January 20, 2017

#4: Abbi Jacobson

by Twice Removed

Background show artwork for Twice Removed


Twice Removed is produced by Meg Driscoll, Ngofeen Mputubwele, Audrey Quinn, and Kimmie Regler. Our senior producer is Eric Mennel. Editing by Jorge Just and Alex Blumberg. Michelle Harris is our fact checker. Research help from The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, Robert Rockaway. Genealogical help from Jordan Auslander, J. Mark Lowe, David Zuckerman, Erica Howton and the people at Geni. Music and sound design by Haley Shaw.

Special thanks to John Molina, Sandra Mann, Jane Trepagnier, Tim Martin, Andrew Hudson, Bria Schreiber, Melissa Kates and our olympic co-eds singers: Molly Messick, Simone Polanen and Stevie Lane.

You can email us at TwiceRemoved@gimletmedia.com. We tweet @TwiceRemoved. We’re also on Facebook. If you’re a fan of the show, we would love it if you could rate or review us on iTunes. It makes a big, big difference and is really one of the best ways to help others find out about the show. So hop into iTunes or your podcast app and let us know what you think of the show. After all, we’re family...

Twice Removed is a production of Gimlet Media. I’m AJ Jacobs, we’ll be back in two weeks.

Where to Listen


AJ: I don’t know if you remember, but we met pretty early in your career. It was a show where you would set world records.

Abbi: Yes, yes yes yes yes.

AJ: And my world record it was the longest single sustained note on hand cooing. Which is when you cup your hands… {coo}

Abbi: I remember making that face when you did that before because that’s so good. You’re so good at it.

AJ: Thanks, Abbi.

Abbi: Right?



This is Twice Removed, the show that proves we are, in fact, one big family. I’m AJ Jacobs. Right now, I have two people, in this building, in separate studios. And what they do not realize is they’re related. They’re family. One of them… our mystery relative will be hidden away until the end of the episode.


Our other … is sitting right here with me…our guest… who is looking around to see if - no you’re not gonna see this mystery relative. Can you introduce yourself please…


Abbi: Alright, I’m Abbi Jacobson. I’m a writer actor producer illustrator

AJ: A lot of slashes.

Abbi: I love a good slash.


you’re most well-known as co-creator and star of Broad City, the TV show on Comedy Central. And for listeners who might not be familiar with the show, how would you describe it? And shame on them for not being familiar with it.


Abbi: Yeah I can’t believe I even have to do this - um. (Laughs) Yeah the - we are about to enter our 4th season. And the show is about 2, 20 something best friends living in New York City.    

Abbi: It’s me and uh Ilana Glazer.


You were doing comedy well before the TV show. Broad City was a web series… there was improv. But I’m wondering… what was one of the first jokes or pranks you ever pulled? .

Abbi:  Um...My mom’s dad we would do this thing that was so dumb! he would like smash my face into like the pie.

Abbi: Like right before we were about to eat it. I think we only did it a couple times cause it ruined dessert. It like ruined dessert for everybody. But I remember being like, we’re really committing to this joke because everyone was about to enjoy this thing that now no one will eat, you know? Like we ruined it, but go hard or go home, you know?

So that was your grandpa…

Abbi: Yeah.

That was your mom’s father, Harry. Harry Mehr.

Abbi: Yeah yeah.

And what was he like?

Abbi: He was like a hustler, you know, he was like struggling, he was like 1 of 11. We do-

AJ: 1 of 11 kids.

Abbi: Yeah, we do this thing in the 1st episode of last season, where I put gum on the end of something and try to get Ilana’s keys in the sewer.

AJ: I remember, yeah.


Abbi: And that was from, my grandfather used to tell me about how he put gum on the end of a stick and put it down the sewer and get coins that people had dropped.


AJ: So he was a real hustler.

Abbi: Yeah, like he would like deliver old, like day old newspapers. Like comin’ up with schemes because they were so poor.

Alright, Abbi… Here’s how Twice Removed works.

Abbi: Okaaay.

We’ve spent the last several months doing research, talking to historians and distant relatives... finding people who are related to you.

Abbi: So cool.

Here we have our official Twice Removed Map. On the far left side, that’s you, Abbi…  On the far right side, is your mystery relative… You can see their name is covered up….

Abbi: They’re here?

They are! They’re in the building in a secure location.

So in between the two of you are forty-three family members, all connected by blood or marriage.

And we’re going to make our way straight through this chain of relatives, one relative to the next... to the next, to the next… all the way to number forty-three ... your mystery relative. And along the way, we’ll stop at five of the most interesting people, and tell their stories.

We’ll investigate a fifty year old cold case -

Abbi: whoa.

that’s left your family reeling…

Abbi: What?

we’re gonna hear about another record breaking moment… slightly more notable than my hand coo. Which is hard to believe.

Abbi: Can’t believe it.

As you listen, you’re gonna notice a theme running through these stories… family members who are, I think it’s safe to say... hustlers. We’ve got funny hustles, dark hustles, side hustles… Abbi, your family tree is full of hard workers who do whatever it takes to get the job done.

Abbi: whoa

And at the end of the show... after we’ve made our way to the end of this chain... we’re gonna bring your mystery relative into the studio… for a family reunion like like no other.

Abbi: So cool. I love that hustler thing. I feel like I’m a hustler.   

AJ: I think you are.

Abbi: I’m feeling good this is exciting.

AJ: Yeah?

Abbi: yeah I’m like who is who is this?

AJ: Who do you want it to be?

Abbi: I don’t know do I know them?

AJ: Dwayne the rock Johnson? Do you want it to be Dwayne?

Abbi: Yeah?

AJ: Do you know him?

Abbi: Well now I know it’s not. You’re not gonna - actually MAYBE YOU WOULD SAY WHO IT IS to really throw me off!

AJ: That’s right.

Abbi: It’s probably Dwayne the Rock Johnson he definitely has nothing else going on right now.

AJ: Well he’s family he does it for you.

Okay Abbi, now I’m gonna check in with our mystery - is this our mystery relative? You will not be able to hear - but um - Hello mystery relative. I’m talking to you - I can hear you, but Abbi cannot.

