Phoebe Robinson: 'All the white dudes can come as long as they're open to learning and don't manspread too much'
- Claire Sawers
- 8 August 2019
The TV and podcast star hopes Edinburgh audiences will be 'down to clown' as she brings unfiltered goofiness to some serious subject matter in her Fringe debut
No, not the Phoebe that wrote Fleabag and Killing Eve. Or the Phoebe with the smelly cat in Friends. The other Phoebe – from the 2 Dope Queens podcast and TV shows – is making her UK stand-up debut at the Fringe. Phoebe Robinson recorded a warm, woke podcast in Brooklyn with her friend Jess Williams back in 2016, featuring guest POC comedians and feminist allies, then watched it slide straight into number one on the iTunes podcast charts the first week it aired.
Spin-off podcast, Sooo Many White Guys, followed quickly after, produced by Robinson's pal Ilana Glazer from Broad City. Or maybe you've spotted someone Instagramming Robinson's essay collections You Can't Touch My Hair (& Other Things I Still Have to Explain) or last year's Everything's Trash, But It's Okay, where she shares funny, daft anecdotes and lets off righteous steam about race, gender and pop culture.
After making her film acting debut in Ibiza and scriptwriting for Portlandia among many other things, the comedian is touring a show about the escaped slave and political activist Harriet Tubman. Or rather, it's about how Robinson has failed to live up to Tubman's heroic legacy. 'What Phoebe has done with freedom has mostly been … trash,' her press release confesses. 'From being a failed wannabe activist to using a food delivery app to pick up the morning-after pill because she didn't feel like getting out bed.'
'This week was pretty nutty because I had to fly to LA to do one of my favourite TV shows,' says Robinson. 'I can't tell you what it is because I signed a NDA and I'm trying not to get cussed out for spilling the beans, but I'm excited! Now I'm on my way back to NYC to do another shoot, a bunch of meetings and some stand-up. I'm pretty tired, but I'm taking my Goop vitamins and it's getting me through it all.'
So what can Edinburgh audiences expect from her show? 'If you've seen 2 Dope Queens or read my books, you're familiar with my unfiltered, goofy side. Jokes about my boyfriend, gender, not wanting to have kids etc. I think you'll feel like you're hanging out with one of your best friends for brunch.'
After trading tips on where she can buy make-up (sorry, there's no Sephora in Edinburgh yet) I ask if she still gets nervous before shows. 'Definitely, but I remember to have fun and that the audience wouldn't be there if they didn't also want to have a good time. I'm definitely worried about the weather and getting lost.' Has she asked her comedian friends for any Edinburgh tips, like the excellent Tig Notaro for example, who was on 2 Dope Queens sharing very wise, queer relationship advice with listeners?
'I haven't gotten a chance to chat with Tig about the festival yet because we've been so busy. But other comics have told me to just have fun, go in there with an open mind, be ready for your hour to morph and take different shapes, and check out as many other shows as possible. So honestly, I can't wait to see how I'm going to be surprised.'
Despite all her gags about white guys, she's clearly not that offended by them: she lives with one, and doesn't mind if more come to see her show. 'As long as the crowd is smart, down to clown, and not disruptive, I'll be so happy. You can't control who will show up, which I think is part of the fun of stand-up. It keeps it fresh for me. And all the white dudes can come to the show as long as they're open to learning and don't manspread too much in the audience.'
Phoebe Robinson: Sorry, Harriet Tubman, Assembly George Square Studios, 14–25 Aug, 6.45pm, £14–£16. Previews 12 & 13 Aug, £12.