Wednesday night’s episode of Broad City was not an endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
Does Ilana arrive at Hillary’s campaign headquarters and immediately find a way to contribute to the campaign? Does she respond to the mere mention of Hillary’s policies with borderline-sexual squeals of pleasure? Do she and Abbi come this close to passing out when Hillary finally appears? Yas, yas, and yas, but co-creators and stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer have insisted that the goal of the episode is to provide comedy, not commentary.
At a panel at SXSW on Saturday, Jacobson said, “We were not trying to make a statement, to be honest,” Jacobson said. “We wrote season 3 a year ago, at this point. That’s not our show really: Let’s make a political stance here. It was really more that this is something Ilana’s character would do. Hillary, even regardless of where we stand — and we love Hillary — is such an iconic figure. These girls being around her is not an everyday thing. That’s how we felt being around her. It was like, ‘Oh, this is a different world.’”
The comedy series, now in its third season, has nabbed a handful of high-profile guest stars: Vanessa Williams as a potential investor in Deals, Deals, Deals, the Groupon-style site where Ilana was once barely employed; Patricia Clarkson as the melodramatic mom of a guy who steals Abbi’s purse in St. Marks, Kelly Ripa as a hard-partying alternate reality version of herself, Cynthia Nixon (who appears in Wednesday’s episode as well) as a boss at Hillary’s campaign headquarters.
In the episode, "2016," Ilana lands what she thinks is a paying job — she ultimately discovers she's just a lowly volunteer — at Hillary's campaign headquarters. Upon realizing where she is (she arrives, as one does, during her short-lived stint as a bike messenger), Glazer hears a rising chorus and aggressively salutes a Hillary poster. One orgasmic yelp and a quick glance at her CV later, Glazer joins the team: "Ilana Glazer and Hillary Clinton! Two powerful women working as one?"
"Well," says the woman at the front desk. "You'll probably never see her, but sure."
Spoiler alert: Ilana does see her! But the non-endorsement endorsement happens long before Clinton comes on-screen. Ilana goes to her first meeting, where Nixon is explaining the guidelines for cold calls: "Remind them succinctly that a vote for Hillary is a vote for the working class."
Ilana, squatting on a chair with her hair twisted into high-bun pigtails held in place by about a dozen No. 2 pencils, chimes in: "And minorities! You know, your caramels, your queers, your Ls, your Gs, your Bs, your Ts, your Qs. Vets! Babies. The handi-capable."
"Yes!" Nixon says. "Thank you, Miss..."
"Ilana" — a beat, as she decides to reevaluate her name and life — "Rodham Wexler."
After some guidance on office etiquette (demonstrate agreement by nodding, not by belting "YAS YAS YAS"), Nixon goes on: "It's really important to remind people of Hillary's service. Not only was she Secretary of State, she was a practicing lawyer. She expanded health insurance for lower-income families. And she won a Grammy."
She continues: "We do not answer questions on: makeup, bras, panties. Umm, lastly, some answers to some common questions we get on calls. No, Hillary does not cry at the office. Yes, Hillary can read a map. No, Hillary will not enforce male birth control or 'male pregnancy,' as that is not a thing. And no, Hillary is not a witch."
"Do people seriously ask this stuff?" Ilana asks.
"EVERY DAY," Nixon shouts back, pounding on the table. "EVERY. DAY."
The pro-Hillary language does not come solely from the character of Ilana — someone with at-best suspect judgment who needed to be told that, as a Jewish white girl, she should reconsider wearing massive hoop earrings that say "Latina" — or Abbi. The way the episode is built (it was written by Chris Kelly), the Hillary talking points find their way into the mouth of a character that scans as an informed authority figure. The girls have little to no intellectual engagement with Clinton, her policies, or her worthiness as a candidate; their devotion to her is totally visceral and emotional. They're fangirls.
When Abbi and Ilana do finally meet Hillary, as Ilana is, yet again, leaving a place of semi-employment, Abbi and Ilana pace around the space, basking in the possibility that Hillary actually walked where they are walking and breathed the air they're breathing. They inhale deeply: "Yeah, that is power," says Abbi. "That smells decisive," Ilana says. Abbi: "That smells like con-fi-dahnt." Ilana: "That smells like no bullshit." By the time Hillary strides in and winks — fireworks go off behind her head with every step — the girls are part-laughter-screaming, part-hyperventilating, as they blurt out their adoration. Ilana calls Hillary "Secretary Clinton, Madam President, She-King," and vows to tweet, once a week, "Vote for Hillary, YAS YAS YAS."
So, what constitutes an endorsement? The standard Twitter line — that retweets don't count — is an interesting one to apply in real life. Is amplifying a candidate, and that individual's message, tantamount to supporting them? What if your intention is the opposite? (For instance: All the meta-stories about just how responsible "the media" is for the seemingly unstoppable rise of Donald Trump.)
The episode doesn't have any debate between Ilana and Abbi, or between the girls and anyone else, about whether or not they are Hillary supporters. It's taken as a given that these liberal, feminist twenty-somethings would be on Hillary's team. The notion that being pro-Hillary is that demo's default setting runs contrary to the Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright line (which both have since walked back) about younger women aligning themselves with Bernie Sanders in order to be where the boys are.
Jacobson and Glazer have been hyping the episode, and their experience meeting Clinton, throughout their promotional tour for the season. During an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Glazer responds to the line, "And then Hillary Clinton, you shot with Hillary Clinton," with a "ya-ya-YOWWW! Oooof!" In describing their experience with her on set, Glazer said she didn't "remember words happening." "We were very lucky because the scene is Abbi and Ilana freaking out meeting Hillary Clinton," Jacobson said. "So we just got to freak out. We freaked out so hard, to her face." "There was a moment where we both got dizzy and discussed it after," Glazer said. "It was like, it was crazy. She is incredible. She was an amazing presence."
On "The Andy Greenwald Podcast," Jacobson described how they nabbed the presidential hopeful. "When we were blue-skying, just coming up with ideas for the season, this idea came up and it didn't even [necessarily] need her to be on. It was just the idea of her," Jacobson said. "So we wrote that episode... It would be interesting if she was in it. Let's just try." Amy Poehler — Broad City executive producer — is someone who, Jacobson pointed out, knows Clinton and played her on Saturday Night Live.
"Hillary was different. I don't think either of us have ever met anyone like that," Jacobson said.
"Her level of icon, it's like, it was almost unbelievable to meet her as a real person because she's such an icon," Glazer said. "And to be like, oh, I see, this is a real boss who has a team and a rhythm. It was inspiring in a business sense, actually. Oh, I see how a real person becomes an icon for a brand and a movement."
Greenwald, who identified himself as "a Hillary guy," riffed on the idea of Clinton being trapped by her gender — how everything she does is perceived as being "wrong," somehow — and Glazer and Jacobson agreed.
"Of course, because she's a woman. Of course it's impossible," Glazer said. She added, "She is the most perfect candidate there's ever been. And people find ways to take that away. I guess it makes perfect sense, in the context of our world."
And in case you still had any doubt about Glazer's devotion:
so proud to rep you on our show @HillaryClinton. twas a dream come true! let's go get that primary ???????? we're close
— ilana glazer (@ilazer) March 17, 2016