AJ: [laughs]

Mystery Relative: I am freaking out. I can't handle suspense. Abbi loves surprises. I think she's loving it right now.

AJ: So what will you do when you first meet your - your long lost relative?

Mystery Relative: I'll give her a kiss and a hug.

AJ: That sounds nice. All right sir, we’ll be back to you soon.

Sit tight...remember these are your relatives too so enjoy. and  soon you’ll be meeting Abbi Jacobson face to face.

Hopefully the two of you will be filled with delight... or it could be abject horror... you never know... its family. Let’s do it!


(Abbi laughs)



For our first story Abbi, take a look at the map, we are moving along the chain… going two steps from you… first your mom, and then to your late grandfather, Harry.  This is the pie prankster grandpa you told us about at the top of the show.


Harry ran an Army Navy Store… and we got the idea he was a bit of an eccentric. He loved to surround himself with weird things. He’d hand out rabbits feet to little kids.


At one point he even had a myna bird in the store that would swear at his customers. Did you know about that?


Abbi: No but that sounds exactly right.


It spoke in voice of your grandmother, his wife. And it would say, “fuck you!” “fuck you!”


Abbi: No.

AJ: Yeah.

Abbi: Are you kidding?

AJ: No.

AJ: Well what happened was like - yeah the myna bird -

AJ: Uh he taught it to say “hello Harry” or something. She got annoyed so he brought it to the store and the store employees taught it to say “fuck you.” But it’s in your grandma’s voice.

Abbi: That’s so funny.


Like you said, he was a depression era kid... He didn’t grow up with much… So once he finally did have money,  he liked to buy lots of things…And really big things ...  it was a source of pride for him.


Abbi: yeah.


And there’s no better example of this than his love … for huge halloween pumpkins.


Abbi: Yes! we had one in my yard growing up.

AJ: Oh you did!

Abbi: Yeah.

AJ: How big was it?

Abbi: It - I remember one year it was huge.  It was like a huge pumpkin that would be in front of like a mall. the night before Halloween is called Mischief night - and I remember these kids smashed it.

AJ: Did they ever the pu- pumpkin smashers?

Abbi: No. But I remember he would do it every year. I think he would do it before - uh he would put it front of the store too.

AJ: Right. Well it’s very interesting. Cause -


This brings us to this article from a small New Jersey newspaper, written in 1967. And we have that article. And Abbi could you read this section for me please?


Abbi: “Halloween hobgoblins are evidently still on the prowl - despite the fact that trick or treating concluded two days ago. Ghouls with a sweet tooth for pumpkin pie last night stole a 160 pound pumpkin from the backyard of a home at Willlgoos Avenue Pennsauken”

Abbi: cont: that’s where my mom grew up!  

AJ: Exactly. Your grandpa’s house in New Jersey.

Abbi: Yes.


All right so the night this article, under the cover of darkness, someone stole his prized 160 pound pumpkin. That’s like a bean bag - size of a bean bag and heavy as a grown man. From what Harry could tell... somebody, or someBODIES, would have needed to lift this massive pumpkin over the chain link fence in the backyard. And then roll it through a field to make a getaway.


The article says your grandfather was surprised that someone could even lift it.  Apparently -- this is the sad part -- his three year old daughter Jackie… that’s your aunt… just stared at the spot where the pumpkin had been... and cried.


Abbi: I mean it’s funny and sad.

AJ: Thought so.


Well Abbi, the whole thing did not sit right with us. I mean, there were SO many questions…..Who did it?... Why?...  How?... Okay, so there were 3 questions. But still…each of these questions went unanswered for forty-nine years. So we felt we had to do something.  


Phone rings.

POLICE: Hello, Pennsauken police.


So we called the local police for help.


AJ: Hello, my name is AJ Jacobs and I’m recording a story about a theft from 50 years ago.

POLICE:  What?! A story from 50 years ago? No one’s gonna have any info about that.

AJ: Well it was important to the victim, the victim died and we just want to solve it on behalf of him.

Because he would really want it solved, like it was his dying wish,

Abbi: [laughs]  

AJ: well it wasnt exactly but it could have been.

POLICE: ….kay

AJ: It was the theft of a pumpkin, a prized pumpkin,160 pounds


AJ: So is that something you see often?


AJ: Has there been any theft in the last decade

POLICE: Not that I know of.

AJ: So it sorta spiked in the 60s

POLICE: I have no idea.

AJ: If we are trying to solve this, what are some tips

POLICE: I don’t know sir. I have no idea sir.

AJ: Is there DNA testing that could be done?

POLICE: No. No that didn’t exist

           POLICE: Sorry sir i have to put you on hold. (Deep Sigh)

AJ: Okay.


AJ: Don’t think he’s coming back.


He didn’t come back. It was a dead end.  We’d have to solve it on our own. So just a few days after Halloween, I recruited my producer Meg and together we started thinking ... what would cops do right now? Meg said… get lunch? I agreed. Over lunch, Meg said, maybe we should ask one of the victims...


RICK: I woke up in the morning to going out the back door to school - I was in high school at the time. I saw the pumpkin wasn’t there. I do remember jumping over the fence

RICK: looking seeing if i saw any residue of the pumpkin, I looked on the fence to see if there was any orange scrapings, and on the sidewalk. nothing. And My sister was upset, cause she liked climbing on it with her little friends, I think she was 3 or 4 years old. //

RICK: I was just amazed.


Abbi: That’s my Uncle Rick.


Yes, it’s your Uncle Rick… Harry was his father…


Abbi: Yes.


Rick runs your grandfather’s Army Navy store now.


Abbi: Yes.


Abbi, you know your grandfather better than I do, was he the type of guy who would leave a forty nine year old... one hundred sixty pound score... unsettled?


Abbi: he probably still thought about it. Every time Halloween rolled around.

AJ: If not every day.

Abbi: Yeah.


Your Uncle Rick felt the same way..


RICK:  He was someone who liked closure of things if something...was an issue he liked to get to the bottom of it.

AJ: Well I think we've got to close this case for your dad. 





And Rick gave us our most important lead yet...


AJ: what do you think? Who stole the pumpkin and how did they do it?

