'Broad City' helped shape who I am today

The protagonists of the hit comedy show gave me joy in a time of need

Throughout the past four years, I have morphed from an overtly insecure bundle of stress to an amalgam of confidence, carefree spirit and happiness.

As a high schooler, I struggled with the affliction of a cocktail of social anxiety, paranoia, hypersensitivity and an insufferable desire to be admired and loved by those around me. 

I can thank my friends, family, self and, most importantly, the lead characters of "Broad City" for pulling me out of my self-crafted rock bottom. Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler gave me a mirror to reflect on who I was and who I aspired to be at a time where I was most impressionable.

At 17, my social life was capsized by the introduction of all of these emotions into my life. My shyness and inability to interact with the world around me was beginning to become a major hindrance.

I felt forced to abandon a majority of my high school courses and all of the activities that brought me joy, and eventually, I quit my job as a result of my pseudo-spiral.

As a depressed, lonely and insecure shell of the person that I once was, I began to see myself in Abbi's character, played by Abbi Jacobson, in more ways than I would like to admit.

From her inadvertently awkward responses to strangers to her vehement denial of working as a gym cleaner, Abbi represented the aspects of myself that I embraced but didn’t want to.

"Training Shania Twain," a running joke within the show that acted as Abbi’s go-to lie when needing a cover, became a metaphor for my inability to act upon my lowly self-worth.

Every time that I would show a friend my favorite show and ask for an analysis of the characters relative to our relationship, I would get called an "Abbi."

I knew that I didn't want my life to consist of overbearing roommates and a gripping curse of unluckiness, so I set out to craft the ideal protagonist of my own life — myself. 

Both Ilana and Abbi's personalities and interactions offer viewers a nearly perfect look into the exciting and hectic lives of two Jewish New York women who embrace immaturity like a long-needed bearhug. 

Watching "Broad City" more times than I can recount offered me a sense of happiness and a hope for a fulfilling, although potentially deranged, future for myself. 

No show has filled me with the amount of utter laughter and joy like "Broad City" has — it’s a show that even on your 50th viewing you draw something new from.

The show originated as an experimental internet project by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, which gathered attention from the highly recognizable comic Amy Poehler, who acted as executive producer for the show once it moved to Comedy Central. 

Garnering a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it's evident that "Broad City" is universally loved by both esteemed members of the comedy field and average viewers. 

Called "sneak-attack feminism" by the Wall Street Journal, the series follows two friends in New York City navigating their way through the minutiae that is life, the website says. "Their ability to induce cringing and laughter simultaneously is the reason the girls can call people like Amy Poehler, Kristen Schaal and Hannibal Buress fans and guest stars."

READ MORE: 'Girls' and 'Broad City': It's time to stop the comparisons

So, despite my underlying feeling of despair as I saw a vision of my future self in Abbi, I understood her relationship with Ilana for how the two of them saw each other: as a source of security and affection in the midst of New York chaos. 

As a 2016 New Yorker article said, Abbi is a "klutzy romantic" whose passivity and shyness hold her back. However, she starts to come out of her shell with the help of the annoyingly outgoing Ilana, whose inability to be considerate lets her be her most authentic self.  

Not to say that I had a burning desire to slip into Ilana's tunnel vision of narcissism, but I really wanted to make a proper shift in my life that would push me from an "Abbi" to an "Ilana." Both characters clearly have their flaws, but they push each other to be their best selves. 

Traveling abroad for two months last summer and shifting from a high school to a college atmosphere helped me solidify that transition. 

Once I removed myself from the toxicity of high school and began to focus solely on my mental health and my apprehension toward speaking to new people, I began to see a shift in my self-image and overall demeanor.

A monthly revisitation to the show gave me an opportunity to compare my internal progress to the external personalities of its two main characters. By the middle of summer, I was on track to fulfilling my transitional goal.

When I came to ASU, I was armed with wikiHows on "How to Make Friends," a burning desire to differentiate myself from the norm and a newfound sense of self-love and confidence. 

READ MORE: Comedy Central's 'Broad City' exposes the foul bachelorette

I entered college with my goal of embodying Ilana already accomplished. but immersing myself in my surroundings and interacting with a brand new set of peers offered me an opportunity to expand upon it. 

A renewed sense of self-pervaded every aspect of my life, and I felt secure enough to conquer anything that the world threw at me; I was a fully-fleshed, although gay and male, translation of Ilana.

My unabashedly self-assured, creative and clueless attitude gives me pleasure to fulfill, and I know now that my true self was brought out of the shadows by numerous factors; most notably, the very show that offered me an escape during the darker portions of my youth.


Reach the reporter at stellefs@asu.edu and follow @samtellefson on Twitter. 

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