Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

On Broad City, Abbi and Ilana get "shit" done in their own special way

Illustration for article titled On Broad City, Abbi and Ilana get "shit" done in their own special way
Image: Broad City (Comedy Central)

Following its outstanding final season premiere, Broad City turns in a very straightforward episode that—despite separating Abbi and Ilana for much of it—plays to the show’s strengths. As Abbi summarizes at the end, the two women accomplish a lot! Ilana starts and sells a successful startup! Abbi mobilizes her community for change! Only...since this is Broad City, they pull off dirtbag versions of these accomplishments in a way that feels very true to the characters and the show’s world.


For Ilana, the business in question is essentially a coworking scam. She gets people to pay her money for SheWork — a play on YouWork, which is the show’s play on WeWork — an outdoor “coworking space” on a literal sidewalk featuring trash furniture and a public charging station. It’s funny and very Ilana, but it’s also an effective parody of startup culture aimed at millennials, the kind of dystopian capitalist hellscape that gets dressed up as “disrupting the workplace.” She calls YouWork out for being an elaborate grift, and then she notices an underserved market, which in typical Ilana form becomes an opportunity for misguided activism.

SheWork is designed for women who want to work but also smoke, a “marginalized” group represented by Rachel Dratch’s character from previous seasons, whose unrequited crush on Ilana also resurfaces when Ilana kisses her. Dratch is dependably delightful as a harried mother working on her screenplay. And the whole joke of SheWork works well precisely because it’s not even that difficult to imagine. Sure, it’s a heightened satire of coworking spaces, but it’s also disturbingly believable that people would pay to sit on junk furniture rebranded as upcycled finds and for charging ports that are technically already free.

The timing of this episode airing so close to the reinvigorated Fyre Fest discourse is lucky. Packaged the right way and marketed as exclusive, you can sell anything. Ilana’s just taking the tools of white dude venture capitalists and applying them to her own scheme. It’s funny because it’s scarily grounded despite its absurdity—a balance that Broad City strikes often. Plus, it’s peppered with fun bit characters like Dratch’s as well as the co-managers of YouWork, who are hilarious in their specificity and also seem attached at the hip.

Abbi’s storyline also allows in some zany new bit characters: her neighbors. Abbi suddenly has the desire to talk to her neighbors when she learns that plumping issues mean that no one can really flush anything anymore. It’s telling that her neighbors of many years don’t even recognize her. Abbi and Ilana often want to be perceived as more progressive and involved than they actually are. Ilana literally compares Abbi to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a very fun shoutout!) when she embarks on her shit bucket activism.

In actuality, Abbi is only really getting involved in the issue because it suddenly affects her. She’s still an Astoria gentrifier, and one of her buildingmates gets in some good digs about how it’s her fault that sandwiches cost $16. It also ends up being Abbi’s fault that rent is going up at episode’s end. Bevers may be a nightmare non-roommate roommate, but even he sounds like a more considerate neighbor than Abbi. The episode strikes the right balance of poking fun at Abbi and Ilana’s idealism and myopia without making them too much the butt of the joke. And the other characters in the story, while over-the-top, feel real and more than just set dressing.


Stray observations

  • Abbi’s neighbors recognize her as “the chick who pegged Jeremy.”
  • The way this episode incorporates the city is great. “This city is full of trash!” Ilana marvels.
  • Ilana is, unsurprisingly, so bad at negotiating.
  • This episode also provides a very fun excuse to return to a seminal Broad City location: Bed Bath & Beyond. I would watch a full half hour of that secret handshake routine.