Although podcasts are like tattoos (either you’re into them or not), there’s a new one worth checking out regardless. Thoughtful and riotous comedians Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson are the droll, sidesplitting voices behind ‘2 Dope Queens,’ a limited-run series produced through WNYC Studios.
“There’s something very classic and vintage about podcasts, they’ve always been around, like radio,” explains Jessica.
“And you can carry it around with you wherever,” chimes in Phoebe.
You may know Williams from her work on The Daily Show, and Robinson has been on the New York stand up scene for almost 15 years. When the two met about three years ago, it was like kismet, or a very hot first date, let them tell it.
“We both did Upright Citizens Brigade and she had a white bae like me at the time, and I was like, Who’s this, we have so much in common…and she was like, ‘Hi, I’m Phoebe,’ and I’m like, ‘I know who you are,’” begins Jessica.
“And I’m like, ‘That’s creeeeeepyyyyy,’” says Phoebe. She continues, “We just really hit it off stage, and it just really felt like, you know when you go on a really awesome first date and you’re like, we’re gonna fuuuuuck tonight? It was like that.”
Phoebe, who is 31, and “single AF,” came to New York to study at Pratt when she was 17. She settled in Brooklyn where she dropped out of school and tried her hand at stand up, and wrote her own blog, Blaria (‘black Daria.’) The Broad City alum loves Shonda Rhimes, Mindy Kaling and ‘90s TV.
“Nineties TV was a great time for people of color: Living Single, Mo’esha, Martin, In Living Color; there were people of color just being seen as people and not like, aw man, we’re a slave again, and this is the only story we can tell! Ooops! On Living Single, they were just these ladies in New York, who just wanted to pop dudes.” (“Classic,” agrees Jessica.) “I think we lost that.”
Jessica, 26, had been working on The Daily Show since she was a senior at Cal State; as senior correspondent, the smoky–voiced cutup writes and produces for the show, taking on issues from stop and frisk to street harassment. As a young black woman swimming in the waters of the entertainment biz, Jessica says its been a process in getting to being comfortable in the skin she’s in.
“I got the job in college, moved from there, here and then started the show in two weeks. So I was a young lady and I didn’t really know what my “bit” or character was, and it kind of freaked me out because I felt very overwhelmed with how difficult it was day-to-day to be a young black woman. There’s a lot you have to deal with when you are a minority, so much so that it can feel very overwhelming. And so I learned while doing the show that the things that bother me and the things that in my day-to-day affect me, is where good material comes from. It sort of just comes with the process of living.”
The podcast, named 2 Dope Queens (“obviously because we’re queens, and dope, and there’s two of us,” explains Jessica) is an off-the-cuff riff on the week, unprepared, and a mix of storytelling and stand-up, taped in front of a live studio audience in Brooklyn.
“We talk about dating, racist cab drivers, politics, Martin O’Malley, like how I want to hook up with him. Lotion is huge,” says Phoebe. “Love to talk about lotion.” So far, their weekly themes have included “Halibut,” “Dad Bods” and “How To Channel Your Inner White Woman.”
But more than laughs, the two also wanted to make sure that the stand ups and storytellers they bring on the show are reflective of the mosaic of the city.
“Doing stand up in New York for the past eight years, there have been so many shows where it’s like a bunch of white dudes with beards and just me,” explains Phoebe. “Or they never put more than one black woman on a show, or they never put more than one gay person on the show, and we’re just like, there are so many talented people in the city who don’t get a chance to perform because people just don’t think about them … and so we just try to represent the full scope of New York communities.”
“We’re the main characters of our stories,” says Jessica. “There’s always that stereotype in television where the black lady is always telling a white dude like Patrick Dempsey (rolling her neck), “You need to get it togetha!” We can do more than that. Sometimes we have so many different emotions and it’s really cool that we can show that in our podcast. We go through so much: We’re awkward and weird and funny and sometimes sad and sometimes happy. We have this whole range.”
“I think we do a really good job of booking the best comedians that we love,” continues Phoebe. “Like Nore Davis. I’ve known him for many years, we went to college together and he has a trans brother, and he talks about that on stage and it’s the funniest, most brilliant, heartfelt … it’s so good. There needs to be more comedy out there like this. It feels like every person on the show has a story to tell that hasn’t really been told in that specific way.”
And now that the two comedians have some miles under their belt, they also have some advice to young, black women specifically coming up in stand up and/or comedy writing.
“I would just say to embrace that messiness that comes with being who you are, not filtering yourself. Cause honestly, your story, it’s very important,” says Jessica. “And the higher you get up the more white people you’re going to see, still be yourself, because your story is so unique and so specific to you and it needs to be heard. And I think that applies to comedy, writing, painting, singing, and any sort of art form.”
Phoebe agrees. “Just always believe in yourself and just know that what you’re doing is just as important as everyone else. Write what you wanna write. Because I think we can get caught up in like, Oh, it’s not what Louis CK would do. Yeah, cuz he’s not a 31-year-old black woman, so we’re not going to have the same point of view,” she continues. “And just have faith and what you’re writing about and what you’re saying on stage is worthy of being heard. I’ve been told, ‘too Black’ or ‘too female,’ but you just have to say, Whatever, dude, I’m just the right amount.”
“Be the most you,” laughs Jessica.
2 Dope Queens” is available on iTunes. Episodes from Season One will continue to be released every Tuesday through June 14.