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Ilana Glazer on New Film ‘Babes’, Comedy Tour, Motherhood

Ilana Glazer on New Film ‘Babes’, Comedy Tour, Motherhood

When Ilana Glazer signs on to what she didn’t realize was a camera-on Zoom interview, the first thing she does is express gratitude for her cute outfit (she’s in spring- time-appropriate head-to-toe lilac). The comedian had spent the afternoon in fittings for the press tour for her new film, Babes, which she co-wrote with Josh Rabinowitz. A few days beforehand, she wrapped a 52-stop stand-up tour, and was still riding the high from the final shows, which she filmed for her next special. While she planned meticulously for this convergence of career milestones — a flash of Type A personality that may come as
a surprise to those who still conflate her with her Broad City character — she still finds herself bewildered by the moment.

“It feels very different than what I planned for,” she says. “I’ve realized that anytime you have an idea about something, that’s capitalism — it feels almost imperialist. What I thought was powerful in having the idea to do the tour, then the special taping, and then the movie release, is not the same power that I’m experiencing now.” What she’s feeling, she says, is pure human connection — with her stand-up audiences, and then with her family when she landed back in Brooklyn for a short break. Glazer and her husband, computational biologist David Rooklin, had a daughter in 2021, and her experience of motherhood has influenced both her routine onstage and her choices in projects.

In Babes, she plays Eden, a single woman whose post-one-night-stand pregnancy reshapes her relationship with her childhood best friend (and married mother of two), played by Michelle Buteau. “Everyone tells you how hard it is having a kid, but I’ve been shocked by the joy of it,” says Glazer. “People don’t seem to make space to wonder at the magic of it, because then we’d have to stop living in this capitalist structure. And also — pregnancy is funny.”

Before we get into Babes, I’d love to hear more about the standup tour and how the special taping went.

The first night I felt a little tight and nervous, but the second night was so silly and kinetic and I took pleasure in every single moment. It was a blessing. There is this feminine energy of the universe that I’ve been tapping into more and more — it feels sort of like receiving whatever is happening, and dealing with both the positive and the negative.

That’s funny, I recently listened to your episode of the Las Culturistas podcast, from 2019, and you talked a lot about feeling very connected to masculine energy.

That is so interesting. Wow. It’s funny, it’s hard for me to ever go back and look at stuff I’ve done. Ramy Youssef just sent me a screenshot from the pilot of Broad City, and it cracked me up to think about that part of the show and how it was 10 years ago, but I couldn’t really go back to that place in my mind. Like, I’ll never go back and listen to myself on Las Culturistas but I find it really interesting that I spoke about that at that time. I do think the beginnings of Babes connects to masculine-feminine as well. The masculine is the conscious mind thinking it can outthink, or solve, our feelings, and the feminine notices them as they come up and deals with them. I always have a million ideas for things but when my body meets that idea and it becomes undeniable, and continues to come up or deepen, that’s when I know I have to pursue it.

Ilana Glazer

Photographed by Sela Shiloni; Hair: Michael Dueñas. Makeup: Toby Fleischman

Do you remember what the very first nugget of idea for Babes was?

I’ll never forget. I was having my 2021 kickoff meeting with my manager Susie Fox — who also manages my co-writer Josh Rabinowitz — and  she said we should go for studio comedies. It had been about 10 years since we had a strong bang in studio comedies, and she felt like she saw me in that sort of role. Then she was in the shower and had a vision of best friends who get pregnant. At the time Susie had two very young kids and was just fucking in it. I had also told her I was pregnant on that same call, so she was basically in the role of Michelle Buteau’s character, Dawn.

At that point, did hearing her stories of motherhood scare you or were you purely excited?  

Josh’s wife was pregnant at the same time, and we were both so excited. We were like, this is going to be fun. And it has been fun. This is what my current standup is all about. But Susie also had some stories from the trenches that felt like they could be good for hard comedy and physical comedy, which I just love. There’s the swollenness and the horniness. I was so sick for six months, but I didn’t have hyperemesis or anything so even that managed to be lighthearted and funny. Josh’s experience was of the helpless non-pregnant partner — which, I would rather be the person suffering but complaining than the person having to soothe them.

Can you tell me about working with Pamela Adlon on her feature directorial debut?

When we first met with her, her fervor for telling a mom’s story was so electric. And she’s so passionate about the craft of acting, so it was great to indulge in being her muse for a minute. Her championing of me and Michelle was so moving. She gives such rockstar energy and it felt like she was lending that to us.

Without giving too much away for people reading, I’d love to know what your hopes were for the ending. What felt important to convey?

We definitely wanted a rom-com ending. There’s a world in which these friends wind up being almost roommates, but we knew that we needed to give my character growth and that meant [Eden and Dawn] need to have to put their shoes on to go to each other’s places. One thing we talked about is that in the creation of characters, and caring about them, it’s like we care for and reparent ourselves in the process. So we wanted an ending that felt realistic and satisfying but also exemplary of the way we can create little tribes between our families.

Ilana Glazer

Photographed by Sela Shiloni; Hair: Michael Dueñas. Makeup: Toby Fleischman

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Something I’ve found myself thinking about a lot is the eye of community versus individualism, and how especially during and after the pandemic it’s felt like people have been pushed more into individualism, to take care of their own. The end of the movie felt like it was in line with that…spiral, I guess you could call it.

What I’ve been really thinking about lately is the idea that comedy is a spiritual practice for me, and that my Jewishness fits into my comedian-ness. It’s about the interrogation of truth, and comedy is my most observant spiritual practice. And it is how I really have faith that people can connect beyond whatever societal structures we find ourselves in. Hard comedy, especially. I don’t care if you’re rich or poor, farts are funny. Period.

In your view, is Babes at all in conversation with False Positive? Is there a through-line with those themes?

I knew I wanted to have a child when I was 27, but I knew I wasn’t ready at that point in my life. So False Positive, which I wrote a couple years later, definitely represents my fears of becoming a parent. But I also have been obsessed with this phenomenon of IVF doctors non-consensually using their own sperm in their patients, because to me it perfectly embodies the idea that if you aren’t in government creating policy to protect yourself specifically, you will eventually be violated. That’s who government works in my eyes. Writing Babes was more about knowing I felt secure enough to have a kid.

Do you remember that version of yourself strongly when you watch back either film?

I feel so much more connected to Babes than I do to False Positive. I feel close to the person who made that movie.

A lot of women have fears that once they have kids, they’ll feel disconnected from the person they were before, like who they are now is a stranger to that earlier version.

That’s part of what is uncomfortable, for me, about looking back at Broad City. Or even anything pre-Covid. The pandemic just put a wrench into what we thought life was. Like, even the idea of productivity. What does that mean anymore? I feel so far from that person and the way she related to productivity.

Have you changed your own definition of what success is, and what makes a project successful?

I appreciate this question so much because it’s another thing I’ve been reflecting on constantly. My measure for success now is just pleasure. I used to go onstage when I was young and just tell my secrets. It was funny, but I was offering myself up and I was often anxious and agitated. I think I’ve changed partly from getting older and accruing therapy hours. But I’ve also watched as comedy is increasingly becoming a platform for hate speech masked as punchlines, and I really don’t get that. I’ve never found hurting others to be funny. Even when it’s punching up — why are we punching?

This story first appeared in the May 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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