Broad City’s Ilana Wexler: The Hot Mess (You Actually *Want* To Be) | Explained

​Broad City’s Ilana Wexler was an iconic hot mess – but no matter how crazy life got she was always ready to find a way to make things work for her. And with the help of her best friend Abbi Abrams, there was no obstacle she couldn’t overcome.

“My frond to the ond.”

Broad City made a huge splash when it premiered in 2014. Shows centered on anxious twenty-somethings living in the Big Apple aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but Abbi and Ilana brought something new — relatable female characters who embraced their many flaws and had fun doing it. The duo itself is iconic, and Abbi’s struggles with work and life are incredibly relatable, but Ilana’s more free spirited nature made her standout as the unbothered badass we all want to be in our 20s.

Let’s take a look at the impact of Ilana Wexler, how she was relatable and aspirational, and what makes her hedonistic character so enduring a decade later.

New Comedy Heroine(s)

Ilana’s best friendship with Abbi is the heart of the show. Stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer met while doing improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade and developed the idea for Broad City as a semi-autobiographical web series about their friendship. The co-creators and co-stars played heightened versions of themselves — Abbi Abrams and Ilana Wexler — getting into zany New York City misadventures. SNL alum Amy Poehler became their comedy mentor and executive produced Broad City as a TV show for Comedy Central. In 2014, the rest of the world met the two lovable stoners and their chaotic (yet mostly mundane) lives.

While it’s often compared to other shows, Broad City made space for itself as a stoner-girl comedy of errors, a sub-genre largely non-existent at the time. It was called “the female Workaholics,” the modern-day Sex and the City, and often referred to as the “anti-Girls.” There were a few melancholic moments towards the end of the series but overall they kept the tone light and upbeat.

“In da klerb, we all fam!” “What?” “In da klerb, we all fam.”

Both have a lot in common and a lot to say about the world but Abbi is the ‘straight man’ to Ilana’s wild card.

“This is the Abbi I love and fell in love with and I’m obsessed with.”

While Abbi’s plagued by anxiety and doubt, Ilana’s don’t-give-a-fuck attitude propels them both forward into messy and hilarious hijinks. They have a refreshingly relatable and enviable female friendship where they support each other equally despite any differences they might have. Their dynamic is similar to the chaos/order of 30 Rock’s Jenna Maroney and Liz Lemon, only Abbi and Ilana are more alike in their slacker ways. Ilana knows how to get Abbi out of her comfort zone, though they often get into sketchy situations, they always end up happily together. Even through all of the chaos of their lives, they have a tight bond that’s, sure, a little codependent, but also pretty enviable.

There’s an oddly wholesome optimism at the core of Broad City. They fail regularly, but never lose hope and continue to encourage each other. When Ilana has moments of feeling lost, she leans on Abbi, and vice versa. And even though they do start feeling the pull of real adulthood looming as the show goes on, and begin making plans to start reaching their goals (or even have goals to begin with,) Ilana never loses her free spirit. Even relatively small things like Abbi deciding to buy her own pot and Ilana deciding to do her own taxes without the help of her parents for the first time feel lowkey monumental in the way that taking your first real steps into adulthood often does. Neither of them have everything figured out, but they’re okay with it because they know that they can overcome anything together.

Confidently Flawed Icon

The appeal of both Abbi and Ilana is their authenticity. They’re young, broke post-grads working dead-end jobs and living with roommates (who aren’t each other) in an expensive city. But Ilana is arguably more aimless than Abbi, who manages to at least keep a steady (if incredibly unrewarding) job at Soulstice in the early seasons. Ilana, meanwhile, barely hangs on to her gig at Deals Deals Deals, a boring desk job which she’s always late for, sleeping through, and… sometimes doesn’t come in for at all. However, she also takes on odd jobs to get by — dog walking, busking, selling art or stolen office supplies, and answering creepy Craigslist ads for cleaning. She hates the grind but still hustles to make it. She’s truly an enterprising slacker, always looking for a way to make money without giving up the freedom she enjoys or having to take a gig that will totally zap her spirit.

Ilana is so self-assured that she doesn’t ever really even consider the fact that people might not like her, and lives life accordingly with unwavering confidence.

“Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana!”

