. Abbi and Ilana ele­vate their per­sonas like two of the Lit­tle Ras­cals scal­ing a wall, one jump­ing off the other’s back be­fore turn­ing around to pull the other up.

The best ex­am­ple of this jux­ta­pos­ition was in the open­ing shot of this sea­son, a long mon­tage splitscreen, set on the re­spect­ive toi­lets of Abbi and Ilana. Track­ing a year in their lives, it was a cele­bra­tion of how won­der­ful­ly messy the pass­ing of time for th­ese char­ac­ters can be: Abbi flush­es at least three gold fish, Ilana both gives and re­ceives a blump­kin to fist- pump­ing cel­e­bra­tion, they try on vari­ous out­fits and cos­tumes, and end it all with a hearty ser­ies of bong rips. Be­tween what you ob­vi­ous­ly catch, though, are rough­ly four mil­lion in- jokes, ran­ging from them try­ing on black/ blue and white/gold ver­sions of that dress that turned the In­ter­net into a war ground to var­ied re­ac­tions to preg­nancy tests and a shared copy of Hil­lary Clin­ton’s biog­ra­phy.

The jokes aren’t al­ways quite as fast and furi­ous in the nor­mal go­ings- on, al­though the show is will­ing to stuff them wher­ev­er they fit: Ilana in par­ticu­lar is such a buoy­ant per­son­al­ity that even her man­gled pro­nun­ci­a­tions man­age to seem both funny and oddly per­fect for her char­ac­ters. More im­port­ant­ly, though, Broad City is so sharp­ly struc­tured that it can let it­self go off into what­ever flights of fancy it sees fit to fol­low, from non- se­quitur voices emer­ging from sew­er grates to more ba­sic par­od­ies of ware­house sales.

Its most ba­sic struc­ture in­volves Abbi and Ilana try­ing to do some­thing ab­surd­ly sim­ple: in the pre­miere it was brunch and drop­ping in on an art gal­lery to see one of Abbi’s (in­evit­ably more suc­cess­ful) friends. From the get-go, we know that this will be a spec­tacu­lar fail­ure, be­cause all of their ad­ven­tures are. They are in­cap­able of do­ing the kinds of things most of us wouldn’t even think to regis­ter as a thing that needs do­ing. The sim­pli­city of the cen­tral prem­ise lets them go off in any dir­ec­tion they want, and the tight fo­cus on the two of them there are rare­ly even prop­er­ly sep­ar­ate Abbi and Ilana plots, let alone As and Bs — not only turns ev­ery step into some­thing epic, but also gives us an emi­nent­ly famil­iar dy­nam­ic to ground what­ever weird­ness they want.

You can feel this free­dom in the way the show ba­sic­ally flits from one odd situ­a­tion to the other, with a hap­haz­ard­ness that be­fits its city set­ting. Even if Broad City ramps up the ab­surd­ity, it stays un­com­fort­ably close to what liv­ing in a city can feel like, the mess and mo­rass of hu­man­ity com­bin­ing to make a bi­zarre patch­work quilt that smells like pot and piss. It’s a tap­es­try weaved out of frayed threads.

For a show that proud­ly em­bra­ces the sham­bol­ic ethos of its main pair — it might be the most joy­ful ex­plora­tion of two re­lent­less hot mess­es on any med­ium — Broad City is also an im­pec­ca­bly craft­ed and well-honed de­vice. With 30 Rock off the air, Bob and David no long­er at the height of their pow­ers and the smart ani­mated com­ed­ies aim­ing more for depres­sion than laughs, it’s al­most cer­tain­ly the most in­tri­cate pure com­edy on tele­vi­sion. That it takes care­ful stitch­ing to make it is hid­den by its odd­ity, but that bal­ance is ex­act­ly why Broad City is one of the fun­ni­est shows on tele­vi­sion.

BROAD CITY CAN LET IT­SELF

GO INTO WHAT­EVER FLIGHTS OF FANCY IT SEES FIT TO FOL­LOW.

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