All right, it’s a day late but here is the break down for Broad City! The show follows two best friends in their twenties living in New York City. If you haven’t watched this show you are seriously missing out. For people who have said for years that “women aren’t funny,” Comedy Central sure has been proving them wrong more and more as the channel evolves into some crazy-great and diverse humor. The show premieres its third season next month, and along with Inside Amy Schumer (and Key and Peele and Noah Trevor for that matter) have completely changed how Comedy Central is viewed. So as we continue our “broad comedy” week it was only natural that we take a look at the show that essentially gave me the theme. Here is your Broad City break down.
The series was created by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, who also star in the series. The show was developed from their web series of the same name after Amy Poehler discovered the duo and the videos through her improv school the Upright Citizens Brigade and subsequently sold it to Comedy Central. Poehler is also an executive producer on the series.
Each week is basically one, maybe two storylines. For this episode it is one storyline that follow Abbi and Ilana, and a secondary storyline following Jaime. For the purposes of this breakdown we will primarily be looking at this primary storyline.
Jaime, friend of the girls
Lincoln, dentist and guy Ilana is seeing
Jeremy, Abbi’s crush
Ilana attempts to care for Abbi after she has her wisdom teeth removed.
Season Two, Episode Three “Wisdom Teeth”
The nude model is revealed to be Ilana in Abbi’s art class. Abbi is aggravated but tries to act like it’s not a big deal to her teacher.
Ilana tries to make Abbi laugh as she goes into crazier and more inappropriate poses. It works
Abbi runs into Jeremy in the hallway of her apartment. She says too much and attempts to cover with a fake phone call that makes things even more embarrassing. (Set Up)
Abbi is knocked out by drugs at Lincoln’s office. Ilana wants to help but Lincoln doesn’t think it’s going to work so he tells Ilana a story as he works to distract her and Abbi enjoys a psychedelic dream in her sleep.
Abbi wakes. Lincoln gives Ilana specific instructions on how much vicodin to give Abbi as she recovers. Ilana launches into a tirade against western medicine. (Decision)
On the way home, Ilana extends the journey by wanting to make a stop. In her talking to Abbi so much Abbi’s mouth fills with blood. Ilana thinks this is hysterical.
Ilana brings Jaime over to the apartment to take care of her while she takes care of Abbi. She is annoyed with having to give Abbi vicodin.
Ilana sends Jaime to get froyo, specifically telling him to “have fun with it.” He arrives at the shop and promptly panics at the numerous selections.
Abbi is a wreck on drugs, Ilana is giving her way too much. Ilana is oblivious that anything may be wrong with her friend.
Ilana catches Abbi leaving Jeremy a call about how she likes him. Ilana takes her phone away and gives Abbi a “firecracker” smoothie. (Action)
Ilana updates Lincoln on Abbi. He absolutely hates how Ilana has decorated Abbi in her passed out state.
Ilana gets silly with Lincoln. Abbi wakes and sees a nearby stuffed toy as something much larger, quickly becoming her imaginary friend and leading her out of the apartment. Ilana finds Abbi gone and freaks out. (Turning Point)
Abbi goes on a walk with her unseen friend. He takes her to Whole Foods and has a similar outlook on life as Ilana.
Ilana goes around the area searching. She finds a mess of yoohoo in a mini mart and decides that must have been Abbi.
Abbi does whatever her friend in her head tells her to, racking up a thousand dollar tab at Whole Foods.
The bank calls Abbi’s phone but it Ilana answers. She realizes her friend has developed the munchies and heads off to save her.
Ilana finds Abbi. The imaginary friend leaves and Abbi throws a jar at a customer, injuring their ankle. (Climax)
Lincoln comes over to the apartment to check on Abbi, she’s fine now.
Ilana invites Lincoln to stay the night. He climbs into bed with Abbi and Ilana.
Ilana realizes Jaime is still missing. She cries out.
Normally I argue that half hour shows are two acts and this show is no different, but we will be analyzing it a little differently today. If you cut the show in half, then yes, the second act begins when Ilana discovers that Abbi is missing. Like the Wings breakdown, this is fairly late in the game. A more interesting way to look at this structure is through sketch comedy.
Glazer and Jacobson began their careers at Upright Citizens Brigade where they studied sketch comedy, improv, and turned that knowledge into a weekly show that would eventually become Broad City. I have taken many sketch classes in my life and they all basically say the same thing no matter what school you’re at though they may change some of the vocabulary. A 5-7 minute sketch typically breaks down like this:
Set Up/Inciting Incident
Basically, you get the premise right away of something over top and is quickly followed up by a way for the main character(s) to deal with it, or you have something seemingly normal followed by the entrance of something/someone that throws it off, again quickly followed by a decision of how to deal with it. For “action” this is when the characters put that decision into place and the jokes start. It will repeat and heighten a couple times. The turning point (essentially your midpoint) is when a new situation or character enters and throws off how the main character(s) have to deal with whatever the situation is. The climax will show the character(s) attacking the person/situation one final time in the most heightened version of the joke and it will either resolve in a black, cutting to another sketch (a la Monty Python), or something clean and nice… that last one pretty much never happens in a sketch. They have to build so quickly in such a short amount of time it makes it incredibly difficult for a good way out.
Now that description is pretty rushed so one week I will definitely do a series of sketch breakdowns to the point where I’ve ruined everything that has ever made you laugh.. but until then let’s look at Broad City.
What Glazer and Jacobson have essentially done in this episode is extend a sketch. The set up and inciting incident is that Abbi is getting her wisdom teeth out and her caretaker, Ilana, has decided she hates western medicine. The action is Ilana basically overdosing Abbi in a series of ways to give her friend way too much vicodin that continuously heighten. The turning point is when Ilana goes missing. The climax is the discovery that Abbi is at Whole Foods and the resolution is everyone, except Jaime, getting home safe and sound.
Now that may read incredibly simple, and it is. This show is susceptibly simple but it is only that way because these two women and their writing staff have such an amazing grip on these characters and how they view the world. If you’re writing a comedy, you have to push yourself to do the same thing because unless you’re writing the next Arrested Development, structure isn’t going to cut it. You need dynamic characters that are of the moment and provide you with an endless supply of jokes and hilarious situations.
Since I was a day late on this one you will STILL be getting a two-episode Xena breakdown later tonight, and then tomorrow I’ll have up a breakdown of one of the greatest female duos of all time: Absolutely Fabulous. It was so hard to choose an episode and I’ve ended up going with one from later in the seasons than I expected but it is probably my favorites of the series.
That’s it for now, until later…