‘It is true survival to be pregnant in New York’: Ilana Glazer on comedy, motherhood in NYC

“Broad City’s” Ilana Glazer is back on screen with a new movie, “Babes,” about two best friends in New York City.

Glazer plays Eden, a single woman living in Astoria who runs her own yoga studio. She’s spontaneous and a bit chaotic and really misses her best friend Dawn (Michelle Buteau), who moved from Astoria to Manhattan with her husband and son.

Dawn and Eden have always prioritized each other, but when Dawn’s second baby is born, things start to change. Eden then finds out she’s pregnant from a one-night stand and decides to keep the baby.

Eden’s decision puts a strain on their friendship as both women try to navigate their new, changing realities. “Babes” is directed by comedy veteran Pamela Adlon and opens in theaters on Friday.

Glazer, Buteau and Adlon talked to Kousha Navidar on a recent episode of “All of It” about friendship, pregnancy and the ease of finding comedy in New York City. An edited version of their conversation is below.

Ilana, I want to start with you. When you decided to write a comedy about pregnancy and giving birth and motherhood, what were some things you knew you wanted to achieve with the script?

Ilana Glazer: I wanted it to be as funny as possible. I wrote this movie with Josh Rabinowitz, and I was pregnant at the time and his wife was pregnant at the time. Our producer, Susie Fox, had a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. We put together a list of the most surprising and absurd things that we were experiencing, becoming parents and being parents of little ones. We realized that we hadn’t seen this before in film. This list was just so hilarious that we knew we had to make it.

Michelle, what drew you to Dawn’s character?

Michelle Buteau: First of all, the movie was hilarious, and I love Ilana and we’re friends, so I trust her. Then when Pamela was attached as a director, I’m like, “How do I say no?”

Plus, I was already a tired mom of two kids trying to get back to work. I’m like, “Ooh, baby. I have not just done the research, I’m living the research.”

There’s two birthing scenes in this movie, and you aren’t shy about some of the more grisly aspects of having a baby. Ilana, what did you want to capture about the experience of giving birth in these scenes?

Glazer: I love the way we bookend this movie with birth and the way that Pamela made both of them melodic and musical. The cues explain it all, where the first birth is bombastic and bold, and while this character has been there, there’s still a shock to the experience of giving birth.

While we have had visceral comedy in our final scene, we were so excited about the little monologue that my character, Eden, gives in the awe and wonder of childbirth, and making space for that wonder, which we have so little of.

Pamela Adlon: Without it being a spoiler, that is such a beautiful moment, Ilana, and it’s so childlike. Her wonder at her bringing a child. It’s just … you got to see it.

Eden and Dawn are at two very different stages of adulthood when we start the movie. Pamela, what do you think keeps them bonded despite their different life experiences they’re going through?

Adlon: That’s their sinew from childhood – they are connected and you don’t doubt that. But then they get married and it’s like, “Wait, you’re doing a thing without me? I need to be part of all of this!” You do that when you’re friends. You go along for all those rides, then somebody has a kid, and then you’re really out in the cold, and then another kid is coming. You want that space.

When you have a friend in your life and they get married, what if – God forbid – you didn’t like their spouse? What happens? There’s so much nuance to people, individuating in their lives, and then being able to go back to each other and turn back. We say that this is a love story between two best friends.

Eden is on a ride in this movie. She’s at a place in her life where having a child wasn’t really on the agenda, but she decides she wants to keep it. Why?

Ilana Glazer: I don’t want to give any spoilers, but we have the line, “This feels like Destiny’s Child.” This character is a weirdo who doesn’t fit into the typical standard narrative that Michelle’s character, Dawn, does so easily.

Dawn is this magnet and community leader. You don’t see those scenes of this character’s life, but you can tell, and she has a husband and kids, and even though it’s hard, she just fills that role so effortlessly, seemingly.

Whereas Eden’s her weird best friend and doesn’t connect with people often. You can tell she hasn’t had many romantic relationships in her life, and when she has this special evening with this special person, it’s important for her to keep that experience alive, and she makes the full choice about her own body to have this baby.

