Culture

'2 Dope Queens' Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson Talk Season 2 Return to HBO

Neither Jessica Williams nor Phoebe Robinson had aspirations of becoming comedians when they were little girls. Although both were equally fascinated with entertainment in some capacity or another while growing up, if you were to ask either of them if becoming comedic geniuses and introducing the masses to their fellow funny friends was their career goal during adolescence, the answer likely would have be “no.”

And yet, here the women are, entering their second season of doing just that—providing the laughs with their naturally uncanny and practical humor and lending other brilliant comics the opportunity to share their bits with audiences across the nation on their HBO comedy special, 2 Dope Queens.

Newsweek recently chatted with former Daily Show correspondent, Williams, and New York Times Best Selling author Robinson about their grand return to Brooklyn’s King Theater for new season of 2 Dope Queens, which will feature a full roster of new talent, new guests—Daniel Radcliffe, Janet Mock, Keegan-Michael Key and Lupita Nyong’o are just a few of the celebs slated to pop up on the couch—and all the same charismatic and entertaining life observations the hosts are known and loved for.

Check out Newsweek’s full interview with Williams and Robinson Below and catch the Season 2 premiere of 2 Dope Queens when it airs on HBO on Friday at 11 p.m. ET.

How does it feel to be back on HBO for the second season of 2 Dope Queens?

JW: It’s really exciting to be back on HBO. They were really really great producers. They really sort of sat back and let us do our thing. They’re super supportive. A24 is too. Being back in the King’s Theater felt really right, really special. I think we have more of a hands-on on what we’re doing and exactly how we want the show to go. So while we have surprises and we have excellent comics, we’re running a tighter ship.

PR: So many people wanna be on HBO. If you’re in comedy, it’s sort of like the dream. So to do that and to kinda get to where I’ve gotten in my career at this point, it just feels really cool to be back and to be working. We’re still keeping the same vision of the show. We still have really diverse comics on, great conversations with different celebs. It just feels like, “Aw yea,” this is working out the way that we envisioned it, which is so rare. It feels really lucky and awesome.

How did you go about finding people to bring on the show this time around?

PR: I’ve done standup with all the comics a bunch of different times on a bunch of different shows. You see people around and you’re like, “Oh, this person’s so funny.” I just wanna book people who I think are funnier than me and let them shine. That’s just sort of how we go about celebrating other voices—by just letting people get on stage and rock out and do what they do best.

If you guys could put on show with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

PR: I would say comedy-wise, Melissa McCarthy. I like the way her mind works and she is extremely quick. I got to meet her backstage at [The Late Show with Stephen Colbert]. And I think for a director, Ava DuVernay.

 JW: I gotta say Ava’s up there for me too. JJ Abrams, Jordan Peele. I really really really wanna work with him.

Who were your comedians that you looked up to when you were growing up?

JW: I really love Whoopi Goldberg. I always loved her as a kid. Growing up, I would watch a lot of Mad TV and SNL with my grandma and there were a lot of really amazing queens in comedy on SNL when I got to watch it like Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poeler—some really amazing women that I got to grow up watching.

PR: I watched a lot of comedy as a kid like In Living Color, Martin and Living Single and all those shows, but I thought I was gonna be a serious movie writer like I was gonna write Oscar-winning films and marry Robert DeNiro and just be very serious. It wasn’t until I started doing standup like 10 years ago when I went back and watched Wanda Sykes and Margaret Cho and Ellen DeGeneres. I really became a student of comedy 10 years ago. That’s how I really started seeing a lot of those people. What I really like now are people who are really different from me. I love Tig Nataro. I can never do what she does, but whenever I watch her I feel like I learn more about comedy. I like to watch women that I think are funny in a way [that I'm not]. Even like Wanda Sykes, just her tone and the way she hits certain words. I pick up from [those women] and learn that I can do similar kinds of things with my own stuff.

How are you hoping your presence will impact comedy and the entertainment industry?

PR: While it’s nice to be in front of the camera and doing 2 Dope Queens and our separate side stuff, I’m really looking forward to getting behind the camera and producing more things. I really wanna start my own literary imprint and help publish other authors of color and women. Publishing is so overwhelmingly white and it is so like, “Oh we have a Roxanne Gay so maybe we don’t need any more black female voices.” I really just wanna get to a place where I can use my platform not just to better my own career but I can use it to usher other people along. Those are my two main goals, more producing and a literary imprint.

JW: I’m really excited to open [the entertainment industry] up and make it be O.K. to be weird and not quite fit and to be introverted and also be black and a girl. I hope that image of a black woman becomes more normalized because growing up I did not see a lot of that in the entertainment industry. There wasn’t any room for black women to talk about mental health, so I really want to carve out a space for black women and girls to connect and be able to do that.

Describe Season 2 in three words.

JW: Sexy. Fun. Deliberate.

PR: I’m gonna say ignorant, pee-your-pants-funny, and the third one would be fucking-gorgeous.

JW: Ok, I’m gonna change mine. Fun, playful and a lot of melanin.

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