New York-based comedian Mamoudou N’Diaye is a fan of Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Comedy Central series Broad City, but one glaring aspect of it has always bothered him: the show’s use of cultural appropriation, particularly when it comes to Glazer’s character Ilana Wexler. Instead of calling out the show with a more traditional critique, however, N’Diaye decided to do something much more inspired by writing a spec script for a Broad City episode where Abbi sets up an intervention to address Ilana’s questionable overenthusiasm for black culture. Or, as Lincoln puts it in the script, “You’re not racist like ‘I hate black people’ it’s more that you love black people stuff too much. Like somehow more than black people.” The script manages to provide constructive criticism, a solution for said criticism, and a potential episode that would fit in perfectly with the Broad City universe – not an easy feat, but one that N’Diaye pulls off well.
The spec has been making the rounds on Twitter since N’Diaye shared it on Friday, and you can check out the full thing for yourself below – it’s well worth the read:
I reached out to N’Diaye to learn more about why he wrote the spec script and how the response has been so far.
What made you decide to write the spec in the first place?
Honestly, boredom. It was Black Friday, I was at home catching up on TV and stuff and I decided to challenge myself to write a spec script as fast as possible. I chose Broad City because 1) I’ve been trying to write outside of my voice more and 2) there’s been a streak of wack cultural insensitivity since season 1 that’s been brushed past by characters in their universe and by people passing that off as parodying the “hyperwokeness” that Ilana’s character often has. Even if it’s parody to diehard comedy fans, just regular fans may assume that it might be okay to pass by phrases and statements like “If I could be any race, I would be Asian. I mean I would give all of them a try.” It only took me 6.5 hours to write the whole thing and that was easy because I truly love the show and the distinctly weird and fun characters, but given its cemented place in current pop culture, I just want the characters to be better people so their fans could be better people.
Broad City has become a pop culture icon, yeah, but it’s also very representative of feminism, specifically white feminism. Although there are intersectional themes in there, I can’t recall a time where that hasn’t been played off as a joke or moved past quickly. I know that Abbi and Ilana play extremely exaggerated versions of themselves and the story of their come-up is so inspirational, so I think that they aren’t those people in real life, but I saw an opening and tried to patch it up. I tried to make it as zany as the show is while also respecting my goal of talking about Ilana’s appropriation.
How has the general feedback been so far?
People like it! It started as a writing exercise and then I shared it to see what people thought and they actually liked it! I’m always so afraid to share my longform work because of extreme anxiety that I suck, but I got tons of DMs from people saying that they totally agreed with Ilana’s character’s appropriation and enjoyed the character I introduced. I was scared that the new character, Yvette, was a magical negro stereotype but that’s very much intentional for the purpose of the story I was creating and fits surprisingly well in the universe where random inexplicable things happen. I wanted her to be unshackled and free to do as she pleases and say whatever the hell she wanted, which are qualities I appreciate in my own WoC friends.
Who would you cast as Yvette? Were you envisioning someone specific while writing?
When I was writing I think I either envisioned Yvonne Orji (Molly from Insecure) or Phoebe Robinson from 2 Dope Queens. I know that Phoebe has been involved with the show in the past and is friends with Ilana so that’s the direction the show could easily go. But I’m always down for my African fam and I love Yvonne Orji and I think she would be amazing in this role.
Have you heard from anyone involved in the show about it?
I have not personally heard from anyone at the show about it. I know a few people involved with the show but no one has specifically reached out to me. I hope it’s not because they don’t like that I called out a character’s flaws because I still do love the show; just one part irked me.
Todd, Nicole, and Lincoln are particularly solid in this. Is there a certain character you enjoyed writing for the most?
I can’t choose to be entirely honest! Chris Gethard, who played Todd in the show, is so damn funny and I wanted him to appear even for a moment. Nicole, played on the show by Nicole Drespel, was actually my improv teacher and I laughed every time I saw her on the show. When Todd and Nicole were written out, I fell apart because that dynamic at work was so relatable and I wanted Nicole to have her revenge! As for Lincoln, he was easy to write for because I relate to his character of being the “black dude who’s just there for a good time.” That’s me; I’m just trying to be around to have fun. His one-liners always stood out and were so random.
Aside from this becoming a real Broad City episode, what is your biggest hope as far as the impact of the spec?
Like I said, this was a writing exercise that even surprised me. I’d love it if people read it and thought about which other of their favorite shows have problematic running gags or characters and rather than complain about it, actually fix it. Friends was pretty homophobic and rarely had black people in it and they lived in NYC. You know how much work I have to do to not see black people (besides avoid mirrors)? We as people are getting better, so why not our shows? We live in a time where people can say whatever they want but don’t have to offer up any solutions. “Don’t tweet about it, be about it” has always been my mantra, so I went out and did something and it paid off to an extent.
Long-term, gimme three HBO specials, a Netflix series, and somehow get 45 impeached and I’ll be good.