Abbi Jacobson’s Broad City character is an artist, a detail pulled straight from the real Jacobson’s life. She’s published two books previously: the city-centric coloring books Color This Book: New York City and Color This Book: San Francisco. Now the illustrator adds a more conceptual book to her collection with Carry This Book, a collection of imagined items found in the purses, pockets, and backpacks of famous people. The bright line drawings contain a trove of clever imaginings, like Beyoncé’s surprisingly everyday items and Ruth Bader Ginsburg listening to Jock Jams. Each page is a Where’s Waldo? of new details revealing themselves on a closer look. “I’ve been illustrating and doing art for a while,” Jacobson told The A.V. Club. “I went to school for it, and I feel like doing this now has opened that up again for me.” We talked to her about what caught our eye in her new book, from Bernie Madoff’s secret feather to Martha Stewart’s musical tastes to the page that she draws for her character on Broad City.
The A.V. Club: The page that sticks out to me the most is Donald Trump’s. If you were to update his page today, would you add anything?
Abbi Jacobson: Yeah, probably. His was one of the first ones I drew, probably in April. I would definitely update it. I would maybe earmark a page in the dictionary for “tremendous.” What else would I do? I would probably have him looking up way more words than I wrote. I think I just wrote “civil rights” and “menstruation.” I would have him probably note to self to look up more important words that he clearly does not know what they are. Yeah, I would definitely do a lot. And then I’d probably be sued, right? That’s how it works.
AVC: He hasn’t tried to sue you yet?
AJ: Not yet. [Laughs.] No, it doesn’t get too insane.
AVC: Why is Ruth Bader Ginsburg listening to Jock Jams?
AJ: I think that she needs, like, a pump-up. And I think Jock Jams is a classic pump-up. Like before she starts working, she needs that. Hers was so fun to draw because there’s a couple things she obviously wears that dickey and the glove and the box of stuff, but everything else was just clearly made up, and kind of ridiculous that she would have. Like Dave & Buster’s, and even that she would have those headphones and stuff.
AVC: I love the idea of seeing Ruth Bader Ginsburg at Dave & Buster’s just letting loose.
AJ: Me, too. I will say—very hard to keep up with these people because one day they’re saying some crazy shit. So, maybe would have updated Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s at this point, too.
AVC: This probably would have been easier in pre-internet days when you didn’t have a constant stream of information coming at you all the time.
AJ: Yeah, seriously. All of the people that are alive are just saying stuff all the time that makes you change your mind a little bit about them. So, I probably could have added to a lot of people.
AVC: Is there a story behind Bernie Madoff having a secret feather on his page?
AJ: No, there’s nothing behind that. I think I was just playing with the fact that all his shit is like, “Who the fuck knows?” He has all these secret things that he doesn’t reveal. His was one of my favorites, because I could actually comment on stuff. That was one of the first ones I drew as well. I think that some of the bad guys are a little bit easier or a little bit more fun to poke fun at, if that makes sense. I’m just turning to that page so I can see it a little bit better. It’s a lucky feather. That’s why I was like, “What did you say?”
AVC: Lucky feather, not secret feather. He has something else that’s a secret on his page.
AJ: I just wanted to make his thing like a lucky poker chip. I bet he has all these things like—if he got away with all that for so long, he has to be like—I don’t know how people have those weird superstitions. It’s like good luck. I don’t know. Who knows.
AVC: I really like Beyoncé’s, speaking of ones that are not evil people. I think hers is one of my favorites, because it’s super normal stuff. You’d expect her to have very glamorous items in her purse, but she has Cheerios for her daughter and deodorant in there.
AJ: Yeah, I just put The Secret on there that Beyoncé had “the secret” and everything, but I like to think those people that we all love are pretty normal, but they kind of can’t live that way anymore. When it comes down to it, they’re just doing the same shit we are. I doubt she has punch cards, but that was just the most normal thing to do, and I was, like, maybe she does. And who knows if I got the right hot sauce. It’s going to be controversial that I got the wrong brand of hot sauce, but that’s the brand I use, and clearly I was trying to draw a lot of comparisons to myself on this page.
