Boundary pusher and Broad City badass Ilana Glazer sits down with Tidal’s design director—and show collaborator—Mike Perry for an intimate chat that takes them from a Brooklyn patio to the Redwoods to outer space and beyond
By Mike Perry
Photographed by Adrian Mesko
Four years ago, Tidal’s design director Mike Perry got a call from Comedy Central to work on the opening credits for a new show. It was a small web series that was transitioning to television, about two 20-something women making their way in the weird, wild boroughs of New York. That was when he met Ilana Glazer.
Since then Broad City, created by and starring Glazer and Abbi Jacobsen, has become a bona fide pop culture phenomenon, spawning memes, making political statements (the current president’s name gets the bleep treatment throughout the upcoming season), and cementing the phrase “Yassss, queen” in our colloquial lexicon. The new season premieres on September 13, and once again, Mike turns out the iconic animated opener for each episode—full of moving drips, splooges, and neon explosions, not to mention abstract genitals and cartoon nipple-tweaking. Look out for his psychedelic sequence animation in an episode where the women take mushrooms and have a proper trip-out.
Despite their working relationship, this interview is the first time Ilana and Mike got the chance to really sit down and talk. On a breezy Brooklyn night, after Ilana’s Tidal photo shoot, she went over to Mike’s place, he made her dinner featuring his famed (non-magic) mushroom broth, and they sat under the stars in the backyard, with Mike’s dog, Bass, chilling hard nearby and the sound of wind chimes twinkling in the background. Whiskey was poured, weed was smoked, and the two talked for hours about the micro and the macro: life after Broad City, the topography of the universe, Rhea Perlman’s muscles… Read on to feel like you were there for all the fun and non sequiturs.
Mike: As a collaborative creative person, who[m] do you share brains with?
Ilana: I share brains with a lot of people. I had a streak recently where I was hearing people’s thoughts—Abbi and [my husband] David, Eliot [my brother], my friend Matt.
Yeah, literally sharing the sounds of thoughts in your brain. It’s been incredible to watch a shorthand form between Abbi and [me]. When we are together every day working on something, it’s like we’re talking in our heads. It’s insane. My brother and I have always shared a brain. And David and I share a brain too. I love it. We get into such a groove. When we got married, it was almost like when Abbi and I went from Season 1 to Season 2 [of Broad City’s web series] and decided we were gonna try and make it a show and sell it. There was something about it with David where it was like a shared agenda. There was just a solidity of a plan.
You had collective vision.
Yes, collective vision. And it’s just cool. I have a question: Have you been to the Redwoods?
In California? Yeah.
They’re incredible. I went for the first time this winter, and it’s kinda on that trip where we decided to get married. It was like the most romantic fucking thing. I felt so patriotic. Like, I don’t care that this person was just elected—err, cheated his way into being elected, this country is fucking phenomenal.
I have a question: I’ve been watching Cheers. I love Cheers. How much is Rhea Perlman a fashion icon for you?
That’s so funny. She’s a comedy icon of mine, being a Jew-froed, loud, bold bitch. And I bet she’s absolutely an unconscious absorbed fashion icon, but not intentionally. Do you know she’s, like, ripped? She’s got legit muscles.
As an outsider I feel one of my roles in Broad City is to be a satellite that just revolves around the show. It seems like there’s a top-down priority with you guys to run this incredibly healthy, trusting business.
I am so happy to hear that. I really do believe that the more you give, the more you get. It is generous to give yourself in this tender, vulnerable way because the world is filled with so much fucking garbage. I really think that’s the first step to a partnership. Entering any project, any partnership, it’s due to a mutual risk of vulnerability. And I love creating. It’s such an honor to have an opportunity to create a microcosm of a world around my vibe. The whole thing is such a privilege.
I like television because it is literally sending signals into space. You guys are currently traveling deep through the vortex of the universe.
It is wild, but it also feels right to me too, as crazy as it is. I feel proud of the world that has embraced Broad City.
It’s interesting. You guys have to take on this bit of responsibility, representing an audience. That must feel complicated.
Well, like the vulnerability. I think it is a responsibility to be authentic.
Then it becomes easy…
Yes, correct, exactly. It is simple.
I love to talk like this. I’m so “thinky” and in my head so much, I have to consciously get out of my head. As much as I enjoy swimming in that New York intellectualism and queer philosophy and anti-rape-culture shit, I’m also like, I don’t want to think. I just want to walk. I just want to be a dog.
Anyway, it’s that authenticity—to be able to click into that and flow in my skin is kind of my goal for life.
Yeah, that must be extra challenging when your face is attached to everything you do.
Right, and people want to think of you as the last episode they saw. But I really think [I can deal with it] because of my incredible family. They’re just dope, salt-of-the-earth mensches. And I have such a special group of friends around me. I am a 30-year-old woman in this business; how many women don’t have the chance or don’t consider themselves able to create their material? And I’m not a slave because of it. I can be ahead of the last episode whoever on the street has seen because they’ll just see the next episode I write. It’s been interesting. I’ve been in this Broad City world for so long; I mean, Abbi and I are two silly little girls creating as though we were kids in a blanket fort at a sleepover—just so pure and real, and we are each going to keep that up in our careers separately and together for the rest of our lives.
