TCA:  Podcast Royalty “2 Dope Queens” Hit the Jackpot at HBO

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Cover image for  article: TCA:  Podcast Royalty “2 Dope Queens” Hit the Jackpot at HBO

Pasadena, CA – Some actors, showrunners and executives approach the twice-yearly Television Critics Association tours as if it’s their death march to the gallows.  Sometimes that’s not unjustified.  Every so often, though, a glorious party breaks out on the stage.  Critics, grumpy after scores of press conferences, a steady diet of sugar, a lack of sleep and not seeing the sun for days, suddenly perk up.  They realize they are in the presence of something different.  That happened here the other day, when the podcast stars known as 2 Dope Queens -- Jessica Williams (The Daily Show) and Phoebe Robinson (I Love Dick) – held court during HBO’s portion of the tour, electrifying the room in seemingly effortless fashion.  Their podcast and live shows have attracted an ever-growing, loyal audience, and they just hit the comics’ jackpot: a series of HBO specials.

The best friends have sold out Brooklyn King’s Theatre, where guests have included Uzo Aduba, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jon Stewart and Titus Burgess.  Actress and comedienne Tig Notaro draws from those shows in directing the Queens’ four one-hour HBO specials. They are already taped; the first one premieres Friday, Feb. 2.

Inclusivity motivates the dynamic duo.  Acknowledging that so few LGBT comedians wind up on late night television or breaking through in any way, they just wanted to ensure all would be included.  “To me, that is being an ally,” Robinson (pictured at top, left) told MediaVillage exclusively after the panel.  “We wanted a special that represents not only women, but people of color and queer people,”

The women feed perfectly off each other, and while their act is entirely off the bat they do talk ahead of time about what topics will be covered.

“I feel very proud of the fact that [all of] the sets are very unique,” Robinson said, explaining that the comedy from their guests, such as Jon Stewart and Titus Burgess, is 100 percent improvised.  "Tig has such a unique and specific sense of humor that’s so different from ours.  She has been in the industry for so long that we were just, like, ‘We need your guidance.  We love you so much.’  The three of us working together, it was perfect.  Tig just kind of let us do our thing from the podcast and just sort of zhooshed it with the hair and the makeup and the wardrobe.”

Williams (pictured top right) recalled meeting with HBO executives and wondering just what it was the premium cable powerhouse wanted.  The response, she said, was perfect: All they had to do was be themselves, simply create the easy, funny magic that they do on the podcast.  Talking about men, hair and whatever else strikes their fancy is what they usually do and it works because it’s relatable.

“I think the truth resonates,” Williams mused.  “Truth in comedy is important, and truth is universal.  My favorite thing is when I get white dudes who come up to me and are, like, ‘I really love 2 Dope Queens.’  I’m, like, ‘Look at you!’”

Proving their ad-lib chops they conquered the notoriously prickly critics.  The Queens asked each of the reporters who posed a question to identify themselves -- and boom! -- they started to play with their names.  They had way more fun on the TCA stage than most, immediately developing a playful dialog with reporters, which rarely happens.  I complemented them for a friendly session and they instantly turned that into a joke, asking who had been nasty.  Henry Winkler?  Was I throwing shade on The Fonz, who had been on stage earlier?  (For the record, no!)

When I asked where they met, Robinson didn’t miss a beat.  “Tinder!” she replied.

“Swipe right!” Williams added.

The truth is they met three-and-a-half years ago when Williams was on Comedy Central's The Daily Showand Robinson did some extra work on a segment about black women’s hair in the military.  They hit it off and soon tried stand-up together.

“We really just had this great chemistry on stage,” Robinson said.  “It was, like, a super sexy, you know, one‑night stand, but then we put a ring on it!”

The women plan to continue on all fronts, but Robinson took a deep breath in as we were chatting and revealed that becoming part of the HBO cavalcade of comics is surreal.

“The fact that we can do this is incredible,” she said.  “But it’s not scary; that’s the thing about doing it with a friend.”

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