Phoebe Robinson on Going From "Dorky Kid" to Dope Queen, and What's Next
The comedian-author-actor wanted to be the next Felicity growing up. Now, she's plotting her own rom-com and preparing to "pass the mic to someone else."
By all accounts, Phoebe Robinson had a normal upbringing. As a kid in Cleveland, Ohio, and like many millennials, she lived her life vicariously through TV characters.
“I was a dorky kid, watching The West Wing, Moesha, and Felicity. I thought I was going to move to New York City and wear a chunky knit sweater and make out with two dudes … that was kind of my dream,” Robinson says in her InStyle Badass Women video, above.
Now 35, Robinson has indeed fulfilled that dream — at least a part of it, moving to NYC and enrolling at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where she studied screenwriting (and probably wore a chunky sweater or two). Then, she furthered her education in a different way: In her early twenties, in the summer of 2008, with a healthy dose of skepticism and doubt, Robinson joined a friend in a standup comedy class at Carolines on Broadway. She was hooked.
Never expecting that a career could stem from comedy, Robinson was nonetheless smitten, in love with making people laugh. She'd practice her set — crowd banter and all — in front of a mirror, perfecting her craft, one joke at a time. To pay the bills, Robinson blogged by day while working on her improv at night.
Finding her voice, while still saddled with debt, Robinson teamed up with former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams. Together, they created and co-hosted 2 Dope Queens, which began as a podcast in 2016 and later as a four-part HBO special in 2018. To say the talk show was wildly popular is an understatement.
“We answered a phone call that we didn’t even know was ringing,” Robinson says of their success.
Robinson went on to write the best-selling book You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain and was a staff writer on the final season of Portlandia; she acted in TBS’s Search Party and Netflix's Ibiza and hosted another acclaimed podcast, Sooo Many White Guys.
Her second book, Everything's Trash, But It’s Okay, was published in fall 2018, and this summer, it was announced that Robinson will star in and executive produce an interview show for Comedy Central — the first project from her newly formed production company, Tiny Reparations. In a nutshell, she’s been busy being a badass woman. But despite her success, she knows that she is still an exception in the often one-note world of comedy.
“As a woman, or as person of color, or as a queer person — or anyone who’s not a straight white dude — you wonder: Do I belong? But what’s really cool about right now, is that you can decide what you want your career path to be, and [you can] follow your bliss.” After following hers to a bustling comedy career, she’s ready to pay it forward — and reward herself. “I want to pass the mic to someone else and provide a platform for people to share their truth. I would [also] love to write a romantic comedy … for me to star in.”
Robinson stays hungry as they say and works constantly (she’s on tour now). When she’s not busy multi-hyphenating and following said bliss, she is trying to find that work/life balance like the rest of us (check out her IG to see “Phoebe Learning to Naych”) and tries her best to remain present and positive. Over the years, Robinson has observed that the world is full of overthinkers, and now she’s using it to her advantage — by jumping into situations head-on. “No one really knows what they’re doing all the time, so don’t be afraid to mess up,” she says of knocking down doors and smashing glass ceilings, bringing the conversation back to Felicity. “I didn't get into NYU — but I got on HBO!”