RICK: Years later I was given the name of a guy... who I knew. this young guy was a troublemaker in the neighborhood, and if somebody was going to steal the pumpkin, I could imagine that he would have been the one.

AJ: have you run into this guy since then?

RICK: No, we don’t really travel  in the same circles. I don’t even know where he is. But if I saw him

AJ: what would you say to him?

RICK: did you steal our pumpkin back in 1967? I would just ask him the question

Abbi: [laughs]

AJ: flat out.

Abbi: [laughs]

Eventually, Rick gave up the name...


RICK: His name is Billy [Air Horn]



AJ: Billy [Air Horn]

AJ: Whoa, that’s a hard last name to spell.


I turned to my producer Meg and said... are you thinking what I’m thinking? And Meg said…. Get lunch? Over lunch, Meg said…. maybe we should we try and find

Billy [sound effect].  So we got in the car...


MD: So AJ we are just up the street, from our alleged pumpkin thief’s home, how are you feeling right now?

Abbi: [laughing]

AJ: I’m actually quite nervous, I really am, I got a little pitter pat, I got some brow sweat // I want to do right by Harry and Rick, I want to give them some justice.

Aj: and if we don’t solve it, then who is, it's all on us, it’s on all on our shoulders.



AJ: Okay, let’s do it.  


So we walk towards the door..               


AJ: It is the creepiest house on the street!

Abbi: [laughing]

AJ: And all the shades are drawn that’s - that’s freaking me out. totally dark. Skeletons swinging from a tree. Eesh. It’s got a lot of pumpkins in the yard. All right, well this - oh and a pumpkin flag? Oh my god. I mean this is too perfect. This is insane. He’s got a pumpkin fetish. I mean, even if he doesn’t confess, this is like enough evidence to bury him a thousand times over.




We were finally there, in the dark, no one around, only crickets, we were so nervous that we accidentally turned off the recorder for a minute.


I knocked on the door. A man with grey hair answered. He was the right age to have stolen a pumpkin in 1967.


I said, we’re looking for Billy [sound effect] and he said, I’m Billy [sound effect].


AJ: we’re doing one story on this thing that happened 50 years ago. And we were told that you actually might know something about it. Can I ask you?

Billy: Yeah sure, I mean - what’s the -

AJ: It was - believe it or not. There was a 160 pound pumpkin in a yard and it disappeared. Does that ring a bell?

[long pause]

[wind chimes]


Abbi: [laughing] What?


Billy: I don’t know if I remember rolling a giant pumpkin down the…I don’t - I can’t, I can’t place it.

AJ: So there is something in your mind about a giant pumpkin being rolled.

Billy: Yeah

Billy: I think I remember seeing something in the paper about - it said, Hal - Halloween goblin, goblins strike or something?

AJ: Oh yeah! That was it!

Billy: Is that it, is that it?

AJ: That’s the one!

Billy: Oh my god!

Billy: [Really?”]! Holy geez.

AJ: So you remember that! Wait wait.

Billy: I remember seeing it in the paper.

AJ: Cause that’s the article that started this whole thing -

AJ: Yeah you know -


Billy: how bout that?

AJ: we were like - that is so cool.

Billy: Wow.


AJ: Exactly.

Abbi: Billy [makes air horn noise]

AJ: Come on. Let’s take the facts right?


He remembers the lede of the newspaper article... about a pumpkin theft... from fifty years ago.


Abbi: Yeah but he also - the first thing he said was - Do I remember rolling a big pumpkin down a hill?

Abbi: He was like can I still be like tried for this or whatever.

AJ: I know exactly. I - I don’t know about the statute of limitations we should have looked into that.


The more we learned about Billy, the more we were convinced we had our guy.


Billy: I - got in trouble a lot. Staying out all night.

AJ: What were you doing out all night,

Billy: We waited for the A and P Watermelon truck to come down Highland Avenue. and the guy always slept in the car. So we crawled up inside and we handed watermelons down to everybody and we took off.

AJ: No way.

Stealing watermelons? Or, as many people call them, the pumpkin of fruits


I turned to my producer Meg and said are you thinking what I’m thinking? And Meg said……. Get lunch? I agreed. Over lunch.. Meg said...We totally caught our guy! And then she said... we’ve gotta make one last stop.


AJ: We are outside Harry’s Army and Navy Store, in New Jersey. And we’re trying to get some closure on the story.

AJ: All right, let’s do it.


We decided to leave a 160 pound pumpkin on the stoop of your grandfather’s Army Navy store - the store your uncle Rick runs now. Actually… we couldn’t find a 160 pound pumpkin, so we had to leave four 40 pound pumpkins.


Abbi Laughs


And we left a note. Dear Rick... I know we can never get back that original 160 pound pumpkin. But, we hope that these will fill that pumpkin-shaped hole in your heart. Signed AJ, Meg, and the Twice Removed Team. PS - we couldn’t find one 160 pound pumpkin so we’re giving you 4, 40 pounders. Hope you understand.


Abbi: That’s awesome.


AJ: how do you think Harry, your grandfather, would feel about this resolution?


Abbi: I think he would feel great. I think he - I mean that’s - thank you for doing that. That’s so nice.


OK… We need to take a short break. When we come back… Poop. [pause] Right after these words from our sponsors.

Abbi: Interesting.

AJ: Mmm-hmm.


Welcome back to Twice Removed, the show that proves we are in fact one big family.Actually this is interesting… we need to make a correction to the story we just heard. I’m getting word from the mystery guest that we made a mistake… So mystery guest? Remember, Abbi can’t hear you, the rest of us can. Please tell us what we got wrong in the pumpkin theft story?


Mystery Guest Response.

AJ: Ohhhh. Interesting. This mystery guest is smart!

Mystery Relative: Yeah I’m a genius.

AJ: Okay. Abbi - said that watermelons are the pumpkins of fruit. Mystery guest tells us that pumpkins

Abbi: are fruit.

AJ: are. fruit.

Abbi: cause of the seeds.

AJ: cause of the se- you knew that too?

Abbi: Well we’re related.

