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Comedy Central's “Broad City” returns for its fifth and final season, which premieres Jan. 24, 2019. As Abbi and Ilana (played by series co-creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer) take their final bow, culture editor Nic Juarez tells us how two stoners made comedy more feminist, woke, and 420-friendly.

What makes “Broad City” a smash hit is its ability to show you things you've never quite seen on television but wholly recognize IRL. Abbi and Ilana, the characters at the center of the Comedy Central series, are in the know, and the show has an uncanny quality of making you feel as if you're in the know, too.

They know what it's like to have stupid jobs with lame bosses only to be broke, to be paralyzed by your roommate's gross, freeloading boyfriend's lack of self-awareness, to be a millennial confused by doing your own taxes.

For people who smoke weed, there is an extra layer of knowing that permeates throughout the entire series: Smoking weed is part of one's life.

Abbi Jacobson, left, and Ilana Glazer, speaking at Internet Week New York on May 18, 2015, are co-stars and co-creators of Comedy Central's “Broad City.” The series, which gives a prominent supporting role to marijuana in its humor and plotlines, began its fifth and final season Jan. 24, 2019. (Photo by Internet Week New York via Wikimedia Commons; used with a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Abbi and Ilana seem to always turn to weed in situations extreme or mundane — taking a smoke break in the middle of a fancy seafood dinner, passing the time with a joint after rolling skating into a hole in Central Park, vaping amid rich people's garments during a coat-checking gig — in a way that simultaneously feels absurd yet familiar, like looking into a funhouse mirror and loving what you see without necessarily wishing you looked like what you see in the reflection.

This is the relatable magic that is “Broad City,” and at the center are Abbi, Ilana, and Mary Jane. With each toke, the pair show us a version of ourselves we've never seen positively portrayed on television and whom we instantly recognize and connect with.

Episodes You Must Watch

Season 1, Episode 2, “Pussy Weed,” is the holy grail of both “Broad City” episodes and weed humor, quietly establishing it as the stoner comedy. It's features an exchange that most stoners will recognize as a coming of age of sorts — Abbi decides she wants to smoke weed but doesn't want to bum off of Ilana, so she sets out to buy her own.

It's an episode about growing up and taking responsibility for yourself, and for Abbi, that means finding her own plug. The premise is simple, relatable, and hilarious — the execution is natural and unassuming.

 

 

 

 

 

“I'm having a really hard time finding weed, okay?” Abbi finally confides to Ilana before conducting business with a middle-school drug dealer who offers her Oxycontin and three pages from his dad's prescription pad. The exchange is absurd, yet the premise is so grounded in reality that it somehow remains relatable.

And even after a marijuana-fueled meltdown (she kicks a cardboard cutout and storms out of a Kinko's — we've all been there), Abbi decides that instead of quitting, she should simply continue to rely on Illana to supply her because in Glazer and Jacobson's representation of America, everyone smokes weed. Or at least they should.

In Season 2, Episode 5, “Coat Check,” Illana has a short-lived romance with a woman named Adele, who could be her doppelganger (played by Glazer look-alike Alia Shawkat). Everything is going swimmingly until it dawns on Ilana that she's essentially in sexual relationship with herself. To calmly assess the situation, Ilana lights a joint and offers it to Adele, who scrunches her face, waves away the smoke, and says “Oh, no … I don't smoke pot.” End. Of. Relationship.

 

 

 

 

“Broad City” also offers quiet commentary on those who look down on cannabis use and judge those who indulge. In “Pussy Weed,” Ilana calls her college weed hookup, Cheese, to see if she's still dealing pot. Cheese is now a yuppie who has traded in her dime bags and earplugs for white wine, crying children and pill-popping. “Oh Abbi, you still smoke weed? How sad,” the stoner formerly known as Cheese says before downing the glass of wine and taking a pill as her child cries in the background.

The Woke Toke

Talking about one's legacy is often pointless and sometimes distasteful, yet as we come closer to bidding “Broad City' farewell, it's nearly impossible to think of the impact Abbi and Ilana and their real-life counterparts have had on stoner representation.  

From its first moment, “Broad City” was woke before staying woke was a strategy, championing diversity, queerness, and feminism while addressing thorny issues such as gentrification, cultural appropriation, and the current political climate with a type of fearlessness that makes watching an episode feel like an act of slight rebellion — making the sparking of a joint and ripping of a bong seem quaint.

Since its introduction into pop culture, watching “Broad City” and smoking weed has become something of a mood and serving as shorthand for a self-care routine.

Like HBO's “High Maintenance,” “Broad City” is also a tale of New York City, and in the Big Apple smoking weed seems to be part of being a New Yorker as much as being crammed on the now-shut-down L train and being unimpressed by bodega cats — this is the city that smoked the most weed in the world, after all.

With the amount of weed consumed throughout the episodes of “Broad City,” it's easy for viewers in legal states to forget that New York is a medical marijuana state and that until late 2018, New York City had a high amount of low level marijuana-related arrests. On “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Jacobson said her weed supplier was Glazer, who said she bought her weed from a “full businessman” who has “garbage bags of weed” in New York City. Another reminder that when it comes to weed, or basic survival, New Yorkers just find a way.

New York is expected to legalize recreational marijuana use just as “Broad City” heads towards its final episode. The timing is bittersweet, as we bid farewell farewell to Abbi and Ilana, who comforted and made us laugh over the last five years, their legacy will live on as the weed kweens who made comedy kinder, crazier, and more 420-friendly.

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