One of my creative partners is Jim Stoten, and one of the things I like about Jim is he’s one of my safe people. He gets me out of my box a little bit. I trust him for vision, but he also needs a list. He’s like, Dude, we gotta do all this shit. And he just sits down and plows through it.
Abbi’s such a list maker, and then the next day she’ll be like, “I made all these lists last night and did nothing of it.” But the list, the strategy, is so much of it. I’m a plower-througher. I could work for 14 hours at home getting through shit.
What does that work look like?
My ideal is being at home with David and he’s doing his work and tripping out on molecules—he’s a molecular biologist—and we’re each doing our own thing and, like, checking in on each other. I would move from the office to the kitchen to upstairs and I’m doing five things at once, and I’ll take a call, and I will just plow through it for hours and hours. It’s such a delight and it doesn’t feel like work, you know.
So, you mentioned you were hearing people’s thoughts. Does that come from your investment in paying attention to the people around you?
I’m a pretty perceptive and conscious person, but I also work on tapping into that energy current. I’m predisposed to want to connect with that current, so it’s hard to take personal credit for anything.
You must get so turned on by humans—talking to them, their energy.
Fully, it’s my greatest pleasure. When people approach me as robots with their phones extending into my face, I say, “Can we not do a picture but instead have a conversation?” Because I get so much more out of it, and they leave me as a human being and I get to see who that human being is. That actually gives back to me. I spend 11 months a year communicating with the world through Broad City, and to get back people’s stories—Where do you live? Where are you from? How old are you? What do you do?—it’s currency. Information and people’s stories are the richest currency I can think of. [Yawns]
I’m incredibly impressed by your social stamina, to be able to come here from the photo shoot and chat.
It is a nice, beautiful transition from the day into going home and being with my husband. The fact that we’re going from a medium level to a deeper level, it’s just giving back to me in a way. But yeah, I do have high social stamina.
I feel like that’s a valued resource for your industry and for humans in New York City in general. I just want to be home all the time.
To be honest, I want to be home most of the time and just venture out from home. Like, having to go to Penn Station area to edit, it is disgusting; it strips my soul. I have a vision for after Broad City of just a different kind of lifestyle where I’m centered more on my home and family.
Routine is a very challenging thing to have when you live in a chaotic environment. When you envision this kind of post–Broad City existence, does it revolve around finding that rhythm, that life rhythm?
Yes, like, the main thing it revolves around is health and wellness: food, exercise, family. And then from there, you know, producing, making calls, going and acting on a thing for a day, writing, sending that off, directing something. The fact that Abbi and I line all of our ducks in a row for this one project is what makes Broad City so rich in quality. But I do want to disperse it a little bit more. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and I want to focus that quality on my quality of life. I look forward to dispersing my energy in that way.
It feels like there is a bit of freedom that comes from Broad City that allows you to be able to think further into the future.
Sometimes I think artists have to. I think Abbi and I did this when we were writing the web series. You have to cultivate that freedom for yourself sometimes before you actually have it, and then it becomes real. I’m so grateful that it’s really here and no longer being cultivated. But yeah, it’s such a delicious freedom I don’t take for granted. Very few people in this world have complete and total agency and can really create. There’s this unbelievable sense of agency that my parents did not have, and I see people their age who did have that, but it was even fewer then. And then there is this just-plug-into-the-system sense of no agency that I wouldn’t say is better or worse, it is just different.
Definitely. It must feel very empowering to have a platform to share the ideas you are exploring within yourself.
I want to continually push the limits in a safe way. It’s my truth. I communicate my truth. I do feel as a woman I recognize the danger of pushing the limits of one’s truth when that one is a woman. I really mean it when I say I want to pace it out so it is safe for me.
So that contradicts that feeling of privilege you were describing. Like, it puts a check on it.
Well, I am a woman after all. There’s been something about turning 30 and getting married that has allowed me to grasp the gravity of the slavery of women. Legit. I think having this safety net of being connected to a man by law has let me be vulnerable to the truth that women are vertically oppressed, from the poorest fucking woman to the richest woman to the First Lady. I can’t fully call it respect, but there’s something I feel for Melania Trump that is admiration, in that she will stand there and look as miserable and trapped and as enslaved as she truly is.
I was raised by my mother, which is amazing. I did not grow up with a lot of those kinds of negative stereotypes. It was all female love and empowerment. And I feel like I benefited from that as a human.
As Hillary Clinton says, women get stuff done. They really get stuff done and they’re not allowed to complain. Women are just incredible, and the men who honor women are consistently the sexiest, the most delicious, powerful men to me. My brother and I were raised gender-neutral; my mom was so grossed out by the way girls were paraded in a certain way in my hyper-suburban town on Long Island. My brother is gay, and we were kind of the same gender growing up. I was such a little lady fag as a kid, you know what I mean? It’s kind of like a gender sexuality that a lot of women who find themselves around a lot of gay men identify as, and I relate to it but I don’t call myself anything. I identify as queer for many reasons; yes, like physical, sexual reasons, but also like… I just think the rejection of binary code, the rejection of rape culture is queer. My parents did such an incredible [job]. I’m so grateful [to them] for making me feel like my opinions were worthwhile.
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