So, Abbi, we’re gonna move past your grandfather, I’m wondering… how much do you know about your deeper family… Like your great-grandparents? And their parents?


Abbi: Nothing. That was a thing I was so interested in because - neither of my parents know much about our - like farther family history.

Well let’s hop two stops on the map here to Harry’s grandparents, this is your great-great grandparents...  Anna and Robert were their names.

Now Anna and Robert came to the US from what is now Germany around 1867. They were Jewish… and Germany was hostile place for Jews in that period as in many periods. They probably couldn’t even get full citizenship.


So they left. They got on a boat, and eventually settled in…. Detroit, Michigan.


Abbi: Hm.


Downtown. Not far from where the Detroit Tigers’ baseball stadium is now...


Abbi, did you know you have this Detroit connection?


Abbi: No.

Abbi: Feels right.

AJ: Have you been to Detroit?

Abbi: Yeah I like it. I feel like there’s definitely a hustle vibe there.

AJ: Totally.


While a lot of immigration stories from this era are about hardship... it seems your relatives might have actually arrived at the right time and place. German immigrants were the largest group in Detroit in the 1860s … and the city was still small enough that they found jobs where they could work their way up. Your great great grandfather, Robert, for example, was a candy maker.


Abbi: Whoa.

AJ: yeah.

Abbi: That’s cool. (laughs)

AJ: He sold - we looked into it. At the time they did not to sell chocolate so he didn’t - he

Abbi: [sighs] I’m kidding.

AJ: I - Uh but he sold very mint - it was like a mint oriented thing.

Abbi: Cool.


But a few years later... a larger group of Eastern European jews flooded into the city, fleeing violence in their home countries..the pogroms..people across the country became less tolerant of immigrants. And around that time, your family left Detroit.


They lived in Texas for a stretch. And then, in 1885, the came to New York City… They were the first of your family to have a home here.


Abbi: Cool.

And the home where they moved is still standing.


Abbi: Really?


And we have a picture. Yeah.


Abbi: that’s awesome


It’s actually just 4 miles from where we are.


Abbi: Oh wow cool.

AJ: So -

Abbi: That’s awesome.


And it’s interesting because you have the German Jewish side and then you’ve got the Russian Lithuanian Jewish side. And the Germans were sort of the fancy early ones. And the Russians were like these - the struggling newer ones. So you’re a mix.  


Abbi: So I am Jewish is what you’re saying. [laughs]

AJ: We’re still confirming that. But we think so. I put it at 90 percent.

Abbi: [still laughing]


Well, your great-great grandparents Anna and Robert… they had six kids. And one of them… their daughter, Pearl, is the subject of our next story. Pearl Priest is your second great aunt.  five steps away from you, Abbi…


Abbi: Okay.


And in the early nineteen hundreds, she married a Providence, Rhode Island business tycoon...  He ran multiple companies… a textile mill, a bottling plant, a sprinkler company… He had hundreds of employees. But in 1926, that business tycoon died. And Pearl, your second great aunt… she took over.


There’s an article about her in the Providence Evening Bulletin from 1933. As you can imagine, you know it is very dated. The headline is, “Edgewood woman shows she can manage business and home...”


Abbi: this I mean - sadly this feels like it could be a headline today.

AJ: There - it’s very relevant.

Abbi: I mean - sadly.

AJ: Absolutely.

Abbi: Still questioning whether women can do it all.

Abbi: No but this is awesome this is 1933.


Yeah, and Pearl actually fits into this long tradition of entrepreneurial women who’ve been overlooked.  We talked to a history professor about this...


SL: I am absolutely convinced that every one of my students imagines women in the past sitting around with a dust cloth you know, and maybe taking care of the kids and sometimes cooking a meal. And that’s it. And nothing could be further from what women were doing.


This is Susan Lewis, she’s a history professor at the State University of New York New Paltz.


SL: Let me just start with Betsy Ross.

AJ: Betsy Ross, ok, heard of her.

SL: Yeah Betsy Ross. What’s your picture of betsy ross, like sewing a flag, right?

AJ: Right, the fireplace.

SL: Yeah. Betsy Ross ran an upholstery business.

AJ: Ooh, I just think of her as someone who sews, that’s all i know.

SL: Right right, she’s just sitting there sewing, yeah. No. She probably didn’t sew it herself either.

AJ: Oh really?

SL: Yeah, she’s a businesswoman. She’s going to have somebody who’s working for her sew that flag. And she’s one of the few women in American history who people recognize her name, but they recognize her for something that was not at all what she was doing.


Abbi: haha I like Susan.


Then there’s Bridget Kennedy, who emigrated from Ireland in 1849.

This is Kennedy as in The Kennedys. JFK’s great grandmother.

SL: The Kennedy family mythology really doesn’t include this story of his great grandmother. But she came to the united states and was widowed. And then starts like a little notions business in Boston.

AJ: Like buttons?

SL: Yeah things like that, buttons, trimmings again, thread.


That little business brings in enough money to support the family… enough money for her son to start his liquor business…. A liquor business that turns into an empire… that funds, what would become, a political dynasty…


SL: So the Kennedy money begins with this small businesswoman.


Abbi: Wow.


And Susan says these early female entrepreneurs didn’t consider themselves entrepreneurs. They were just doing what they had to to support their families. And you see that in the article about Pearl - your great aunt. She runs that mill just about as long as her husband ran it, but she says she’s doing it just for his legacy.


After eleven years, Pearl finally sold the mill. Her foremen held a banquet in her honor…  They presented her with a plaque praising her courage and generosity in guiding the destiny of the plant... There are thirty-five signatures at the bottom… all of them men.


Abbi: That’s awesome. Yeah that’s - I bet that happened a lot. And that - that’s such a bummer in a way but also - exciting to know that this has been going on and now it’s like - yeah. Duh. Women do run the world… Beyonce…


AJ: had you heard about your Aunt Pearl?

Abbi: No again, I hadn’t heard about anyone past my grandparents.


AJ: One other thing worth noting is that Pearl was very good with money. Right before the stock market crash, in 1929, she sold all of her holdings, and made a fortune.


Abbi: Whoa.


Yeah, she basically kept the family afloat with that money.


