Review: 2 Dope Queens
Race, sex, relationships, gender and body image are some of the key topics of discussion on comedy podcast 2 Dope Queens, launched by US-based WYNC Studios on 5 April. The show is hosted live by comics Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams at Union Hall, in Brooklyn, New York, and is broadcast weekly on iTunes.
Robinson and Williams share good chemistry. An article in The New York Times proclaimed that they are proof of the “double act renaissance” in comedy, a sort of return to the era of Laurel and Hardy, and William Abbott and Lou Costello. Robinson and Williams are young women in their late 20s-early 30s. Their comedy is observational and spans everything from discussing routine occurrences such as hailing a taxi to talking about how to have anal sex. Though most of their conversation is from the perspective of black women in the US, their banter is relatable to women everywhere. In one episode, Robinson talks about getting poor customer service because she looks a certain way. It’s a common enough experience around the globe. And she runs through a list of possible comebacks that are funny because they are all too real and, as the occasion demands, hyperbolic.
But while Robinson and Williams are engaging (they are good mimics too; they do a Holly Hunter impression that’s convincing), the real reason I keep going back to the podcast is the guests they invite. Every show, the hosts invite three stand-up comics/storytellers—one exception is the latest episode, No. 5, which had two guests, comedians Joe Zimmerman and Ophira Eisenberg, and so was shorter than the usual 50-55 minutes). Their guests so far have included Aparna Nancherla, who writes for the Late Night with Seth Meyers show; Sam Jay, a stand-up comic; Nore Davis, who has an upcoming show on Comedy Central; and Josh Gondelman, who writes for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Each of them has brought a range of interesting experiences to the show. In the first show, Nancherla talks about the different stages of cat-calling she has experienced. In episode 2, Sam Jay talks about buying a purple dildo because her girlfriend asked her to buy a dildo and it was bizarre trying to match it to her own skin colour. Davis, in the third episode, talks about how homophobes think about gay sex like an urban legend. And in episode 4, Gondelman talks about a writing assignment for New York Magazine about “penis-numbing spray” and exchanging a string of emails with the chief-executive officer of the company that makes the product.
If you’re not sure how to talk about alternative sexuality, people of colour and feminism candidly and still stay (mostly) on the right side of political correctness, this show is an education. It takes the bull by the horns. For example, in the second episode, guest comic Naomi Ekperigin says, “I should stop eating my feelings. Quick poll: whose thighs don’t touch? I am really glad that you guys weren’t afraid to admit that because people go cold because they know that everyone hates them.” Body-shaming, slut-shaming (there’s a dick pic story in this segment too) and any other kind of putting down of women is made laughable—perhaps the best way to attack these problems.
Of course, not all segments work equally well. One with Rae Sanni, on the third episode, drags a bit. The section starts in east New York and points to the sheer lack of talent in the place. It’s perhaps too specific—if you have never spent time in east New York, you may quickly lose interest.
It’s hard to pick the funniest sets on the show. If you don’t follow the entire podcast, do listen to two sections: The first is in episode 2. Jay, a black lesbian, is a laugh riot from beginning to end. She starts her set by talking about the different ways people react to her in different parts of the US. While old white women skittle away in fear on the east coast when they see a black “dyke”, she says that “in LA they just don’t care”. In Los Angeles, where Jay now lives, an old lady tells her she voted for Jay, leaving her confused: “What, me? Personally, or like Obama or gay marriage or what exactly? I cover a lot of bases here.” She’s deliciously irreverent.
The second must-not-miss section features Davis. In 20 minutes, he ridicules gay haters, shatters a gender stereotype and talks about the difficulty of protesting—he lasted 3 minutes in a Black Lives Matter protest during the winter. “I’ve got to go home. It’s too cold. I am sorry. Maybe another time... That’s my legacy,” he confesses. To make amends for chickening out of the protest, and to show support, he tries to buy a printed T-shirt in Harlem, but the shirt is $65. “I hope injustice stops because I can’t afford the apparel,” he says. He returns without buying the shirt, of course.