AVC: One of the other ones I love is Martha Stewart’s. Listening to Eminem.
AJ: Yeah, I think she is actually a legit Eminem fan.
AJ: Yeah, I read that somewhere, which is why I put it on there. Do you remember when she did some roast of somebody? I think she roasted Justin Bieber, and she fucking killed it. I’m sure she had a team of writers, but she really killed it. I just think she’s a badass. And that page was really fun for me, because I read she was into Eminem somewhere. The drawing on that page is a little different. I got to draw all the produce and stuff. She just seems so interesting. I feel like her days are longer than 24 hours. You know what I mean? She packs so much in.
AVC: I always wonder when I’m looking at her recipes online if she actually comes up with those or if it’s just her team.
AJ: I know. I just feel like she’s really living a full life, right?
AVC: An item on Martha Stewart’s to-do list is to read The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up and try to enjoy it.
AJ: I read it, and I did enjoy that. I haven’t totally done it. I think Martha would be like, “This girl has a point.” Because Martha is not just cooking and stuff. I feel like her brand is still all home stuff. Organization, too. And I feel like that would be a big competitor. So, that’s kind of what that was. She has to read it just to know what’s going on. That book was one of the most popular books of last year, right? I feel like everyone was reading that book and trying to better themselves. Which is such a Martha Stewart thing. I actually was writing it in terms of being competitive.
AVC: So it’s encroaching on her brand territory.
AJ: Yeah, but it also could be that because it is a book where you’re, like, you should try to enjoy it, too. Where it’s a little hard to try to enjoy it, because you realize what a slob you are.
AVC: You draw your Broad City character’s page in the book. Are the contents in her backpack significantly different from the contents of yours?
AJ: Definitely. I did Abbi and Ilana in the show, so I was kind of putting a lot of the elements from the seasons onto the page. It depends on where I’m going. Right now I have a backpack, so I have a lot of shit with me.
AVC: What’s in your backpack now?
AJ: I have a computer and a couple of books and a journal and a notebook. I do carry a lot of pens with me. Like the pens from the tools page. I do that.
AVC: Do you have a favorite brand of pen?
AJ: Actually, these are not the ones I carry. Sharpie makes a really good everyday pen. It’s smaller than a marker. I carry a lipstick. A lip gloss. Headphones. I like to have a charger on me. Depending on what time of the month it is, I tend to have some tampons. Lots of drugs. Cocaine. I’m kidding. [Laughs.] I do have Purell. I feel like my stuff is pretty functional, unfortunately, for this interview.
I do carry a fortune—a couple fortunes. I gave one to Michelle Obama in the book. Let me see. Like the actual fortune. Yeah, it’s one of my favorite fortunes. On her page it says, “Tomorrow is an important day for you.” I have that in my wallet, because that’s the best fortune. It’s always going to be “tomorrow’s an important day.” That’s great. So I just put it on Michelle Obama’s page. You know, Michelle and I are pretty similar.
AVC: Like you and Beyoncé.
AJ: Exactly. It’s basically just me.
AVC: You three are a league of your own. I’m looking at your character’s page again. Do you go to Bed Bath & Beyond a lot and use those coupons that never expire?
AJ: I don’t. I used to a lot, and the storyline in that episode where Bevers throws away all those coupons was from that my mom used to work at Bed Bath & Beyond when I was in middle school and high school. That’s sort of where that came from. Her friends at Bed Bath & Beyond were the nicest guys. And that’s where Abbi on the show’s love of that store comes from. So my mom would send me those coupons and I would collect them and kept them in an envelope. And my roommate threw them all away because he had looked through them all and saw that they had all expired. And I was like, “Mike. They don’t fucking ever expire.” And so we just put that in the show.
I used to use them all the time. I think I do still have some, and I do go to Bed Bath & Beyond every once in a while.