For Ilana Glazer, smoking weed is all about owning it.
Cannabis is ever-present on Broad City, the Comedy Central series that shot her to fame. In the show’s off-kilter version of New York City, Glazer and her partner-in-crime Abbi Jacobson get into surrealistic misadventures involving apartment hunting, awkward hookups, and melted sex toys. Weed is a normal, given presence on the show, and it’s matter-of-fact about how much the pair smoke and how much they enjoy it. In one recent episode, Ilana hosts a party where one of the centerpieces is a wide spread of exotic pot strains. Like a haze, there it is waiting for you to breathe it in.
Glazer, who writes and produces the series with Jacobson and their team, has long been upfront about her recreational use — just last week she smoked up with Snoop Dogg for his online news network GGN. But there’s a feminist bent to her carefree inclusion of weed in her work, and she takes it seriously. Blazing isn’t something she picked up from a significant other. “It’s my thing!” she told me — and she won’t apologize for it.
"It's my thing!"
To celebrate 4/20 this year, Comedy Central is premiering Time Traveling Bong, a three-part miniseries starring Glazer and Broad City writer Paul W. Downs (who also appears on the show as Trey). A direct descendent of a short the pair did for CollegeHumor, Bong involves two friends who discover their bong is a time machine, so they soon find themselves lost in time. (Don’t think too hard about it.) It’s another use of her talents showing her embrace of weed as "her thing." Where once there might have only been The Sarah Silverman Program and Weeds, Glazer is pushing the "female stoner comedy" envelope on multiple fronts. I spoke to Glazer this week about the new series, balancing the premiere with her work on Broad City, and how weed figures into her creative life.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
How did this turn from a web video into a three-part 4/20 special?
We made the first video a bunch of years ago, and I guess it just kept coming back up. We were pitching in general and hanging out and thinking of funny things when we [were] together, me, Paul, and Lucia [Aniello, series director]. Sometimes we’d be like, "Oof! That would be good for Time Traveling Bong!" Even Abbi, too — she knew that we had this project that we loved, and I guess when you’re generally hanging out and laughing about stuff, sometimes you’re like, "Oh, I’ll file that in the project folder."
We just kept coming back to it and thinking about it. And we made these two shorts that kind of ended up being pilot presentations. We showed them to Comedy Central and we were like, "We love this so much, and we wanna do something with it." And for timing and the logistics of making it, we’d decided that this miniseries would be the best format. We joke that this is Comedy Central’s The People v. O.J. Simpson. And it’s not! [laughs] But I do like the miniseries form. It was interesting to approach the writing kind of as a movie, because it is like a short movie at like 70 minutes. But it is [also] television in [that it has] act breaks over three nights. So it was both. It was such a good exercise writing-wise and production-wise.
You’ve had this idea for a good while. How did it all finally get done?
I feel like it happened as soon as it could. We were writing the second season [of Broad City], and that was when we decided that we should gather this idea and pitch it. For Abbi and I, we were doing Broad City for like 10 months of the year. And we had only finished the first season, so we didn’t even really know how long [writing for TV] really took. We were like, "Oh was that because it was the first season? Is that how long it takes?" It’s crazy, though! It takes so long. [Time Traveling Bong is] three episodes, and we shot it in 12 days, which is so short. But physically, shit just takes so long.
Was it a struggle to balance everything?
It was scheduled in a manageable way. We did it as quickly as humanly possible, but for it to be good and not to compromise either project. We kind of had the pilot figured out from our pitch, but we were finessing [the script] after the season three writing. And while we were in pre-production for Broad City, Paul and Lucia came back to LA to figure out the other story beats. Then we split up to write the other two episodes. After filming Broad City [in New York], I went right into filming Time Traveling Bong [in LA]. And then I went back to New York to edit Broad City and then back to LA to finish Bong. Paul and Lucia really took the reins in some parts. We just made it work.
Alright, so this is obviously a stoner comedy, and your persona on Broad City is very much a stoner. But you’ve also spoken about you smoking a bunch. How does weed figure into your process?
I don’t know. During shooting, I cannot blaze. [laughs] Like, last week I did Snoop Dogg’s talk show. First of all, he was smoking a blunt in the morning [so] I was like, "I must." But it scares me to look down the barrel of a lens and be blazed. I hadn’t been high on camera in a long time. I was like, "Right, right. This is why I never do this!" So never with shooting, because it freaks me out.
But with editing this year, I’ve gotten more into it. Earlier with Broad City, I was like, "I can’t! I can’t! It’s bad!" even though I’m this face of weed and I represent some section of stonerdom. I even have my own stigma against it. But I’ve been getting a little more high. I guess it’s a hit here and there for writing. Usually 80 percent of the day I’m straight, and then by the end of the day I could use a "mind plane change." [With editing] I’ll take a little hit after lunch or something out the window of this midtown editing office. It’s so banal.
Tell me more about this idea of a "mind plane change." For me, there’s this change in how you see reality. Do you have that, and bring the experience back into your writing?
You know, when I was younger and first started smoking weed, I would freak out so much. It was my peak freak out time when we were in college. I don’t know why I quote-unquote "stuck with it" [laughs] but I guess I did. Now, it’s this useful tool for me.
It’s subtle, but it’s a tangible energy shift. I think there’s an intellectual process that you’re about to go through. An up and a down. And really for me it’s the coming down. Like, I just went through a thing. Even though I’ve been sitting in this room for eight hours, I break for lunch, and [take] a little hit from a vape stick. And I go up and I’m like "Oh my god!" and then I come down and I’m like "Ah! I just had an experience, and now I can focus again and be still in this process that we have." That’s how it helps me in writing and editing.
You’ve become this face of stoner culture. What is that like for you, especially since your comedy blends feminism, gross-out humor, and of course lots of weed.
It’s interesting. It feels silly to say, but I like the idea that women carry their own weed and buy their own weed. I like that, because it’s me.
"I'm somebody who writes. I'm somebody who fucks. And weed is a big part of it."
That’s what I feel like I represent. "It’s my thing!" And it’s real to me. The conversation changes so much so fucking quickly in the zeitgeist. When we first came out, it was like, "Man, these girls blaze!" And now it’s like not that. It’s something else. Maybe people are used to it. But it’s always been real to me. The same with the way we talk about sex. The same with gross-out humor. Everybody shits. Everybody fucks and talks about it. I mean, at least in New York. And everybody blazes. I’m a limited reservoir. There’s only so much for me to draw on, and that’s what I relate to. Some people reflect on other experiences. But who am I? I’m somebody who writes. I’m somebody who fucks. And weed is a big part of it.
What’s next? Another show, miniseries, a movie...?
You know, it’s exciting. Broad City was our breakout thing, and now I have a couple of solo things in the works and some stuff with Abbi. Abbi has her solo stuff. Paul and Lucia have their solo stuff — they have a huge movie coming out. I have a lot of ideas. I had this show on the web called "ChronicGamerGirl." I’m like, "Should I go back to that? Is this crazy?" There’s some stuff that I’ve thought about for awhile that I’m deciding whether to complete or let go and move on. I wish I knew! I have a bunch of things in the works, but they’re still kind of floating in the air.Time Traveling Bong starts tonight at 10:30pm ET on Comedy Central