Phoebe Robinson Would Like You to Stop Being an Asshole
In her new book "Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay," Phoebe Robinson talks about interracial dating, paying off $65k in student loan debt, and succeeding in comedy. Pro tip: "don't be an asshole."
Photo courtesy of Phoebe Robinson
It’s 7 AM on a Friday and comedian Phoebe Robinson is on the phone line. After a brief “how’s it going?” she dives into the interview at the crack of dawn, unfazed, but really, it’s no surprise. This self-proclaimed workaholic who is known as the co-host of 2 Dope Queens, a podcast turned HBO special, also just released a new book of hilarious essays, Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay.
In her trademark ultra-chill style, she rants about interracial dating, the whiteness of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop newsletter and paying off $65,000 in student loans. As a follow up to her first bestselling title You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain, Robinson’s comedy is really for everyone. She is gearing up to record the next 2 Dope Queens at King’s Theatre in Brooklyn next month, but the 34-year-old took some time to speak to us about her British boyfriend, her fanbase, and why there’s more to life than selfies.
BROADLY: Why did you want to do this book?
Phoebe Robinson: After the 2016 election, I was feeling crummy. I didn’t expect things to turn out the way they did, but I was inspired by what I saw—people volunteering, rallying, and making donations to causes. I felt like everything being trash was OK because people are coming together to make a change.
You’re doing a lot of serious-toned interviews for something that’s essentially a comedy book, right?
Yeah! It’s only serious based on the questions I’m asked. There are a lot of funny moments in the book, from meeting Oprah to intersectional feminism, interracial dating, and funny anecdotes about being a woman.
What is it about inter-racial dating you want to share?
Well, I think that a) people can’t get over it, certainly not in this century, and b) at the end of the day, its just two people dating. It doesn’t have to have the weight of history of it. With my boyfriend, we have the same arguments as anyone else. If people could really chill the hell out, they would be much happier.
Your boyfriend is British? Do you think British people can be uptight?
I don’t know a ton of British people, but he's a bit more reserved. He’ll say something like “You’re loud.” I’ll say “This is my regular speaking volume.” He’ll say “I think you’re loud” and I will say “none of my friends think I’m loud.” Then he’ll say “but all of your friends are loud.” Everyone in America is extremely loud.
What was the general reception by white fans from your first book, You Can’t Touch My Hair?
It made the bestsellers list, which was nice. But honestly, I don’t read reviews. I don’t look myself up on social media to see what people are saying. A lot of it doesn’t concern me, there are much bigger problems in the world.
What’s it like as a Black woman working in a white male-dominated industry like comedy?
I’m trying to focus on creating stuff that is counter to the problem. Whether it’s my show or my podcast, I’m trying to work with a lot of women, POC, and queer people. All I can focus on is what I’m trying to help change, rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
What did you learn about the American audience after going on a comedy tour with Ilana Glazer?
I learned you really just find your people. I’m not going to be performing in front of a bunch of white nationalists at a theatre. I was performing in front of like-minded people. If I learned anything, it’s about the social climate we are in, that there are great and not so great things.
Is there anything you’ve said that upsets audiences?
In comedy, you’re always going to have jokes that don’t work or people who don’t share your beliefs. I get it. If you don’t share the same politics as me, you don’t have to listen to my comedy. I’m not trying to be “whatever” about it, but I kind of don’t care.
Talking about the things you do care about, Oprah and Bono are heroes of yours, is it because of their capacity to give back with philanthropy?
Yes. They have a much bigger reach than I do. So much of my career has been about my own views. Even with this book tour, I think to myself, You know, I’ve talked about myself a lot. There needs to be another layer. I do charity work for (RED) because it’s important to keep America active in the fight against AIDS.
What’s your motivation?
If I have this platform and all I do is post selfies, 1) get a fucking life and 2) what a wasted opportunity. How many photos of yourself can you post before you realize your life is extremely empty? It’s benefiting no one. We’re all in this together, I’m only on this earth for a very short amount of time, what impact do I want to leave? I do philanthropy because it’s just as important as my work.
You said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that being a "dope queen" is to make white people feel guilty, which means what?
That was just a full on joke. It’s not about making white people feel guilty. A definition of a "dope queen" is someone who is a work in progress and acknowledges their flaws.
What is your advice for aspiring women comics?
Study the craft. See what’s been done before you and make your own imprint. But also, don’t be an asshole. Life is so much easier if you’re nice to people. There is always going to be someone more talented than you, but that doesn’t matter. Keep your eyes on your own paper. If you stick with it and really work on it, you’ll surprise yourself and really good things are going to come you couldn’t ever predict.
But you may have to do interviews at 7 AM for those good things to happen?
Exactly. But it’s not that bad.