Two years after introducing the world to 2 Dope Queens, hosts Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams expanded beyond traditional podcasting to bring their hilarious commentary to HBO. Here, the two comedians chat with EBONY about a variety of topcs, including Michelle Obama, the importance of Black women’s voices and why fans can look forward to the return of 2 Dope Queens.
EBONY: You guys recently sat down with our forever first lady, Michelle Obama, to discuss her autobiography, Becoming. How was it having her as a guest on 2 Dope Queens?
Robinson: I was actually a bit anxious about it, even though I did all this research on her beforehand. I really like to know more about my guests than they know about themselves. Her book is so extraordinary, her life is so fascinating and she has such a universal message that when we walked into her office, it felt like we were just going to see our friend Meesh! I know she’s the former first lady, but we’re just going to hang out and chill.
Williams: I had about 17 panic attacks and was doing a lot of hyperventilating. As soon as we got to her office, the panic attack continued, but it quieted a bit. She really just kept it real with us.
In the back of my mind, I was worried about the questions a bit. I felt like people may look at me like, “You have time to sit down with Michelle Obama, and you want to talk about hair?” But for us, that’s important information! We care about that stuff. We also want to cover topics that other people wouldn’t.
2 Dope Queens is immensely popular with mainstream audiences, which is something that’s relatively new for content produced by Black female voices. Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk is also a favorite among several demographics. What are your thoughts on the recent acceptance of the Black female voice by more mainstream consumers and the progress still needed to make sure all of our voices are truly heard?
Robinson: I think the mainstream is changing. Back in the day, we had, like, five channels. If you couldn’t find your way onto those five channels, then you just didn’t have an outlet. I think now with Facebook, with us doing podcasting, with web series on YouTube, you really can find your own voice and put content out there that your audience can find and will enjoy.
If the gatekeepers want to catch up to us, that’s great; but if they don’t, we’ll be over here doing our own thing.
Williams: Yeah, I agree. Phoebe and I really talk to each other about so much, and I think that’s why people love 2 Dope Queens. It makes them feel like they’re just hanging out with their homies. We’re hanging out with comics, who are our homies and people we actually like, and people pick up on that.
Also, there’s a lot of stuff about Black women that I was surprised the mainstream didn’t know. I always hope Black women hear us and think, ‘Oh yeah, they’re just like me and my friends.’ White people listen to us and can relate too, but if we’re talking about lotioning the ash away or anything like that, it kind of gives White folks a peek into our world while making sure Black women feel acknowledged.
How was the transition for you guys moving from traditional podcasting to a television series for HBO?
Robinson: It’s been fun. I think we learned so much doing the podcast that now we have no problem rolling up our sleeves and really grinding it out. There’s no podcast network that has the budget of an HBO or similar platform, so you really learn how to do a lot of different things. When we got to HBO, we were able to really be a part of the process.
Also, visually, we’re very cute cocoa queens, so we just knew we’d look good in HD!
With the proper stage lighting for brown girls, right?
Williams: Yes! We have to control the lighting, we know how to light ourselves. Also, a big part of the transition was being glammed up. I actually had to get used to being this glam; I don’t know if I love it as much as not being glam. I mean, it’s tight as hell, but know I’m putting in a little bit of work to wear, like, heels. I’m not a heel girl, I’ll just wear some Vans and call it a day. It was a real adjustment for me to get all dolled up just to talk about my vajayjay.
Phoebe, what would you say was the overall mission of your original Blaria [based on a Black version of the MTV animated character Daria] blog, and did it change at all when it transitioned into 2 Dope Queens with Jess? Phoebe,
Robinson: Blaria started because I’ve always been a writer and I wanted a blog to express my musings about pop culture, racism, feminism and what have you. That turned into Blaria: Live, a stand-up show. When Jess and I started co-hosting the show together, I didn’t think we should keep the name of something I worked on that she wasn’t involved in, so we just decided to make 2 Dope Queens its own entity.
The mission is always ongoing. For me, it’s not about us having a show on HBO; that’s just the first step. It’s that we can bring other people in and support them. I can eventually produce and green-light other projects. I think that’s how you change things and it feels great to bring along people who are deserving.
After 2 1/2 years, how do you hope to evolve 2 Dope Queens moving forward?
Williams: With this new round of specials! Going from doing podcasting to doing now eight HBO specials is a really big leap! I feel really blessed and lucky to be able to do it, and I feel really proud of where it’s gone.
Finally, how do you know when a project has run its course and it’s time to move on to something new?
Williams: It’s just a feeling. A lot of it is doing the shows or projects with people while paying attention to yourself and how you feel as an individual. I think the scariest part is announcing the goodbye, but everything else you’ll feel in your gut.
Robinson: What I love about doing stand-up or writing my two books is that each thing becomes a sort of snapshot of my life that catches me at a particular moment. I go into it knowing it will be fleeting, and I think that’s the beauty of it. Telling myself, ‘I want to capture myself at 33’ or ‘I want to document how I handled this crazy breakup’ ; it helps you keep track of where you’ve been and how much you’ve evolved. For me, that makes it easy to move on to the next thing, like, ‘Yeah, I went through that. I spoke about it, I wrote about it and I’m ready to express myself differently now.’
The new season of 2 Dope Queens debuts Friday, Feb. 8 at 11:00 p.m. on HBO. Guests include Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Radcliffe, Janet Mock, Lizzo and Keegan-Michael Key.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.