Abbi: Wow, Pearl.

AJ: Pearl indeed.

Abbi: Yeah.




All right, Abbi, I think you’re gonna love this. For our third story today, we’re going only three steps away from Pearl, seven steps from you now, Abbi… Pearl had a daughter… who had a daughter… Who married our next relative… We’re in the 1960s now…  his name is Herbert Rosenfield. And Herbert played a small role in a massive fight over the very future of New York City…


He passed away a few months ago, but we talked to his daughter Pat ...


Pat: First of all, the thing to know about my father is that he was a New Yorker through and through. And loved new york city and whenever he traveled, he would compare everything to New York City. Whether he was in Japan he’d want good New York food. (laugh)


Abbi: I do that too.

AJ: Yeah? You go like travel -

Abbi: I’m always like “this is like NY” or this is nothing like NY.

AJ: It’s one or the other.

Abbi: Yeah it’s one or the other.


And Herbert was truly an unsung hero of New York City. He was a real hustler. When he saw a problem, he’d dig into arcane city ordinances to find a solution.


And he fought for one movement that was was bigger and tougher and more controversial than all the others. It was a movement that got a whole paragraph in his obituary. It reads:


“Feeling that there was a serious problem in the neighborhood of people not cleaning up after their dogs, Rosenfield, organized the first community park cleanup event. Rosenfield was active in pushing for what would become the Pooper Scooper Law.”


Abbi, have you heard of the Pooper Scooper Law before?


Abbi: Not but I’m guessing it’s - you have to pick up after your dog?

AJ: That’s exactly right. Pick up the poop, under penalty of death. Just kidding. It’s a small fine. But still…

Abbi: I was like whoa.


And I actually remember this, cause I was a kid at this time… and poop on the sidewalks…. It was so gross and it was a really big problem. Here’s Pat talking about it:


Pat: You couldn’t walk in NY without looking down all the time. You to had to really walk very carefully, gingerly around. It was also disgusting, it was like being a field of cow dung.


MB: there are very few things that get people’s attention and get them riled up as much as this issue of canine waste.


This is Michael Brandow, he’s the author of the book New York’s Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, dirt and Due Process.


MB: Some New Yorkers were saying it mattered more to them than the Vietnam War,


Abbi: Whoa.


MB: you have to remember, I mean, people focus on what they confront daily. The quality of their lives, you know,

AJ: And poop was right there on the sidewalk and -

AJ: Vietnam was 8, 10 thousand miles away.

MB: Absolutely.


The book begins in the late nineteen sixties, when several trends were converging to make dog poop a big problem.


For one… New York city was in crisis. Businesses were fleeing… the city had no money. Crime was rampant. The population was growing. And, these people moving into the city… they were bringing their dogs with them. The number of dogs in the city doubled.


MB: because of the urban crisis. People were getting dogs - bigger dogs all the time, guard dogs for protection because police weren’t able to do that. And so they left bigger messes, right. Great Danes and Dobermans and German Shepherds and Rottweilers.

AJ: Those are big poops.

MB: Yeah and some senators actually blamed dogs for the urban crisis. So they took this one issue of poop and said this is the reason for New York’s downfall.


Because New York was broke, there was no money for things like street sweepers. And city officials started throwing out some really strange ideas.  One politician suggested enviro maids… this would be a group of women who would be paid to walk the streets and inspect them for cleanliness. He said it was a perfect plan because women were tidier than men, and could be paid a lot less money.


Abbi: Wow that sounds. Cool.


The ideas got even stranger....

MB: experimental dog toilets around the city.

AJ: Dog toilets!

AJ: well what does a dog toilet look like - first of all?

MB: It’s basically a hole in the pavement. It’s a Turkish toilet.

MB: and they had a big event with Lots of publicity and celebrity showing up

AJ: I would love to know which celebrities were the dog toilet spokespeople

MB: Oh gosh well // there was a dog toilet installed on W43rd St.- where Toto from the Wiz on Broadway showed up and put his paws in in the concrete to to baptize this new doggy toilet but he sniffed at the thing and just walked away - he wasn’t interested. And actually they filled it in shortly thereafter.


And the strangest idea of all....

MB: The - the idea of making

MB: people actually bend over and handle feces and pick it up and bring it home - that was so bizarre, it was so unheard of. No one had ever done that before. // It was a very weird idea and and most people laughed at it.


And that’s why it was such a big deal when the city council proposed a new law that would require all dog owners to pick up after their dog or risk a fine… the Poop Scoop Law. The one your relative was involved in. This proposal ignited a fight that split the city in two… brother against dog-owning brother.


On one side of the fight: Dog owners. They really freaked out about the idea of having to clean up after their pets.

AJ: I mean you have a crazy quote in your book,

AJ: “Like the Jews of Nazi Germany, we citizens including the old and infirm are being humiliated by being forced to pick up excrement from the gutter.”

MB: Mm hm.

AJ: That -

MB: That, that had a lot of support.

AJ: To me, that is the worst metaphor -

MB: It’s horrible.


Abbi: There’s a way to make the point without bringing in these terrible metaphors right?

AJ: It seems that way.

Abbi: It seems that way.

AJ: Yeah I think Nazi metaphors should be used very sparingly.

Abbi: right? What’s going on?

AJ: Yeah.


To the dog owners… this law was a sign of things to come...


MB: this is a, a carefully planned step towards banning dogs from New York City. // even the idea - you could imagine the terror - the idea that they’re gonna take our dogs away.

AJ: It’s - so yeah, first they come for the poop, and then they come for the dog.

MB: Exactly, so it got polarized.

AJ: I mean it sounds like the second amendment - it’s like first they like -

MB: Exactly.

AJ: try to regulate and then they’re gonna take our guns away.

MB: Exactly.


On the other side of this fight were people annoyed with the dog poop. People labeled “anti-dog.” Like your relative…. The unsung hero… Herbert Rosenfield.


So at first, he tried confronting his neighbors. Here’s his daughter, Pat:

Pat: He would say, “pick that up there is a garbage can. We made sure there were garbage cans here. You throw it right there. It’s very easy.

