Phoebe Robinson Has Some Thoughts on What We Can Leave in 2020
Last year felt like Day 2 of your period that would just not end. It was nonstop, and I kept thinking, “Where is my heating pad? Where are my chocolate puffs?” There are so many terrible things that have happened with the pandemic — mass unemployment, social uprisings. I think we’ve all been feeling the weight of it.
I’ve been quarantining with my boyfriend, British Baekoff, in our New York City apartment, and that alone is tough because you can hear everything, you’re in each other’s space, and you don’t have access to grass — not just weed but nature too. Thankfully, my boyfriend is amazing, and there’s no one I’d rather be confined with. But at the same time, I know he’s sick of my loud-ass walking around the apartment when he is trying to watch TV.
I’m type A, so in the beginning, it was just easier to focus on work. I dived into my next book; my imprint, Tiny Reparations Books; my podcast, Black Frasier; and my upcoming comedy special. In the summer, my agent said, “Are you going to take a break?” I told him I’d take some time off around Christmas, and he was like, “But it’s only June.” When your agent — who gets 10 percent of everything — is like, “Bitch, you need to stop working,” that’s when you know you’ve gone too far. But truthfully, that moment helped me realize that I was wound too tight. I knew I had to take inventory to figure out what I needed to work on and what I needed to let go of in my life.
I also had recently signed on to host the Amazon Prime comedy special Yearly Departed, in which a bunch of badass female comedians, like Tiffany Haddish, Rachel Brosnahan, and Sarah Silverman, get up onstage and one by one take down all the things we lost — and that we needed to lose — in the longest year ever, so we can finally start fresh in 2021. It was exactly what I needed.
Now, I’m not really a New Year’s resolution–type person, but I am someone who likes to set her intentions and speak things into existence. So, easily one of the first things I wanted to leave behind in 2020 were Zoom meetings. Like, we need to chill on the meetings. Remember when we just emailed and texted? I miss those days. So please, do not circle back. Do not tell me about synergy, either. I know what I’m doing. And it’s totally fine that I am doing it while wearing sweatpants. Speaking of sweatpants, they can gladly come with me into 2021, but high heels cannot. I haven’t worn stilettos since last February, and let me tell you, I want only supportive arches for the rest of my life.
Since I’ve been indoors so much, I want to work on getting out of my comfort zone more this year. I love to travel, so I’m going to put it out into the universe that at some point it will be safe to go to Milan and have some pasta. I’m trying to persuade my boyfriend to go to Paris with me too. But I’m basically like a Black Emily in Paris who goes around taking selfies, so he’s like, “Let’s go somewhere where you won’t be as embarrassing.” I also have a talk show [Doing the Most with Phoebe Robinson] coming up on Comedy Central where each guest will teach me something new. I’m afraid of animals, so [comedian] Whitney Cummings taught me how to ride a horse. I’m not great in the kitchen, so [Queer Eye’s] Tan France taught me how to bake. It’s actually fun to be out of my element.
I’ve also decided to simply say no to more things. When I started out in stand-up, I was so broke that I needed to take every job to pay my rent. And I still have that poor-girl brain. Now I want to say yes to things because they are creatively exciting — not because I have this fear that everything will dry up. I want to learn to trust the process and trust myself.
To help me find the balance, I’ve also started going to therapy, so I can do those mental tune-ups. A lot of times self-care becomes like, “If you get this candle, you’re taking care of yourself.” But birchwood is not going to change my life. If you really want to do the work, you have to get below the surface and push yourself to do the things you want. Life is short! Especially now, we’re seeing that nothing is guaranteed. And if we can show up for ourselves the way that we show up for our best friend, then we might have a shot this year.
As told to Jennifer Ferrise.
Robinson is the host of the upcoming comedy special Yearly Departed, available Dec. 30 on Amazon Prime Video.
For more stories like this, pick up the January 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Dec 18th.