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I TALK TO Phoebe Robinson

"I hope to make some smart points but I will also make some dick jokes."


Best-known for co-hosting the smash hit podcast turned HBO series 2 Dope Queens alongside Jessica Williams, Phoebe Robinson has interviewed the likes of Lupita Nyong'o, Sarah Jessica Parker and Michelle Obama, released two best-selling books, hosts the Sooo Many White Guys podcast and and now she's making her stand-up debut in the UK with Sorry, Harriet Tubman.


Why has it taken you this long to come over to the UK?


Well I just didn't think anyone would want to come and see me do stand-up!


Let's start with 2 Dope Queens which is perhaps what you're best known for. How did the podcast come about and were you surprised by how big it got?


Yes. Totally surprised. In 2014 I was still a struggling comic in New York, I had some blogging jobs, I was doing some very well-paying stand-up gigs and there was a listing to be an unpaid background person on a piece for The Daily Show that Jessica Williams was doing about black women's hair in the military.


I didn't have anything that day so I decided to do this unpaid gig and myself and Jessica just really hit it off. There's a lot of down time during a shoot so we're chatting about her dating this guy and just really enjoyed our time together.


I invited her to do this really super crappy podcast I was doing out of my really crummy one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn that had water leaks and all that stuff - and she did and it was so much fun and she told me she always wanted to try stand-up. So I mentioned that I had a show coming up and suggested that we could co-host it together as a one-off thing and she was like "OK, cool. That sounds awesome!"


So we did it and it's sort of what you see on 2 Dope Queens, we just came out and hosted, told stories and bantered and felt an instant chemistry that made us want to do it again. Then we kept doing it at UCB East and then we thought we should turn this into a podcast.


Even then we didn't think it would ever be a podcast that would break out, we just wanted to capture this moment where people were discovering comics they didn't know through us having a showcase show in New York.


And then it just really grew from there. That's one of the amazing things about the New York comedy scene - you really can get a lot of momentum because if people really dig what you're doing, word of mouth spreads so much.


Then came the HBO series.


Well after that we thought 2 Dope Queens should be on TV so we decided to go for HBO and they bought it!


It was amazing! To their testament they were fans of the show and told us "Don't change it. Do what you do on the podcast but just make it more polished and more suited to TV" so no performing in sweat pants, we wore nice clothes.


The reception has been so great and people are wanting comedy from all kinds of backgrounds and that's been really cool.


Let's talk about interviewing a certain First Lady, Michelle Obama! What was that experience like and are you still pinching yourself?


Yeah! Last night I got back to town after a long work trip and I was so tired but I was like "Do you remember when you were hanging out with Michelle Obama earlier this year? That was cool right?" and I was just talking to myself in the elevator still not quite believing that happened.


She's so lovely and warm and smart and it's one of those things you cannot ever predict happening in your life. She's wonderful and I still don't understand 15,000 people showing up for a book - when has that ever happened?! It's incredible. She's a great writer and I think she's going to inspire a lot of people to write and I think that's really really amazing.


When did you first become aware of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?


I've been doing stand-up for 11 years so probably early on. I knew of other comics who had done it like Sean Patton, Michael Che, Jenna Friedman, Michelle Wolf - so I always thought "That seems really cool, maybe I'll do that one day."


I had a couple of friends telling me that I should do it, I kept hearing about how it's a cool place to hone an hour and the audience are so smart and wonderful but I just didn't know when that would ever happen.


As a US performer I was always under the impression that you'd stretch more in Edinburgh than you would in the US and the time felt right because I was working on this hour, I've got the tour so let's see if I can do some international dates in the middle of this tour and the timing just so worked out.


What can people expect from the show?


I think it's going to be a lot of my sensibility in 2 Dope Queens, so I'm going to be silly. I'm also talking about dating a British guy, race, gender stuff and I think it's going to be a really fun hour.


I hope to make some smart points but I will also make some dick jokes. I think there's a good balance of high and low brow humour in there. I hope that people really like it.