AJ: And what was that like for you when he would confront people on the street and tell ‘em to put -

PR: Mortifying. Mortifying. Absolutely mortifying,

PR: I just thought, “Oh, daddy! Come on! We can pick it up and throw it away.”


When that didn’t work, he got others on board. He organized a group called Come N Clean to scrub the sidewalks near Gramercy Park and pick up litter.


And Herbert’s group… it started a trend. Anti-Dog groups started popping up everywhere… They said that dog poop was putting new york’s children in danger. Their most vocal advocate was a TV star named Fran Lee, who went on an anti-poop publicity tour.


Merv: she’s a delightful woman I understand and pleasure to welcome her to our show, consumer advocate and television personality Fran Lee. (Entrance Music)


This is Fran on national television--the Merv Griffin show.


Fran: I love dogs, I hate the owners. I really love animals, everyone out there knows that but I hate what their owners have allowed to happen to my beautiful city.


She went on talk shows..


HOST: we understand you’re upset that NYC streets have been turned into a scatalogical minefields.

FRAN: the people that for, I don’t know, some reason seems to think the ambrosia from their dog’s bottom is so precious they want to bottle it.


Call in shows..


Fran: You people have to be prepared to do what I do, I take my camera and I take a picture of the dog defecating either in the hallway, on the rugs, out in front of your window//

FRAN: now be prepared to be get a punch on your nose. I have taken a cardboard with a piece of poop on it, chased a woman and put it on her hat.


(abbi laughs)


So things reach a fever pitch at a city council hearing in nineteen seventy two.


One former councilwoman said it was a wild hearing, raucous. It was difficult to keep order. Dog owners were arriving hysterical. Fran Lee was there talking about rare diseases. And they just gave up because they couldn’t get anything done.


The proposal died.   


Six years pass… The World Trade Center opens…  Wheel of Fortune premieres on TV… Clapton goes solo… and then… A new mayor is elected. And the law gets passed, the poop scoop law, almost in secret, by the state. Putting an end to a decade of mud slinging.


And New York City was never the same ...


MB: in a way, in a way, it was really important first step towards urban renewal, it didn’t matter if got a federal bail out, if people didn’t want to live here and corporations didn’t want to work here, you had to clean the sidewalks.  

AJ: it was literally like a first step in new york’s come back.//

MB: It really was. And I don’t think there’s anything that made dogs more socially acceptable in cities than than this custom.

AJ: So it saved dogs.

MB: It did!

AJ: It saved - saved New York and saved the dogs.


Abbi: Wow yeah I guess you don’t think about that but it’s very important.

AJ: It’s very important. I mean - we live in a New York City that is so different from the one that your ancestors-

Abbi: Yeah.

AJ: lived in 140 years ago and - and one of the big things is it’s so much cleaner.

Abbi: Yeah.

AJ: Because of your relative.

Abbi: Wow.  

So Abbi, I’m wondering how you feel about the different members. Are they the kind of family you’d want?


Abbi: I do like that they’re very - they seem very like committed to who they are. They’re all characters

AJ: As - as you say you gotta go big or go home.

Abbi: Yup yup.

Abbi: Pearl feels like that’s - that’s like the coolest discovery to me. just in terms of like strong women in my family and I knew my grandfather was like a very strong person she’s not that far removed from him so that feels like oh I feel like there’s like a lineage of that.

AJ: Right.

Abbi: But maybe there’s a linea - maybe I’m just conning everybody.

AJ: Okay.

Abbi: So that idea of strong women. Settle in.

Abbi: Are you gonna crush it right now?

AJ: Nope. Another strong woman.

Abbi: Nope, okay.


Um so this is it! We’ve made it! Our last story before your mystery relative, Abbi.


For our last story, we’re moving pretty far down the chain, thirty-three people away from you, Abbi, to meet your next relative: her name is Ella Mae Riley.


She was born in nineteen twenty... and grew up very poor, during the peak of the Great Depression. Her father was white and her mother was native american.


Abbi: Wow.


She lived in a very small town called Ketchum in Oklahoma, at the fringes of the Dust Bowl. She didn’t have much… but she was good at basketball.


Sally: She would take cloth and start with a little ball and make the ball bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger til it got to be the size of a basketball.


That’s Ella Mae’s daughter, Sally.


AJ: So A ball of rags?

Sally: A ball of rags. They made a hoop.

AJ: What was the hoop made of?

Sally: Probably grape vine. Back then, grape vine was, you'd cut it off


Abbi: Huh.


and that's what you smoked and got in trouble with


Abbi: Wow.


but I guess she decided to wind it around and make a hoop out of it.

AJ: That's how she learned to play basketball?

Sally: That's how she learned to play basketball. She told me, "The minute that ball went out of my hands, I knew it was going to go in that hoop." She never missed a shot.


In fact, when we were looking into Ella Mae, we came across this:


[AJ shows Abbi a paper]


So we have this for you. It is a Ripley’s Believe it or Not illustration featuring your relative, Ella Mae Riley. She scored thirty eight points during a high school basketball game,


Abbi: whoa.


and no one else scored at all… those points were the whole game. Amazing, right?


Back then, Ripley wasn’t just a oddities museum in Times Square. It was a syndicated feature in newspapers all across the country. And it was massive.


This drawing of your relative Ella Mae? It would have been seen by sixty MILLION people.


Abbi: Wow.

AJ: Yeah.

Abbi: That’s crazy.

AJ: Even more than Broad City.

Abbi: Just a little bit. Just a little bit more. (Laughs)


That kind of exposure would change anyone’s life, especially a high school girl from rural Oklahoma.


Abbi: Yeah.


But it only took one person… the right person… to see it. And that person was a woman named Helen Stephens.  


Sally: Helen Stephens came to Ketchum, and said “I want you to be on my basketball team, we’re gonna tour the United States.”


Abbi: should I be writing this movie now?

AJ: I think it is - I mean wait till you hear it?

Abbi: Am I playing Ella Mae?

AJ: I think so she’s your relative.

Abbi: Guys!! Ok keeping going.

AJ: Done. All right.


In the late nineteen thirties, Helen Stephens was one of the most famous women athletes in the world... like Serena Williams. Someone like that showing up in Ketchum was a big deal.


