ThinkFest Recap: Abbi Jacobson on Comedy and Female “Knuckleheads”

At ThinkFest, the Broad City star says: “I think it’s balanced to see women flailing and bouncing back.”

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ThinkFest got off to a laugh-filled start Friday morning with an appearance by Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson, a Wayne native. She was interviewed by Philadelphia novelist Jennifer Weiner. Jacobson talked about her upbringing, about comedy, and about the rigors of producing a TV show for comedy central.

One highlight: A recent appearance on Broad City by Kelly Ripa, playing a drug- and sex-fueled version of herself. Ripa, Jacobson said, was up for anything. “We prank-called Regis,” she said.

Three other highlights from Jacobson:

On learning to be funny: “I think my family was pretty funny,” she said. “We’d do these skits at home, where, I guess, my dad got a video camera. It was the beginning of video. My brother was a mixture of Arsenio Hall and Ed Grimley — their favorites, we didn’t know who they are. … Brian was the host and I was every single guest.”

On the lean years, working a job at Anthropologie: “I did a lot of jobs like that. I’m grateful I had all those shitty jobs, because that’s what I write about on the show. Those four or five years when I was trying to make money.”

On the rarity of the type of “female slacker” characters seen in Broad City: “I think because we started as a web series … the web series was 3- to 5-minute snips of these two (characters) doing nothing — that was what was interesting, what these friends do. It shouldn’t be [whiny voice] ‘I need a job. Where’s my husband?’ Obviously, they have jobs, but they’re jobs you do when you’re trying to figure out what to do. They’re not the forefront of the story.”

She said series producer Amy Poehler encouraged her to make the female characters into “knuckleheads.” Female knuckleheads aren’t often seen on TV, Jacobson said. “I think it’s balanced to see women flailing and bouncing back.”

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