“I am your Nordstrom Rack version of Oprah today.”
Yes, Phoebe Robinson loves Billy Joel and is fully obsessed with U2, and she taught Oprah the word “peen,” which you will know about her if you have been a fan of Two Dope Queens, the podcast she started in her Brooklyn apartment, which is now an HBO show.
Phoebe is from Cleveland Ohio, where she was the only black girl in her grade. She was really dorky, and had no idea there were parties going on where people were making out. She was legit at home watching the West Wing obsessed with Josh and Donna.
At 24 Phoebe started doing stand up. People think of the outspoken and hilarious 34-year-old as an overnight success, but in her new book, Everything’s Trash but It’s Okay, Robinson gets real on her struggle to make it in comedy for ten years, the sixty thousand dollar credit card and student loan debt that plagued her, and the self-doubt that also dogged her. She was trying to make it in a misogynist business, in the particularly male-dominated stand-up comedy world where she knew she did not fit in, and that sometimes felt like a failure.
Nobody does high and low like Phoebe, which is maybe one reason why she has been so legit adored, (her first book, You Can’t Touch My Hair was a New York Times Bestseller, hello). She will vent in an NPR interview about the atrocities perpetrated on this country since the Trump administration began, and then in her book, she will explain how inconvenient and stressful it is when a boyfriend decides to take a dump after they are all dressed up and about to leave for an event. “Seriously, like, dude, if you know we’re about to go out to a party, maybe don’t eat seventy-two different kinds of lettuce and arugula because that mess is going to run right through you and now we’re going to miss our train because you needed to drop the kids off at the pool.”
She moderates book tours for Michelle Obama and gives dating advice to a guy who is having a hard time out there in Esquire magazine: “Try something new, like a rock climbing class. Go out at least once a week to a bar. And, worse comes to worst, just masturbate a little bit. Good luck. I’m sure 2017 is bringing you the love of your life.” Again, the master of her own high/low domain.
Phoebe R. and Jessica Williams first started Two Dope Queens in 2015 after Phoebe had worked (unpaid) on a background piece for the Daily Show. She invited Jessica to rap with her and do an interview. It was clear to the two of them right away that they had a unique, special, for real funny chemistry. They were like, “maybe we should do that again?” Phoebe had a “rinky-dinky one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn that was not cute.” After she interviewed Jessica that first time and they had so much fun Jessica agreed to co-host the show, and it became Two Dope Queens. According to Phoebe, “people liked the fact that they could hear black women talk about whatever—their hair, politics, the buying power of black people, hot actors, Bono, Billy Joel.” They were honest and raw. They were on a mission to create a space for their voices and diversify things, bringing black people, women, LGBT people on to highlight voices that so often do not get airtime in mainstream podcasts and TV shows. Their audience grew, and they began a conversational commentary on comedy, race, women, life, penises, and…now they are doing it on HBO and getting paid actual money! Guest stars on Jessica and Phoebe’s HBO show include SJP, Jon Stewart, Issa Rae, and Donald Glover.
Phoebe is an original with her own language. Tradish (traditional), Goog (Google), Cunch (country), Eems (emails), relaysh (relationship), Supes Monags (super monogamous), Meesh (Michelle Obama), and British Baekoff (her British boyfriend who likes to bake).
The title for her new book was borne of the fact that we are for real living in dumpster fire times, but of course, it’s not all negative, (it’s mostly funny). The title also refers to the fact that we are all trashy, and Phoebe, herself, explains why she is trash to Jimmy Fallon. As an example, she told Jimmy about the mole incident, in which British Baekoff rolls over to change the channel, and Phoebe notices a rather large mole on his backside that she suggests he have someone take a look at. BBK poo-poos this idea, insisting that he does not have a mole. It turned out that the chocolate Phoebe had eaten in bed the night before was still in the sheets—BBK rolled in it and now had a large brown spot of chocolate on his behind. Medical crisis averted.
The best story she told about filming a movie she is in called Ibiza is how Julia Roberts taught her how to swim when they were on a yacht in Croatia. You may be asking, wait, how, who, what, explain? Julia’s husband Danny was the cinematographer on the movie, so Julia and the family were visiting the set. Julia suggested they get a yacht, which Phoebe was totally down with as long as nobody was actually expecting her to chip in for it. Once on board, everyone was jumping in and swimming except for Phoebe, who hung back with her glass of rosé, kinda shy because she did not know how to swim, (and she didn’t want to get her hair wet). Julia insisted she come join the fun. Julia then held Phoebe in the water and actually showed her how to stay afloat, and how to swim. So, I guess if you’re going to have to learn how to swim, being on a yacht in Croatia with a private lesson from Julia Roberts is pretty fire.
If it feels like Phoebe Robinson is all of a sudden everywhere, it’s because she is. She is comparing cocoa butter with Jimmy Kimmel. She is talking about Shop Bop with Trevor Noah. She’s chatting with Jimmy Fallon about bringing BBK home for vegan tofu ribs with her parents, which sounds like trash, but is actually so much better than you might think.
Phoebe is a straight up inspiration for creating her own niche. When she felt like there needed to be a lane for people like herself, she made one. At 34 she has a bestselling book, just finished her second book, had one of the top three podcasts of 2016 and 2017, invented her own language, and became
Photo by: MINDY TUCKER