So, even though this story is about your relative Ella Mae, I do want to pause just for a minute to talk about Helen.... Because Ella Mae possibly wouldn’t even be Ella Mae without Helen… and, if we’re talking about hustlers, Helen was really one of the best.


She made her name at the nineteen thirty six Berlin Olympics… the ones where Jesse Owens showed up the Nazis by breaking three world records and winning four gold medals in track and field.


SHARON: And she ran about a second shy of Jesse Owens’ speed.


Abbi: Whoa.


That’s Sharon Kinney Hanson... she wrote a book about Helen - the mentor of your relative.


Helen was such an incredible athlete that it was easier for Olympic officials to believe that she was a man than that a woman could be so powerful... And so they did something unprecedented... they forced Helen to undergo a invasive exam to prove she was a woman.


Helen didn’t flinch... She did the test... competed... and broke two world records.


But the accusations - they didn’t stop. And... when an American magazine questioned her gender again, she sued the magazine... won... and used the money to start her own basketball team.




Abbi: Wow!! That’s that’s amazing. This is definitely a movie. Wait that’s insane.

AJ: Oh yea.

Abbi: And also I guess totally believable in the world that we live in where they insisted she needed to be a man to be successful. That’s a thing.

AJ: I know that is nuts right?

Abbi: What the fuck?! Sorry you can bleep all my curses.

AJ: we enjoy your curses.

Abbi: (Laughs)


So that’s the woman who went to Oklahoma and asked your relative, Ella Mae Riley, to come travel across the country playing basketball with her.


Sally: And mother said, “Let’s go! Hop on the bus, Gus!”




In the late 1930s, Ella Mae’s team was part of a sports phenomenon called “barnstorming.”


It’s where baseball or basketball teams would travel all across the country as kind of small town performances.

AJ: So - did you see League of their Own?

Abbi: Um yeah.

AJ: So this -

Abbi: I’ve seen it a lot. [singing] “We are the members offfff the all Amer-“ I know I love that movie.

AJ: Wow!

Abbi: That’s what it felt like when she said “get on the bus, gus.”

AJ: Exactly this is - this is the basketball version.


But this is crazy, in baseball, women’s teams played other women’s teams. Ella Mae’s team of barnstorming basketballers only played men.


Abbi: Whoa.

AJ: so better than a league of their own.

Abbi: Yeah, that’s amazing.


They were called the Olympic Co-Eds, and they even had their own fight song:


SHARON: "We are the Olympic Co-Eds, Co-Eds. We never, never see a bed. We never know where we'll be next. [and under] Maybe we'll end up in Texas.


Their uniforms were red, white, and blue silk... with the Olympic rings embroidered on the sleeves.


Sharon: Just so we can give a show? [comes up in the clear] So if you like to see us play. We'll be back another day". [PAUSE] Not so hot.

AJ: Very hot. I loved it!

(Abbi laughs.)


So each member of the team had a shtick.


SHARON: A sure shot-putter from Chicago. An aviatrix. A ski star, a female wrestler, a baseball star. And a Native American. "Little Chief Riley".


“Little Chief Riley”… That was what they called Ella Mae Riley. She was billed as, quote, “a little Cherokee Indian girl from Oklahoma.”


She was the smallest on the squad, but the fastest, and the highest scorer. And... as one article described her... a breath of beauty from Oklahoma who drew plenty of cheers from the gentlemen who had left their wives at home.


AJ: [laughs] I like your face. You look skeptical

Abbi: It’s like, what?? Okay.


The Co-Eds traveled all across the country, driving something like forty two thousand miles in five months. All six women plus a bodyguard named Hambone crisscrossed the U.S… and there’s a photo.


Abbi: Aw. I do love how they’re all dressed. like some of the women are wearing ties.

Abbi: Yeah they’re wearing like suits almost. It’s Cool.


So these games were hugely popular, drawing crowds as big as five thousand people...that’s ten times the population of the town Ella Mae grew up in.


And those huge crowds? They could get drunk and rowdy…


SHARON: There would be some heckling from the audience. Some appreciated the fact that they were playing the game and some of the guys thought that women were out of line by even trying.


But these women?  


Once one of the Co-Eds punched the referee in the face...


Abbi: That’s awesome.

AJ: Isn’t that great?

Abbi: Yeah.

AJ: Well I don’t know if it’s great but.

Abbi: Yeah that’s great. I would like to think that they deserved it.

AJ: There you go. Probably.


Ella Mae spent five months traveling with the Co-Eds...  She returned to Ketchum right around her twentieth birthday.




So right now Abbi, you know more about this chapter of your distant cousin’s life than anyone else who knew her: friends, neighbors, family... even her daughter Sally.


Sally: Let me tell you. My mother didn't talk. I didn't even know any of this until later on in life. She never talked about it. What she would say is, "I don't want my laundry on the streets."


Ella Mae only talked about it once. Back in nineteen ninety seven, a reporter in Oklahoma happened to find her Ripley’s article like we did. She said her season with the Co-eds was the experience of a lifetime.




Now sometimes a big break is a change or a turning point. But sometimes it’s just that: a break in the monotony, a respite from hardship. And that’s kind of what Ella Mae’s season with the Co-Eds was. Because the later part of her life… wasn’t easy.


Sally: She was an extrovert in the public but she was really an introvert. She really had uh low self esteem.

AJ: Why do you think that is, I mean, she seems amazing?

Sally: She had some tragedy in her life. She had several marriages that didn’t work and she’d roll over in her grave if I told you how many, so I’m going to leave that out. It was more than Elizabeth Taylor let me tell you that. And they weren’t good uh, they weren’t good marriages. She’d had a poor picker when it came to men…Her three children, they all passed away before her…

AJ: Three of the four siblings passed away before her. Oh, that’s heartbreaking.

Sally:  Yes. My sister lived to be 39 and my brother was 38. Her last child died as an infant…she was never the same after that.




As the only surviving child, Sally is kind of the keeper of Ella Mae’s memory. And so even though she can’t forget the painful parts of her mom’s life, she focuses instead on the good. She thinks about her mom’s fearlessness, her readiness to always take a chance, or throw a punch, and the courage it took for her to leave Ketchum and follow a dream.

