A shortened version of this article appeared in Marie Claire (January 2017)
US comedian and co-host of hilarious and successful podcast 2 Dope Queens and Sooo Many White Guys, Phoebe Robinson, spoke to me about her recently published book of essays, You Can’t Touch My Hair (And Other Things I Still Have to Explain), recording the third season of 2 Dope Queens with co-host Jessica Williams and her love for Michael Fassbender and Michael B Jordan.
How did “You Can’t Touch My Hair” come to be?
It was like an act of fate. I know that sounds hokey, but it’s true. In 2014, I was questioning still doing comedy. At that point, I had been doing comedy for about six years, but I felt like my career was stuck. Out of the blue my lit agent, Robert Guinsler, sent me an email about working together on a book. That email felt like a dream come true because I started blog Blaria (aka Black Daria, inspired by the MTV show Daria) in 2012. And since it’s made up of essays, it felt like a natural fit for the book to be that and about things that are more evergreen like racism and sex positivity.
When did you write the book?
The process took about 13 months; between May 2015 and June 2016. I wrote some of it upstate New York to jumpstart the process, other parts were written at the office in my apartment or backstage at stand-up shows while I waited to perform.
Why the title, “You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain”?
I’m a title person. I came up with the name because in America, black women’s hair is touched all the time. So I thought it would be fun to name it something that we say all the time. Thankfully, people got the joke, so I’m happy about that.
The other part of your title is “And Other Things I Still Have to Explain”, which begs the question, who is the book aimed at?
This book is for everyone. I think people who have a similar background to me, will feel reflected in the book and laugh, “That happened to me, too!” I also think it’s for other people who maybe aren’t that familiar with someone like me and maybe they will learn something.
How much writing/preparation goes into creating your podcasts?
With both podcasts, I want it to feel natural and like a party, but to get that is not always easy and other times, it is. Since Sooo Many White Guys is an interview talk show, so a lot of prep goes into the research about my guests and the questions I ask them. While 2 Dope Queens’s structure is looser. My manager, Chenoa Estrada and I book all the acts and then [co-host] Jessica Williams and I improvise our performances. The producers then come in and edit down what Jess and I say.
Do you view the process for producing essays, podcasts and stand-up routines as similar?
They are absolutely interlinked because they all come from one mindset, and that is being a creator. It all starts with me and making sure I have a strong vision. Having something to say whether it’s high brow about sexism or lowbrow about my love of Michael Fassbender and Michael B Jordan. A lot of my work is inspired by me wanting to make my audience feel like they’re hanging out with a best friend.