JFL Broad City Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto ON, September 27
Published Sep 28, 2014The last thing Ilana Glazer said to the packed house at Toronto's Queen Elizabeth Theatre was, "This might have been more fun for us than for you."
It was a disappointingly apt observation. Glazer and Abbi Jacobson's performance on Saturday night was a scattershot affair that found the duo goofing around aimlessly onstage, often relying more on their charm and the good faith accumulated by their excellent web series-turned-TV show Broad City than on quality material or tight performance.
The duo started promisingly, coming onstage to Beyoncé's "Get Me Bodied" like rock stars, getting the crowd to their feet while dancing and mouthing along onstage to the song's entirety. Glazer worked the crowd while Jacobson got her freak on behind her, and the energy got fans, this reviewer included, excited for what was to come. Neither standup, improv nor sketch comedy, the night was a hang with Broad City not unlike the hangs on Broad City — laid back, sort of awkward — but where the TV show finds humour in the minutiae of Abbi and Ilana's fictional lives, their live setup, in which the real Jacobson and Glazer indulged themselves with inside jokes and meandering stage antics, felt ramshackle and unprofessional.
The first segment, in which the duo discussed which songs would soundtrack important moments in their lives — birth, first body hair removal, "first oral.... RECEIVED," first gay experience — was held together by their charm, but between talking over each other and the rigid structure (Ilana-Abbi-Ilana-Abbi, with plenty of "Your turns" in between) of the segment, it was clearly unrehearsed.
The next portion, in which Jacobson pretended to tell deep, dark secrets, was where the performance really started to drag. When Jacobson "admitted" she was born in a Walmart a la Natalie Portman's child in Where the Heart Is, Glazer feigned ignorance, asking Jacobson if she was indeed Portman's daughter in a moment as drawn out as it was confusing and unfunny.
After a minute-long video from Broad City's John Gemberling (a.k.a. Matty Bevers), the punchline of which was that you could see his ass, the show wrapped with a baffling five minutes of Jacobson and Glazer rollerblading onstage, slowly dancing and pushing off of each other to roll backwards. Was the joke that they sucked at it?
And there's the rub: Why were comedians as funny as Glazer and Jacobson putting on such a half-assed, directionless show, when they've demonstrated that they're capable of much more, both on the TV show and peppered throughout the night? Glazer, particularly, was outstanding in moments, impersonating her own birth and doing hilarious "micro-impressions" of Claire Huxtable, Alanis Morissette and Nicki Minaj.
The crowd seemed to enjoy the show, and certainly, Jacobson and Glazer deserve applause — their TV show is the work of great minds, important without being self-important, absurd but always hilarious — but the apparent lack of preparation for their performance made it hard to clap without feeling like it was for Broad City, rather than Broad City.