Pre–‘Broad City,’ Ilana Glazer Was Chronic Gamer Girl
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It’s always a rush to see stars before they were famous, like Katy Perry in a 2006 Gym Class Heroes music video, Miley Cyrus in Big Fish, Kirsten Dunst in the eternal rerun movie Jumanji. Now, we give you Ilana Glazer, star of Comedy Central’s Broad City (which, with 94 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.5 rating on IMDb, will be back for a third season in February), in the YouTube series Chronic Gamer Girl, which started in 2012, two years before Broad City struck it big.
No worries if you’ve missed the low-key, lighthearted, pot-smoking Glazer — yep, she told The New Yorker she smokes pot every day — because you can get the gist of her humor by watching just a couple of minutes of Chronic Gamer Girl. Reveling in games, weed and jokes, the series is pure hedonism.
Though Chronic Gamer Girl is devoid of true focus, its 66 episodes are tied together by their complete casualness.
These days, gigabytes of data space are scarfed up by comedians’ Web series, but Chronic Gamer Girl was on the early side — “the pioneering end,” says comedian Anthony Atamanuik — of the trend. Even earlier, Glazer uploaded another project to YouTube — Broad City itself started in 2009 as a Web series with the same title. Glazer and her Broad City co-star Abbi Jacobson’s first episode, in which Glazer gives a homeless man $10 and asks for $8 back, is still online. Glazer’s Internet trail yields another footprint, one that showcases a more serious side of the comedian. In 2013, she starred in the indie movie How to Follow Strangers, which is online in full.
In Chronic Gamer Girl, as with a lot of Glazer’s work, the logic isn’t always apparent. Go along for the ride, though, and you’ll be in stitches. The now-28-year-old NYU grad speaks in a Kiwi accent in the opening sequence before relapsing into her actual Long Islandese. Sometimes Glazer has a guest, other times she’s solo. Sometimes she plays a video game; other times, despite the show’s title, she does anything but play. “You never know what you’re going to get,” says John Wenzel, who writes about weed and video games for the Cannabist.
Though Chronic Gamer Girl is devoid of true focus, its 66 episodes are tied together by their complete casualness, with Glazer focused on having a friendly conversation with a guest or the audience. When Atamanuik guest-starred on the show, he recalls showing up late, puffing on the porch, setting up snacks on the sofa (“I remember that being very important”) and then … just talking, on camera. Nothing was preplanned, and both comedians show off the quick improvisational minds that they honed at the NYC branch of Upright Citizens Brigade. Stay calm if you’re not into video games. Unlike today’s video game offerings on YouTube (see: multimillion-subscriber channel PewDiePie), Chronic Gamer Girl’s episodes are full of fluffy banter, with little attention to the games themselves.
Of course, Glazer might not be a household name for 20-somethings today if not for her partner in comedy Abbi Jacobson. Their buddy comedy days started in the aughts at UCB when Jacobson mistook Glazer for Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat (who later guest-starred and hooked up with Glazer in Season 2 of Broad City), and the duo paired up for one of the best episodes of Chronic Gamer Girl, playing a little-known 1992 video game called The Lawnmower Man. The game is terrible, but, reminiscent of their indestructible friendship on Broad City, the two don’t get upset with each other. Instead they direct their pot-fueled angst at Dan, the video game store clerk with poor recommendation skills.
Somehow, Dan hasn’t been asked to guest-star on Broad City yet.