I'd love people to come who want to have a good time and laugh and see what I can do outside of 2 Dope Queens because certainly in the UK, because I've never performed there, people mostly know me as a duo. So I think getting to see me solo will hopefully be a great experience for people.


Why have you called the show Sorry, Harriet Tubman?


One of the things Jessica and I always used to joke about when we did the podcast - because we were so ridiculous and sometimes very raunchy on the show - we must be disappointing so many black historical figures like the Obamas for example, but it turns out we didn't.


Harriet Tubman was the leader of the underground railroad for slaves to get freedom in the north and I think that out of everyone, she would have been the most disappointed that she worked this hard and here we are talking about which hot celebs we'd make out with.


But there we go! So I just wanted to use that again because it always makes me laugh.


How long have you been working on this show for?


I had a couple of jokes left over from my last tour with Ilana Glazer which we only did Stateside but I have really fleshed out and those jokes have really morphed. But I starting hitting the ground running super hard in January.


I've been working on stand-up in between all my 10,000 other jobs so I'm hoping that my the end of Edinburgh, the last chunks of the show I have yet to figure out will be super polished.


Do you enjoy having an hour on stage to yourself?


Yeah, because I think you just need the time. I did this residency at this small theatre in Fort Worth, Texas which was an hour to work on stuff that was already figured out and try out new stuff.


I think sometimes during 15/20-minute club sets you don't have the time to play. When you have an hour you can really dig deep into a particular topic and make some cool discoveries on stage. Having an hour is a great way to express complete thoughts.


What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh?


Outside of doing my own hour, my show's at 6.45pm which I'm hoping you guys realise means I'm an old lady at heart - so I'm really looking forward to going around after my show and watching other people.


I know some comics like to say that they're tough to make laugh, but I really enjoy watching other comics perform so I want to bounce around and check out different people and get inspired by those who are thinking in different ways to how I think. I can't wait to see the lay of the land!


Just before Edinburgh you're performing in London for the first time. How excited are you about that?


I'm very excited! I love London because my boyfriend is from Bournemouth so we've spent some time in London. It'll be nice to go back for work and to do some shows. I think it's going to be an amazing month and I'm really really pumped.


Are you a fan of UK TV shows?


Yeah! I love Catastrophe and Fleabag and I just love your sense of humour. It's a little bit different, a little bit more quirky than it can be here in the States sometimes.


Catastrophe was hands down one of my favourite show of the entire 2000s thus far. I love that show! I think it's so brilliant how they mixed comedy and drama together. I watched the final season and was like "Nooooo! Don't end it!" but I think they survive together. I think so.


Outside of stand-up then, what are you working on?


I've got my book out called Everything's Trash, But It's Okay which is an essay collection about coming out of $60,000 worth of debt, interracial dating, body positivity - so the book runs the gamut of a lot of the things millennials as well as those slightly younger and slightly older are thinking about.


Because of the success of 2 Dope Queens people have this perception of what my life was which was this rich lady who was just killing it which is not true. So I wanted to be open and honest, especially around money, about some people pretend or cover up what their real money situation, feeling like they have to perpetuate a certain kind of persona.


There are people in your life who are struggling financially and you have no idea because they're too afraid to tell you. So I just wanted to have those honest moment as well as writing about how Oprah called me and I missed the phone call because I was in so much debt. So much so that I didn't pick up the phone unless I recognised the number in case it was debt collectors.


And your podcast Sooo Many White Guys continues?


Yeah! We've just wrapped up season four and we've had some great people like Jameela Jamil who I adore - she's so incredible, so lovely and has so much heart - Reese Witherspoon, lots of great people who especially this season I felt were trying to give back to others.


Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?


Funny. Politically-adjacent. Honest. Butt stuff.


Phoebe Robinson: Sorry, Harriet Tubman runs from 12th - 25th August at 6.45pm at the Assembly George Square Studios (Three). Book tickets here.

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