One of the most accurate aspects of Broad City‘s depiction of 20something life in New York is the awkward roommate. (We’ve all encountered them — or maybe we are the awkward roommate.) Technically, Abbi’s roommate is a pretty girl who likes to volunteer in Haiti and vacation with her family, and is never, ever there. Instead, Abbi is tormented by her roommate’s ever-present boyfriend, Bevers, who violates basically every social code possible. As Bevers, John Gemberling brings sloth-like behavior to a new level, disregarding any concept of boundaries. Thanks to him, we now understand that couch sores are a thing, and will think twice before settling in for our next Netflix binge. (Or at least do it with pants on.) We chatted with the UCB alum about his role on Broad City and the NBC sitcom Marry Me, and brainstormed some potential Lifetime movie pitches (should anyone from their programming depart be reading this).
First question is one I think everyone wants to know. Are you like Bevers in real life?
John Gemberling: [Laughs.] Like in the sense that Bevers is, underneath it all, a smart, thoughtful, sensitive person? I would say so. I don’t want to undercut my acting ability but I’m pretty similar to Bevers. I did spend much of my 20s sitting on a couch playing video games and ordering disgusting food. I haven’t been too shy about where I’ve masturbated, historically, and I’m comfortable with my naked body. There’s a lot of similarities.
We recently saw Abbi try to get Bevers into shape. Throughout the series she’s wanted to become a trainer — not a janitor. Do you think she has what it takes?
She would be a good trainer for me personally. I’ve had one or two personal trainers at different times — and it’s expensive, first of all — but they always make me feel uncomfortable because they’re jocks who just yell at you. I would prefer an Abbi-type who felt more like a real person. I would like a softer touch, and a more encouraging tone.
Do you think we’ll ever meet Bevers’ girlfriend? What are some defining characteristics about the mystery woman?
I think the defining characteristic is that she’s patient. I don’t know who she is that she’s OK with her boyfriend’s situation. She clearly does all the heavy lifting in the relationship, and from photos you see, she’s pretty beautiful. Maybe she has something wrong with her that she would date down to such a degree? [Laughs.]
[Whether we meet her is] really up to Abbi and Ilana. I think it would have to be a real good moment. My feeling now is that there’s still mileage to be gotten out of her mysteriousness. Every show needs a Wilson type of character that you see fleetingly.
How well did you know Abbi and Ilana from UCB?
I didn’t know them super-well, but I was friendly with them and my wife and I hung out with Ilana and her brother from time to time. They brought over… what was that Rosie O’Donnell Lifetime movie? Riding the Bus with My Sister? Where Rosie O’Donnell is a mentally disabled woman riding the bus, and her sister is one of those ’90s actresses that you couldn’t tell apart? [Ed. note: Riding the Bus with My Sister aired on CBS, starring O’Donnell and Andie MacDowell.] There were a bunch of them and they were all in the movie Bad Girls. But I’m digressing. I was in their web series briefly, and then they had this pilot and said, “We have this character we want you to play,” and they really followed through. Usually people in this business say, “I want you to do something” and it never works out. This time it did.
I’ll digress here, too. Who should Lifetime’s next biopic be about?
They love mining these celebrity tragedies. The biopic is only entertaining if you know that at the end the person is going to die horribly. [Laughs.] The whole movie is just like noise, a preface to seeing how they handle the death scene at the end. It’s sort of ghoulish. Who’s somebody who died tragically? Maybe Fabio — he’s not dead but a Lifetime movie that leads up to him on that roller coaster getting smashed in the face with that goose.
Broad City producer Amy Poehler weighs in on the show’s appeal.