The 2 Dope Queens Urge the Next Generation to Find Their Voice
By Olivia Armstrong
Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams spoke to members of Girls Write Now about finding creativity through authenticity.
Between taping their second batch of HBO specials, comedy duo Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, aka 2 Dope Queens, sat with members of Girls Write Now to spill some tea about being black women in comedy and honing their voices as feminist writers.
Girls Write Now (GWN), New York City’s “first and only writing and mentoring organization for girls,” pairs seasoned female creatives with young women to help them channel their inner screenwriters, novelists, journalists and poets.
Nakia J., a mentor with GWN who enjoys writing non-fiction short stories, was excited to spend the morning with inspiring writers like Robinson and Williams. “There’s such a stigma that follows women in comedy. Like they aren’t funny enough,” she explained. “But it’s so untrue.”
Mariah Dwyer, a former mentee with the group, also commented on the systemic sexism that follows female writers, especially those in the comedic space: “It’s this question of: Sure, you can write a joke, but are you funny?” She continued, “I feel like men don’t have to deal with that.”
Teen Vogue Executive Editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay moderated the conversation between the Queens and the organization’s crop of budding writers during an intimate brunch at Brooklyn’s 1 Hotel. The theme? Finding your voice.
“What’s been great about 2 Dope Queens, is we’ve used [the podcast and specials] as a way to have conversations a lot of black women are having at home,” Robinson said. “We’ve just put it on a bigger stage.” Williams, who met Robinson when she moved to New York for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, agrees the conversational element of the duo’s comedy has been a “cathartic gift.”
“I feel things really fully and sometimes it has nowhere to go,” she added. “The fact I can use my voice, based on all the emotions I feel and carry around with me, and get a response from an audience is a dream come true.”
When asked about their career endeavors outside of 2 Dope Queens (Robinson just came out with her second book of essays and Williams was recently seen in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), Williams revelled in the fact writers no longer need to feel boxed in. “We’re in a moment where you can be a writer-slash-actor-slash-whatever you want,” she said. “I don’t want to lock myself down to any one thing.”
Mukhopadhyay closed the panel with a query about being “disruptive creatives of color,” to which the Queens both credited those around them.
“When I was coming up in comedy, I did so many shows with women, people of color and queer people and I thought to myself: I don’t see any of them on TV,” Robinson explained. “I decided if we’re going to do a show, it has to be something different. I wanted it to be about who we are and the people we hang out with.”
Williams believes surrounding yourself with people “who allow you to be playful” is key. “Seek things and people who make you giggle or fill you with a sense of childlike wonder,” she offered before closing: “And find friends who make you feel good and push you forward.”
2 Dope Queens returns in 2019, only on HBO.
Photos: Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix