Being a successful comedic actor in America comes with some very specific pitfalls. The first is the pressure to be "on" all the time in order to please fans. The second is the crushing invisibility that comes when people can't separate you from your on-screen character. The third is the difficult challenge of finding a means to show the world what else you're capable of without killing your own career.
It has been done before. At the peak of his movie stardom, Jim Carrey made a conscious decision to take on more serious, meaningful roles to prove that he wasn't a human cartoon. In 2004, Dave Chapelle turned down $50 million and walked away from Chapelle’s Show at its peak, because he “had a crisis of conscience and stood up for his integrity as an artist.”
And on Saturday night, speaking in front of a sold out Nourse Theater, Abbi Jacobson was taking clear steps away from the character that has so thoroughly defined her life thus far. Since it launched on Comedy Central four and a half years ago, Broad City has had a major impact on pop culture and what everyday feminism looks like. As she entered the stage, Jacobson was greeted by cries of "Yas kween!", but the evening ultimately had more to do with drawing a line between Abbi Abrams of Broad City and the real-life Abbi who created her.
Jacobson's appearance, in conversation with her close friend D'arcy Carden (Janet from The Good Place!) was in support of Jacobson's first collection of personal essays, I Might Regret This. The book is the result of Jacobson trying to figure out a way to deal with the most painful break up of her life, which also happened to be her first with a woman. "Being out of control in love is glorious," she writes in a chapter titled "Heartbreak City." "It's the closest thing we have to magic. But being out of control in heartbreak...? I wouldn't wish that upon anyone. It's unnerving, it's manic, it's hopeless."
At a loss as to how she could heal, Jacobson got in her car and decided to spend three weeks driving from New York City to Los Angeles to clear her head, occupy herself with a new project and try and figure out what went wrong. On Saturday, she told the Nourse it was one of the most terrifying things she's ever done, "but now that scariness is like my flashlight for what I want to do next. The scariness is good." Her words echo something Dave Chapelle told students at Allen University earlier this year: "It's okay to be afraid, because you can't be brave or courageous without fear." Carden got emotional about the importance of her friend's trip. "It was good for you," she said. "When you left, you were a shell, and at the end, my friend was back."