Regrettably, I do not own a time-traveling bong. But I do have Hulu, and in the early days of quarantine, I rewound the clock back to 2014, the year that Broad City—a new show based on an old web series—landed on Comedy Central. Co-creators Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson played winsomely hapless twentysomethings named Ilana and Abbi—characters that Glazer once estimated to be 15 percent exaggerations of their younger selves. (The two met in an improv-practice group at Manhattan’s Upright Citizens Brigade.) Watching those first episodes from my apartment in Brooklyn, I found lots of things to love—some meaningful (like inseparable friendship), others blissfully trivial. I missed cranky old neighbors, awkward parties, public breakups. I missed what a crowd of strangers gives you—that slurry of anonymity and solidarity. And then there was the city itself, the foreign land that New Yorkers are somehow far from and present in at the same time.
Broad City wrapped last spring, but the show still lingers—in recited lines, on TV, and in the social-media psyche. By March 23, a week after restaurants and bars closed by mandate of the governor, an ouroboros of the internet came to pass: Ilana posted a meme of Ilana. In the uncanny valley of now, those three mundane words—“How am I?”—came to say so much, uniting us, audience and actor, because no one knew what the hell to say. Even when I called up Glazer at home last week, the question fell out of my mouth by habit; she answered it without hesitation. We apologized to each other. “I missed my line!” she laughed. “That’s what happened there.”
Like so many, Glazer has work on hold. Her upcoming film for A24—co-written with John Lee and co-starring Justin Theroux and Pierce Brosnan—is in a holding pattern familiar to the movie industry. It’s a medical thriller (a different kind of medical thriller), with the eyebrow-raising title False Positive. But she also has work in full swing: to prod us into being marginally engaged citizens—serious business, when an election looms in a shitshow year. As for how she is, she lays it out, below.
Vanity Fair: It’s been a week, between 4/20 and Earth Day and an ongoing global crisis. What were the high and low points for you?
Ilana Glazer: Gosh, I have been having such ups and downs in this quarantine. My highest point recently was my birthday. I got flowers and had a few social-distancing hangouts—like, a couple friends came by—and it just lit me up. It felt so, so good. The scope of everything has been so narrow that the highs are through the roof, so I was losing my mind with happiness and excitement. I keep trying to wrap it all up for myself, about how I’m growing from quarantine, how I can make peace with this. But it’s not neat like that. It’s messy. So my low points, I’m just, like, openly weeping.
I’m really upset about how inept our federal government is. While the current administration has exemplified so much cruelty in the past four years, there’s been nothing as cruel as continuing that cruelty in this context. Not Dr. Fauci—there are definitely awesome, capable, brilliant people where they need to be for us to get through this as carefully as possible, but then they’re so boned by Trump and by the goons that it’s, like, even the good people in the right place are being prohibited from operating. It’s just been devastating. Our health care workers, how worn down. And how black and brown communities are disproportionately affected by COVID. That shit has just been blowing my mind in a bad way. But to speak to the highs, I’ve been seeing my family more on FaceTime than I would have before. I’m realizing how much distraction I’ve filled my life with, and how the peeling away of that is really useful, actually, because I can see certain things about myself I couldn’t see before.
A month ago you posted the meme of yourself: “How am I?” In a way, you became the face of quarantine—and a comfort, I think, because you’re the kind of person who can acknowledge the shittiness of things while also envisioning change.