Four years after “Broad City” first premiered, co-creator Abbi Jacobson has used her time outside of it to explore her many other interests, from drawing, to podcasting about modern art, to voiceover. And on August 17, fans will get a new side of her with the premiere of “Disenchantment,” a new fantasy cartoon from “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening in which she stars as a rebellious princess.
“I can’t really think of a more incredible animated show to do than one with Matt,” Jacobson says. “It’s kind of been a dream.”
Two weeks before she was due on set to film the fifth and final season of “Broad City,” Jacobson talked with Variety about her excitement about “Disenchantment,” getting personal with her upcoming collection of essays (“I Might Regret This,” due in October), and what’s ahead for the series finale of “Broad City.”
You’ve been working on so many different kinds of projects in the past few years. What was it about “Disenchantment” that made you want to be a part of it?
This, I auditioned for. For a lot of voiceover auditions, you don’t have to go in because you can just record on your phone. I’m not a great auditioner, so I kind of forgot I did it, thinking I wasn’t going to get it — and then I got it. I can’t really think of a more incredible animated show to do than one with Matt [Groening], so it was like, “whaaaat?” It’s kind of been a dream ever since.
They were so accommodating. I recorded while doing “Broad City,” which meant they’d have to Skype with me at 9 in the morning on Saturdays. And then after we wrapped season 4 of “Broad City” I was on hiatus, and everyone was recording out in here in LA, together. Just every voiceover actor from “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” All the best of the best people are on this show, and I was kind of the only one by myself until I was like, “This is a big deal, and I’m not treating it like [one], or how cool it could be.”
So I came out here for the whole fall … we recorded like, twice a month, but it was cool to be in the room with everybody. I’m just so happy I did that, because it made the experience. To get to collaborate with everyone is incredible.
You also have a book coming out this October: “I Might Regret This.”
Y’know, I can’t believe I finished it. [laughs] I’m reading it one more time through right now, and then that’s it. I can’t change a word.
After we wrapped “Broad City” last summer, I left, and drove for three weeks to LA. I knew I was gonna write about it, but I didn’t write while I was on the road. It took me a year. I think it’s really funny, but it’s definitely really personal. “Broad City” is pretty personal, but that’s a character. It’s amplified. This book is the closest [to me]. It’s intense! I’d never written in that [essay] format, either. It was challenging, and I finally found a good voice. But it took me a while. It was really difficult.
At the end of the day, I really like it, and I think that’s all that really matters. I took a step back from it and was like, “Oh, I would love this book if it was not me, if I was just starting out at UCB and I was 21.” I’m just getting really nervous about it, to see what people think about it, but I like it.
How did you pull all the pieces together, in the end?
Every essay is a different city on the way from New York to LA, so I ideally want you to feel like you’re on the road trip with me. But when I’m in Utah, the essay isn’t just about Utah. It’s a lot about memory, as the places made me think of other things. And then there are illustrations in between, and the soundtrack I listened to of podcasts and albums. I did an illustrated book a couple years ago [“Carry This Book”], and I loved that it allowed me to draw again, so I really wanted to do that. But they’re very different. I limited myself; it’s just pencil drawings.
Did you take the trip by yourself?
Yeah … and that was my last “vacation,” and I was still working, and like, a mess. I wasn’t having a lot of fun.
Oof, I’m sorry.
It’s okay, I wrote a book about it. And it was also just freeing. My days are usually full of deadlines, but I didn’t have to be anywhere. It was a different state of mind.
Was it hard to write the book in between writing season 5 of “Broad City,” if the tones are really different?
It was, but it’s easier than them being very similar. It was good that [the book] was different. And as for “Broad City” [season 5], I think it’s a little more real. It’s definitely more serialized.
What is one of the biggest lessons you learned between season 1 of “Broad City” and this last one?
It’s interesting. I try not to read feedback, but I feel like people either love the evolution or don’t like it. I think the show is still pretty scrappy, if you’re on set with us. But I love the fact that you are simultaneously watching the characters on the show grow up, and us as creators grow up. It’s a meta experience.
The show is changing creatively. I think now, there’s just more to deal with. There’s undeniable things happening in the world that you can’t really ignore. This season doesn’t do it as much as season 4 did, though this show still exists now. If we’re going to talk about pop culture, we have to talk about the s–ty things we’re feeling too, you know? So I think in the beginning we were able to comment on stuff, but it was a little more lax. [Abbi and Ilana] weren’t worried about as much. But that’s what getting older does, so.
There are a lot of shows trying to deal with today’s politics by taking place in a slightly different reality. But I feel like “Broad City” was one of the first to be like, no, this is just the world we’re living in, and it sucks.
Yeah. We couldn’t stop talking about it. It’s still there in season 5, but not as blatant at all. We don’t talk about him, once. That’s the new thing: just not mentioning his name. Ever. [In season 4, “Broad City” bleeped every mention of Trump’s name like it was a curse.] It’s not funny anymore. It never was, really, but we don’t know how to make fun of it. And this season, because it’s the end [of the series], we’re really just focused on [Abbi and Ilana]. There’s not even a ton of guest stars.
So the last season of “Broad City” is all written? You know how it ends?
Oh, yeah. We always knew what would happen in the last scene. We didn’t have the whole season written, we didn’t have all the details, but we knew how it was going to end.
Sometimes, shows where the people who created it and then play a character with the same name, audiences will have a hard time separating the two. Has that gotten any better for you and Ilana since the beginning of “Broad City”?
I actually wrote about that a little in the book. It’s interesting; people do think I’m [“Broad City’s” Abbi]. And I’m similar, but I’m veering farther away. I always wonder what would’ve happened if we changed our names. We did for the FX version; the pilot they passed on had “Carly” and “Evelyn.” I always wonder what would’ve happened if we did that, but I’m happy we didn’t.
It can be confusing. People who say hello, sometimes I genuinely won’t know if I know the person, because they feel like they know me, which can be confusing for me! They’ll be like, “Abbi?!” And I’ll be like, “heyyyy…do I know you? Did we go to high school together?” I’m just constantly going through faces [in my mind].
But it’s flattering. That’s the goal, to have our friendship feel like it’s part of the viewers’s friendships. It’s not like we set out to do that, but it is the ultimate.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.