Hanging at MoMA with Abbi Jacobson

On her debut podcast, "A Piece of Work," the "Broad City" creator and star schools us on art.
"Broad City" creator and star Abbi Jacobson gets artsy on her debut podcast "A Piece of Work." Photo: Ryan Muir

Like her “Broad City” alter-ego, Abbi Jacobson also loves to draw. Before co-creating and co-starring in “Broad City,” the 33-year-old aspired to a career in art. The PA native comes from a family of artists and attended the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for undergrad before catching the acting bug. When she moved to NYC at the age of 23, it was with the goal of “juggling these impossible careers” of both comedy and art. 

 

10 years later, Jacobson is obviously better known for comedy, but she hasn’t abandoned her visual side. Last fall, she published “Carry this Book,” an illustrated imagining of what fictional and famous people, from Homer Simpson to Anna Wintour, carry around in their purses, and before that, a coloring book for NYC and San Francisco. She returns to the art world with her podcast, “A Piece of Work,” a ten-part collaboration with WNYC and MoMA which debuts today. 

 

In “A Piece of Work,” Jacobson basically hangs out at MoMA and talks about art with friends and fellow creatives like Hannibal Buress, Questlove and Tavi Gevinson (TBD whether or not Ilana Glazer will guest star). She also chats with MoMA curators and educators. It’s informative and entertaining, and makes you want to go on a museum field trip with her. It’s also the best way to get your dose of the endearingly earnest half of “Broad City” before the show returns at the end of the summer. Here are our favorite parts about “A Piece of Work” so far:

 

It makes art more accessible

 

The culture around fine art can be intimidating, and Jacobson gets that. “I think that sometimes when people go into museums, they see all these things on the walls and they’re like, ‘What am I supposed to get out of this? What is the artist’s intention? Am I having the correct feeling?'” she says on the first episode. “Even after years of art school, I feel that way most of the time.”

Instead, “A Piece of Work” is all about the idea that art is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s no right answer to the question of what it means or how you should feel about it. As she puts it: “Art is what anyone says it is.” 

You get to hear Hannibal Buress call BS on conceptual art

“Museums and art are always better with friends,” says Jacobson, and that may as well be the log line of the show. In the premiere, comedian Hannibal Buress joins her to talk about Marcel Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel.” His commentary is hilarious and also nails how so many of us feel about conceptual art. 

“We’re not supposed to spin it, are we?”

 “That just look like some high shit: ‘What if I put the wheel, in a stool?’” 

“Maybe he’s just trolling?” 

You get to hear Jacobson talk about her life 

Obviously we’ve been fangirling, but Abbi on “Broad City” is already very likeable and it’s a treat to learn more about the real-life Abbi behind the character. In the debut, she tells us when she first moved to NYC, she had a greeting card company called “Imagine That.” For her first Hanukkah in the city, she asked her family for a free MoMA membership and she used to slip her greeting cards in the racks of the MoMA gift shop, in the hopes that someone would pick one up and discover her. No one ever did, but “you gotta hustle in NYC!” 

You actually learn a thing or two about art 

Jacobson knows her stuff. We learn art history facts, like that Marcel Duchamp belonged to a class of artists who created “ReadyMades,” art made of everyday objects. She also chats with MoMA curators Ann Temkin and Ann Umland, who lend their expertise. And when Jacobson explains that Duchamp pioneering conceptual art “opened a floodgate that redefined what art could be and set the stage for the whole century,” you really do feel like you’re listening to an art history prof lecture. That is, one you definitely want to get high with after class. 

You can listen to “A Piece of Work” here. New episodes come out every Monday and Wednesday through August 9. 

 
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