She embraces the messiness of life. She’s all about body positivity and definitely isn’t shy about bodily functions or the grotesque nature of the human body. Being honest about gross aspects of life was often seen as something women weren’t supposed to talk about on screen or in real life. But Ilana was part of a new wave of comedy heroines who were upfront about all of the ups and downs of life, including the really gross parts.

Of course, movies like Bridesmaids exist but there’s still shame around the reality of women’s bodies, especially when it comes to menstruating. It’s this unabashedness that makes her confident energy so infectious.

One of Ilana’s most defining and celebrated character traits is her unapologetic desire for pleasure. Marijuana is a staple in her life, of course, but she’s most known for being sexually liberated. She’s a young, vibrant woman who isn’t afraid to let her attraction to men and women be loudly known. Ilana’s obsession with Abbi not so subtly borders on the romantic. But other than her best friend, Ilana maintains a somewhat steady sexual relationship with Lincoln, a responsible pediatric dentist who seemingly prefers monogamy but agrees to a polyamorous situationship with Ilana for most of the series. She relies on her best friend as her primary emotional relationship. And although she also has Lincoln, her roommate Jaimé, and her mom, Abbi will always be number one. Ilana also has a brief but intense fling with Adele, played by Alia Shawkat. It’s not surprising that Ilana finds a woman who looks exactly like her attractive. Funnily enough, she doesn’t even realize it until Abbi brings attention to it. Surprisingly the realization actually turns her off – while definitely loves herself, she also loves variety; she’s already got enough Ilana in her life, she wants to explore everything else the world has to offer. In the end, it’s Adele’s disinterest in smoking that’s the final nail in the coffin for the relationship.

Ilana is always up for supporting a good cause, but the show also sometimes lays bare how her activism can at times be misguided or even straight performative. While she’s generally well-intentioned and quick to call others out, she rarely (if ever) checks her own privilege, and even dips into cultural appropriation on occasion. The show uses these moments of obtuseness on Ilana’s part to call out the hypocrisy of this kind of thinking in a comedic way. Importantly she is always able to own up to her mistakes. While she generally goes with the flow of her own vibe, she’s able to learn from her missteps and grow to become a better, more aware person.

Redefining the Millennial Party Girl

No matter how self-interested she might occasionally, Ilana Wexler was and still is undeniably lovable. She’s the friend we all want: fun, loyal, adventurous, the perfect balance of lively and chill. And always ready with a compliment… no matter how inappropriate. She’s not just a lazy stoner or an unhinged hard-partier — she’s both. A carefree “womanchild” who lets her id lead the way. But unlike so many other coming-of-age shows centered on reckless millennials, Broad City doesn’t punish her for it. Most of us wish we could feel as confident and free as Ilana (even though in reality we’re usually more anxious and unsure like Abbi.)

Ilana always had an offbeat fashion sense, usually dressing for comfort but regularly donning attention-getting attire and accessories. Her wardrobe is a distillation of the late 2000 and early 2010s era: a mix of trendy American Apparel-esque pieces and thrift store finds — high-waisted short-shorts, Doc Martens, and midriff-baring tops aplenty. Her “night on the town” looks are even bolder and revealing. And for anyone with unruly curls, seeing her rock her natural hair was inspiring, especially Jewish people who grew up feeling the same frustration. But she also likes to experiment with colorful wigs, bold makeup, and ridiculously long nails. And some looks, like her signature gold hoops, veer into culturally appropriative territory – which Jaimie does eventually call her out on.

Ilana connected with fans because so many were (and often still are) feeling the crush of post-grad pressure to become “real” adults in a world where that seems kind of impossible (and lowkey miserable.) She showed that you could still keep your youthful, carefree side, enjoy the many pleasures of life, get a little crazy, and still build a happy life for yourself surrounded by people who care about you. Growing up doesn’t have to mean giving up, and Ilana stayed true to herself until the end.


We love seeing real people on our screens and Ilana was one of the realest. Broad City fans were devastated when it came to an end in 2019. But after five seasons and 50 episodes, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer had other creative ventures they wanted to explore. Still, their heightened characters live on through them.

In a time where we’re still talking about messy, complex female characters and the concerns around female characters being “unlikable,” Ilana’s bold spirit is greatly missed on our screens every week. But it’s also great to look back at the trail she blazed and the doors she opened for all of the wacky, over the top, but still totally chill characters that have followed in her footsteps. She might not exactly be a role model, but she always had a good heart – and that counts for a lot.