So, you choose the moments you want to remember people by, and that’s exactly what Sally’s done.


I love this part -  Sally designed Ella Mae’s tombstone... and sandblasted on the back of it is the drawing of Ella Mae in the Ripley’s feature… Etched in stone, she’s forever poised... ready to shoot.


Abbi: that’s awesome. That’s a great drawing.

AJ: Isn’t that a great -

Abbi: Yeah.  

AJ: Oh as an illustrator exactly.

Abbi: Yeah. Yeah that’s really cool.

AJ: one thing that caught my attention was that there were people who had trouble believing women were even capable of doing these things. Like

Abbi: Yeah I mean I’m not totally surprised at that theme running through history. Just cause that’s - it’s - I think it’s still a thing that sadly it’s always a - before any - any career it’s like you’re a female blank. what’s it like being a female writer? What’s it like being a female actor?  Where it’s never you’re a male writer. I mean I think it’s changing hopefully. It’s obviously getting better than it was for all these women that came before us

AJ: You know what you gotta do is take the - inspiration from the co-eds and just punch them in the face.




After the break… we reveal Abbi’s mystery relative. Who is sitting patiently in the other room…

Ilana: Oh my God, I can’t take it. I can’t fucking take it.


After these words from our sponsors.


Welcome back to Twice Removed. Ok! Abbi. We have made it. 57 steps later… we’ve met entrepreneurs, pumpkin thieves, and athletes… We are now ready to meet your mystery cousin.


How are you feeling?


Abbi: Yeah I mean I can’t wait, the suspense is killing me here.


Alright. Mystery Relative… you can come on in




Mystery Relative… come on in.




AJ, cont: Oh my goodness!

Mystery Relative: Hey there.

Abbi: Hey.

Mystery Relative: I knew you knew.

Abbi: Oh I did know who that was gonna be.

AJ: you did?

AJ: How did you know?

Abbi: I just thought - who else would come in this early for me?

Abbi: And then the fruit thing I was like - Ilana’s gonna be the person.

Mystery Relative: yes.

AJ: Oh you recognized the the - cause you - you know that she’s like a botanical genius.

Mystery Relative: laughs

Abbi: Well I just was like I bet they’re gonna find a connection between us.

AJ: Of course, your mystery relative is your partner in crime… the co-creator of broad city… Ilana Glazer.

AJ: Ilana… hearing about your common ancestors… were there any of those that reminded you of Abbi?

Mystery Relative: Yeah um ugh I loved hearing more about Harry.

Abbi: well you’re closer to Ella Mae than I am.

Mystery Relative: Yeah that’s so weird right? I was like we have like Native American - it really did highlight for me your main theme which is like we’re all family, incredible. But also literally all family is like - it’s so - congratulations on the project-

AJ: Oh thank you.

Mystery Relative: cause it’s truly mind blowing

Abbi: Yeah I mean the things I relate to especially in the women and my grandfather. Are like the hustle aspects. I think are the same things for Ilana like how the show was born

Now we do have one more surprise for you guys. We found one more common ancestor between you two that we did not share. She’s 50 steps away from you Ilana, through blood and marriage…  and a few more away from you Abbi… 53 to be exact. It’s someone I think you’ll be excited to have a family connection with. Here is a message from her.




Molly: Hi Abbi, hi Ilana, this is your cousin Molly Shannon! How are you guys?

Abbi and Mystery Relative: awwwww.

Molly: I just wanna say you’re two of the funniest -

Mystery Relative: awww.

Molly: Women around and I’m so happy that I’m related to her.

Mystery Relative: I love her!

Molly: Abbi this is so weird but I heard a rumor that you dressed up as - Mary Katherine Gallagher when you were little.


Abbi: I was just gonna say that!

Mystery Relative: Yes Molly Shannon.

Mystery Relative: awww.


Molly: Is that true?


Molly: So funny. I dressed up as Abbi Jacobson when I was little too - so


Mystery Relative: awwww!!!


Molly: what a coincidence! But seriously, I just wanna say I love Broad City. I think you two are so talented -


Mystery Relative: [sighs] that’s so cool.


Molly: I love you. I can’t wait for our next family reunion! Bye!!




Mystery Relative: She is so cute it’s -

Abbi: She really is so cute.

Mystery Relative: insane.

AJ:Ttell me about as a kid you dressed up as

Abbi: Mary Katherine Gallagher for 8th grade. My 8th grade Halloween.

AJ: Mary Catherine Gallagher of course is the spastic catholic high school student that Molly Shannon played on Saturday night live.

Abbi: I was really into SNL growing up. That was like my thing. I don’t now I I - impersonated her all the time. Yeah I wore like the- Catholic outfit. She was just so wild.

she would always like - break a whole like set of -

Mystery Relative: [laughs hard]

Abbi: bathroom  stalls or something? she was so committed to the character.


OK, for the record. Here’s how you guys are related…Ilana you are Abbi’s grandfather’s sister’s son’s wife’s grandfather’s brother’s daughter’s husband’s nephew’s grandfather’s sister’s great grandson’s wife’s grandmother’s sister’s daughter’s husband’s brother’s wife’s uncle’s son’s wife’s sister’s son’s wife’s grandfather’s brother’s son’s daughter!!!

(With abbi and Ilana laughs)

Mystery Relative: damn.

Abbi: Oh our moms are gonna be so happy.

Mystery Relative: Yeah they’re gonna love this.

Abbi: Yeah.

Mystery Relative: this podcast.

Abbi: yeah they're huge podcast heads

Mystery Relative: honestly i’m gonna show them how to download it because they’re gonna love it.

Abbi: yeah.


AJ: So now that you know you’re family, does it change?

Abbi: I don’t know if we can do the show anymore

Mystery Relative: Yeah, We certainly can’t keep having sex.

AJ: (Laughs)

Mystery Relative: we certainly can’t keep having sex, now it’s weird, not just running the business together and having sex, but now that we know we’re family, its weird.

Abbi: yeah, its wooh.