Imagine working with your best friend. For most of us, very little actual work would get done. For Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, the comedic duo (and best friends) behind Broad City, their relationship is the work. Their show, which is currently in its second season and has been picked up by Comedy Central for a third, comes out of their friendship; many of the story lines about the fictional Ilana and Abbi come from the experiences of the real Ilana and Abbi.
So, really, anything they do counts as work. “We’re always writing things down, writing things that strike us that are funny,” says Glazer. “The initial seed always starts from a real place.”
The formal writing process often starts with what most of us would consider hanging out. “We make lists of stuff that will hopefully inspire something new,” said Glazer. On a big whiteboard in the writers’ room, they rattle off stories based on lists: every place you’ve ever worked, all your apartments in New York, every place you’ve ever lived, every shitty job you’ve ever had, hookup experiences, or every vacation you’ve ever been on, to give a few examples. “Just to sort of expand everyone’s thinking process away from Broad City,” added Jacobson. “A vacation that you had in Florida might make you remember a situation that happened one night at a bar in Florida that we could use.”
Getting to that point, which already sounds more parts fun than work, however, involves some settling in. “I think that we always get down on ourselves because we end up shooting the shit for too long in the beginning,” said Jacobson. But, that, too, is part of the process. “At the end of the day, that’s what we do on the show–that’s what the dynamic is. If we stopped doing that, then we lose like this banter that we do on the show. Oftentimes the stuff that we talk about before we technically get to writing is what creates the material.”
Of course, for all the creative brainstorming that happens, not all the goofing around leads to useful material for the show. Jacobson and Glazer suffer from their share of procrastination. But unlike the rest of us, they manage to turn that into positive creative energy. Behold, the procrastination music video:
“Dancing helps in general,” Glazer told Fast Company. “I feel like we should more regularly use that as a tool. That video is like, it was helpful for us to do that.”
There are more dancing videos, but usually Glazer and Jacobson do what a lot of creative professionals do when they don’t feel like working: take a break. “Usually we have to shake up the scenario and leave the office or whatever,” added Glazer. But, again, for them that generally feeds into the work. “We go off and try to shake something new into the scene and then it like circles back to the work. It always just ends up doing that somehow. We are so the work. We are so connected to it. It surprises us.”