I was really late to the podcast game. Like late enough that I didn’t open the Podcast app until about August 2017. Despite the fact I was a wildly late adopter of format, even I knew about Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson’s 2 Dope Queens. In fact, it was the first podcast I ever listened to and have since become a loyal, obsessed fan. That’s why I — like many people who enjoy the stars' sublime friendship and phrases like “YQY” — was overjoyed when HBO announced it was letting Williams and Robinson bring their podcast to life with a series of four hour-long specials: “New York,” “Hair,” “Hot Peen,” and “Blerds.”
Now, 2 Dope Queens the premium cable extravaganza is here. The comedic miniseries premieres Friday, February 2, and it is glorious. If you enjoy listening to the dope queens that are J. Willy and Pheebs through an iPhone, you’re going to love watching them dominate the stage of Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre.
Longtime Dope Queens listeners will immediately feel comfortable with the podcast’s HBO update, as it follows the exact same structure as the original. Only this time, you get to see all the sumptuous outfits, perfectly laid hair, and relentless physical comedy of its leading ladies. All episodes begin with some banter from our hosts, and the topics are familiar. We find out which hwhite people should apologize (the guy at the bar who “loves chocolate”), the horror of New York apartments (kittens trapped in bedroom walls), and Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream (Robinson’s white British boyfriend lotioning her feet).
Once the Queens are done amusing themselves and their audience, they toss the spotlight over to one of their many stand-up guests, who will cycle in throughout the specials. This is the part of 2 Dope Queens But On TV that will either delight you when it’s very good or disappoint when it doesn’t exactly fit in with the inclusive bonanza that is the rest of the hour. After all, the premiere, “New York,” does end with rap lyrics like “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit,” a reference to Flavia Dzodan’s 2011 blog, booming over the loudspeakers of Kings Theatre.
Most of the stand-up lives up to that lofty aim, thanks to favorite Dope Queens guests like queer comedian Rhea Butcher, Master Of None guest star Aparna Nancherla, or Michelle Buteau, who will star in one of Netflix’s new, bite-sized stand up comedy specials. That trio, who is peppered in between the first two specials, explores everything from what to do when your gynecologist is a Donald Trump supporter to how to deal with being misgendered during a ride-share scenario. I won’t spoil things, but please know both resulting answers are hilarious.
Yet, amid the dazzling likes of Buteau, Nancherla, and eventually John Early — the breakout Search Party star will appear in a later special — there is one complaint that might bubble up during HBO’s 2 Dope Queens: You’ll miss the actual, titular dope queens. I was hit with one such pang during “New York” guest Mark Normand, who is likely well-meaning, but jokes about things like needing to be reminded not to say the N-word at a dinner party or claim Bill Cosby is his favorite comedian. While there are bright spots, like a great, subtle dig at Nazis, they get easily overshadowed by riffs on what catcalling would be for guys (hint: it’s not nearly as frightening as the actual reality for women).
Thankfully, whenever you miss Williams and Robinson the most, you can rest assured the specials are anchored by fun, weird, food-filled interviews between the hosts and theme-appropriate fellow celebrities. “New York” has Jon Stewart of Daily Show fame, “Hair” causes a meltdown with Sex and The City’s Sarah Jessica Parker, “Hot Peen” features Broad City boyfriend Hannibal Buress, and “Blerds,” the proper portmanteau for black nerds, natch, caps off the proceedings with Orange Is The New Black favorite Uzo Aduba.
Although it’s always fun to watch Williams and Robinson banter back and forth, it’s their big interviews that make the strongest case for Queens to make the jump to the small screen. We want to see the freakout that ensues when an icon like SJP unexpectedly kisses Robinson’s foot, or the visual comedy of quintessential New Yorker Stewart throwing a slice of pizza across a stage because he hates it that much. This would all sound fine over a pair of headphones, but the visuals push the already-beloved Queens to an entirely new level.
Over the last few weeks, the subject of Black women in comedy has become a lightning rod of a topic after both Wanda Sykes and Mo’Nique dragged burgeoning stand-up giant Netflix for undervaluing them as Black women and comedians. While the details on fellow funny women of color Williams and Robinson’s HBO deal are sparse, they clearly are living their best premium cable life with extravagant sets, lots of A-list talent, and unlimited brunch food.
Yas, queen, yas.
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