She goes all in. Michelle, Dawn doesn’t have everything figured out either. In fact, after having her second baby, she goes through a period of depression and guilt that I felt was really well portrayed in the movie. How does Dawn struggle with that balance between being a working woman with a life of her own and a dedicated mother?

Buteau: I feel like I owe all of those performances to Pamela and Ilana for writing it with Josh and Pamela because – if I was not a mom and trying to keep it all together, I would think that you always have to put on a happy face, and that’s just not realistic.

Sometimes you use a tone with your partner that you love, that you don’t mean to, and sometimes you look at your kids in a way where you’re just like, “I do love you, but I need to love me right now.”

I’m sure there are many things about motherhood, but is there one thing you could point out that you didn’t fully appreciate or understand until it happened to you?

Adlon: What, me?


Adlon: I say this to everybody endlessly, like an 80-year-old man walking down Tompkins Street: “Enjoy it while you got it.” You can’t when you’re in it. You really don’t have the ability to shake it off because you’re so exhausted. It’s like, if you can just give yourself that little bit of patience, that little bit of grace.

I remember when I had three and I just needed to go to the bathroom to take a shower. I walked into the bathroom and I just said to somebody who I might’ve been married to at the time, “Can you watch them? I’m going to go shower.”

I went into the bathroom and I closed the door and locked the door. I get into the shower, turn on the water, and then the banging started, “Mama, mama, mama, mama.” Dude, that was my shower.

Viewers are going to have so much fun recognizing different locations and also relating to Eden’s struggle of riding three or more different trains to get back to her apartment, which is pretty accurate. Was it the 7 to the G to-

Glazer: The Q to the N.

The Q to the N. Yes, that’s right.

Glazer: [laughs]

Ilana, how did you want to capture that particular experience of pregnancy and parenthood in New York? What makes it different from maybe having the same life experience in other places?

Glazer: It is true survival to be pregnant in New York. I just took my daughter to a dance class and I saw a pregnant woman walking on the sidewalk. If you are pregnant in New York, you are climbing. It’s as though you’re climbing the side of a mountain just walking on the sidewalk. It’s like the light of my life as an artist to write stories about dynamics between people in New York, about New York, and to incorporate the textures.

There’s a music about New York and a comedy rhythm – it just unfolds before you. You look around and there’s a classic comedy scene unfolding on every corner.

One of the most incredible things about New York is that we have geniuses here. We have these geniuses in our movie. This cast, Oliver Platt, Hasan Minhaj, Sandra Bernhard, Stephan James, the Lucas brothers.

Elena Ouspenskaia is the fan favorite, Dragana, Eden’s doula. This is this woman’s first movie and she nails it. That’s New York, too. All these people are here, showing up as locals. John Carroll Lynch walked to set. He’s like, “I don’t need a ride.” He walked to set. It was fabulous to have these real New Yorkers paint this picture with us.

Adlon: Also, everybody is terrified of John Carroll Lynch. They see him walking down the street, they’re like, “Oh my God.”

Glazer: Yes, try having him between your legs.


I think I might need another thumbs up from my producer on that one. Listen, it’s all love. This is going to be an interesting segue from that, so forgive me. The film gets a little gross. It gets wacky, but it also gets very sincere. Ilana, I guess the question that pops into my mind for you as a storyteller, how do you find the right balance between humor and other genuine, sincere emotions?

Glazer: The things that are being said to be gross, I find to be simply true, and simply real, and rather uncovered in common discourse. Women are talking about this to each other all the time in order to deal with being policed out there verbally and legally in our bodies, in our words. When Josh and I were writing it with Susie Fox, and every step of the way as we were producing it, we wanted to make sure this stayed true to big comedy, big feelings, hard comedy with a lot of heart.

I don’t think things are very funny if they aren’t backed up with grounded truths, with vulnerability. I don’t find a hard comedy slapstick thing funny, unless it’s also vulnerable, unless it’s also sad, and evoking some sort of loss or something. In the same way that hate is a part of love, these deep, dark feelings are the other side of the same coin of comedy for me.

We’ve been talking to Ilana Glazer, who is the co-writer and one of the stars; Michelle Buteau, the other star; and Pamela Adlon, the star director. Thank you all so much for being here. So much fun.

Glazer: What a blast.

Buteau: Thank you.

Adlon: Go see “Babes.”

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