If there is one thing the world doesn’t necessarily need to double down on right now, it is the promotion of even more white male voices. Pheobe Robinson, comedian and co-host of hit podcast 2 Dope Queens, knows this better than anyone, and so she has created a platform for every other variety of voice with her own podcast, Sooo Many White Guys, now in its second season at WNYC. Through long-form honest conversations with her weekly guests—none of whom are white guys, well, except for one token white guy per season, because Robinson believes in diversity, obviously—we are treated to a full range of perspectives and experiences (think: Roxane Gay, Isa Rae, Janet Mock, Constance Wu, Nia Long) that, until very recently, the world had been exceptionally gifted at ignoring.
Was it ever a question that you would enter comedy?
I definitely did not want to do comedy. I had always assumed I was going to write serious, Oscar award-winning films. Like the floating trash bag scene in “American Beauty?” That’s what I thought I was gonna do. Just melodramatic stuff. So I worked at a couple of film companies and was like, “Why so serious? #TheJoker,” and eventually got back into my improv roots (I used to do improv in college), and then a friend dragged me kicking and screaming to a stand up class at Caroline’s and the rest is her-story!
At the end of January, you launched your second season of Sooo Many White guys, which features, blessedly, just one white man. How was that project born, and what were your goals when that happened?
Well, each season, we have a token white guy or two, but yes, the rest of the guests are women, people of color, and folks from the LGBTQ+ community, which makes me so happy. I had already been doing 2 Dope Queens for WNYC, and one of my producers, Paula Schuzman, said if I have any other ideas for podcasts, I should let her know. And coincidentally, like a couple of days before that conversation, I came up with the idea for Sooo Many White Guys, because podcasting is overwhelmingly white and straight male, and when a lot of guests who don’t fit that model get interviewed, they get “Other-ized.” A lot of “What’s it like to be a woman in charge of a show,” or “So you’re trans….” Like correctly identifying someone is not a question and also there is so much more to people than their gender, race, who they have sex with. And I think with guests I’ve had on like Hasan Minhaj or Janet Mock or Roxane Gay, I’ve really had the pleasure of showing a side of them that other interviewers haven’t been interested in showing.
But also, season two has been more about talking to some people who I agree with and others I don’t. I think the first season, I was little bit like, “Thank you for doing the show. I’m so lucky.” And now I recognize my strength and my worth. So I down to having conversations where I’m trying to see the other side of things, and the person I’m chatting with is trying to do that as well.
As far as planning the episodes, executive producer Ilana Glazer and I each book half the season’s guests. Usually, I’m a big fan of their work, so I don’t have to do too much of a dive into what they have done, and then Rachel Neel, another producer on the show, assembles research and questions and that I tend to riff off of and go with the flow of the conversation—which is how St. Vincent and I talked about her crazy strip club experience. Once we have the interview done, we fill it out with a segment with Ilana and in-studio banter with the last producer on the show, Joanna Solotaroff. I usually say something ignorant and Joanna goes, “Oh dear.” Rinse and repeat. Haha.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work? Why do you believe it is important, today especially?
I think just being able to do it. So many people don’t find their bliss, let alone their bliss in work, so I’m extremely grateful that I have. And I think because my comedy is a combination of self-pride, lady pride, black pride, sex talk, and the political, I feel like I’m tapping into all facets of myself. Considering how America is these days, I think any sort of humor that can be a source of escape and also a way to talk about heady issues can help. Idk how important it is in the long run, but I like to think that by having conversations and highlighting marginalized voices, I’m not only speaking for those who can’t speak out, but also passing the mic to those and letting them tell their stories.
What is your proudest achievement professionally? What do you hope to achieve still? What is your greatest challenge?
Proudest achievements professionally are my two podcasts, 2DQ and Sooo Many White Guys, and getting my debut essay collection, You Can’t Touch My Hair, on the New York Times best sellers list. Dream come true.
I want to be a mogul and have an empire. That includes having my own TV show, writing and starring in movies, and producing other folks’s TV shows and movies and podcasts. Another book and a stand-up special. And I want to do things that I can’t even dream of yet.
My greatest challenge is self-care. I’m a workaholic and I’ve been grinding real hard these past nine years, and I’ve completely worn myself out. I had insomnia, put on weight, ate like crap, and was a little depressed. So I’m striving for balance in all areas of my life. Reading self help books has been great for that.
What do you hope changes, improves, (or continues!) in comedy (in Brooklyn and elsewhere) in the future?
I just want to keep seeing new faces and hearing new voices. The more voices and more stories and perspectives we hear, the better.
Who would you nominate for this list?
Rae Sanni and Ben and Katja Blichfield from High Maintenance.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.