Phoebe Robinson Talks Kanye’s ‘Ignorant’ Campaign and Schooling Jimmy Fallon on Race
On this week’s episode of “The Last Laugh” podcast, the “2 Dope Queens” co-host talks about striking out on her own with a new advice podcast and her own late-night talk show.
Phoebe Robinson named her new advice podcast Black Frasier, even though she’s never seen a single episode of that very white ‘90s sitcom.
“I freely admit I’ve never seen it,” the comedian tells me on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast. “I saw some screenshots and I was like, I get it.”
Robinson, who is probably most famous for being one half of the 2 Dope Queens with former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams, has been quarantining with her boyfriend in their Brooklyn apartment since early March. But staying inside has not hindered her quest for media domination.
She’s currently writing her third book—this one about life during the pandemic, called Six Feet Apart—the first under her new Tiny Reparations imprint. Her production company of the same name is also putting out Black Frasier as well as her upcoming Comedy Central talk show Doing the Most, which was originally supposed to air this summer.
Robinson was in the middle of shooting that show’s 10 episodes when the coronavirus shutdown happened. “I know we’re in Phase 4 here in New York, but I’m like LOL, we could go back to Phase 1 tomorrow,” she says. She’s hopeful that they can finish shooting this fall and release the show in early 2021. “But if not then we’ll just shoot it at the beginning of the next year and then have it come out next summer.”
And unlike the rest of late-night TV at the moment, Doing the Most is not a show that can work via Zoom.
“The general premise behind it is that because I am such a workaholic, I actually don’t have a ton of life experiences or skills,” Robinson said, explaining that she doesn’t know how to drive, cook or play any sports. In each episode, she will learn a new skill with guests like her I Love Dick co-star Kevin Bacon or Queer Eye’s Tan France. In one recurring segment, she asks her celebrity guests probing questions while acting as their “big spoon”—basically the opposite of social distancing.
“I always call myself a low-budget Oprah,” Robinson adds. “So this is like my Nordstrom Rack version of like a Super Soul Sunday moment, with more dick jokes.”
Highlights from our conversation are below and you can listen to the whole thing right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
On the best career advice she’s ever received
“I like to do a lot of things, but tend to get a little bit overwhelmed. I tend to just always look at the big picture and then go, how am I going to finish writing a book? How am I going to self-produce a podcast? How am I gonna do all these things? The biggest piece of advice that I’ve gotten was from my former assistant. She’s now the office manager for my production company. And she said to me, if you said yes to fewer things, you would actually be a more productive person. I started out doing stand-up comedy and then also freelance blogging. So both of those are things where you have to hustle and say yes to every gig just to make rent. Probably for the first eight years of my career, I was just constantly saying yes to every single thing. And then I got to a place where it’s like, now I’m touring and I have a production company and I’m writing books and it’s like, you don’t have to go to Staten Island and do this stand-up gig that's going to pay 50 bucks. And so it's allowed me to think about not saying yes to everything, because you’re scared that if you say no, that all your opportunities will dry up.”
On the immense pressure of bringing ‘2 Dope Queens’ to HBO
“We did our show in New York at the Bell House. It’s a 400-seater. Some days we would show up with no makeup on and sweatpants. It was so chill, like were just hanging out with the homies. But then once it got to HBO, we were like, this is the big leagues. This is what so many people in comedy aim for. Especially for the first season, I will say for myself specifically, I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I should have because I was so in my head about it being HBO and we're in this big theater that holds 3,000 people with all this history behind it. And I just didn’t want to screw it up. We’re on the same network as Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and Sex and the City. And I want to make sure our show is right up there with them. So it did feel kind of wild. And the first night we taped, Jess and I walked out and got this huge standing ovation. I started to tear up a little bit because I just never expected any of that to happen.”
On late-night TV’s sudden embrace of Black Lives Matter
“Black Lives Matter has been around since 2013. And it had a lot of momentum then, but now to see the uprisings happening on a global level to a degree that’s never happened before is really exciting. And I think whether it’s [Jimmy] Fallon or these other late night hosts acknowledging that we can’t just go along and pretend like everything is business as usual, we do actually need to have these conversations—I think it’s good to have them, but I also want it to be more than just having a conversation in June. What is the makeup of your staff behind the scenes? How are you operating going forward in your everyday life, whether it’s at your school or at your grocery store in your neighborhood? So I think it's good that this is happening, but I don't want it to be the only thing that happens. It felt like it was coming from a very genuine place. And for me, being a Black woman, a lot of times, whenever there’s a discussion about race, people just go to Black men as if they're the only people who experience any sort of racism. And you look at Black Lives Matter, that was started by Black women. And so I think it was really nice to sort of acknowledge that Black women are doing a lot of the work and to have my input and my insight alongside W. Kamau Bell was really nice and I appreciated that.”
On Kanye West’s ‘ignorant’ Harriet Tubman comments
“I think there’s a lot of things that are happening. One, obviously there’s some mental health things that are going on. But two, I think it’s really tricky with famous people in particular when they’re going through something and then people want to show up for the spectacle. It's like you’re treating this person going through a mental health situation as entertainment. But in terms of the whole Harriet Tubman thing, I don’t know where this stuff comes from. There’s a lot of anti-Black stuff that he says that I don’t quite get. Even the things about like, well, back in the day, I wouldn’t have been a slave. You would have. Like, what are you talking about? That’s such an ignorant thing to say. It makes it seem like, ‘Oh, they just didn’t try hard enough not to be slaves.’ And I’m like, have you read a book? So to me, I feel like attacking these figures who are symbols of freedom, who put their lives [on the] line to make life better for all Black people, I just feel like that is not the hill you want to die on. And I wish he would stop saying stuff like that. I don’t know where it comes from. I just think it’s harmful rhetoric to be out there. And I think if anything right now we should be celebrating these figures like Harriet Tubman who helped slaves get to freedom. We should be commending that, not like being like, ‘Oh, this person’s trash.’ Of all the people, I’m going to say that Harriet Tubman is not trash. She’s good.”