Phoebe Robinson has a lot of thoughts. With her latest book, Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes, a hilarious compilation of essays and advice, the comedienne, actress, and former co-host of the insanely popular stand-up and storytelling podcast 2 Dope Queens is going to have you thinking a little differently and more deeply, while cracking up at the same time.
Be it about parental quirks, personal neuroses, letting your guard down with your mate, or traveling while Black, Robinson has a hilarious personal anecdote, complete with layered pop-culture references and multiple annotations for clarification, to break it all down and bring the larger point home.
Although her essays are largely inspired by quarantine and pandemic life, Robinson didn’t want her stories to be so intrinsically linked to the virus and all its effects.
“I didn’t want it to be so tied heavily to COVID because we’re all living through it,” she said of her book. “We don’t need the blow by blow, play by play of it while we’re still in it.”
Though she skips most of the messy details, increased anxiety, and governmental drama of the pandemic’s early days (outside of a hilariously accurate depiction of former NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s fed-up attitude during daily press briefings), she delves deeply into the tiny, relatable details of the joys and trials of quarantine life. Whether that’s cooping up with bae or simply with self when there’s quite literally no “outside world” to escape to, or examining the nuances of the sudden push toward “allyship” when the Black Lives Matter movement got such intense focus after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“I just had a lot of time to think – so whether it’s performative allyship, or figuring out my relationship to self-care and how I got into therapy, how I got a life coach and just all these sorts of things – being inside made me sort of analyze my life and re-prioritize things.”
And her analysis runs through a wide range of topics. In the essay Self Care is Not a Candle and Therapy is Not a Notebook: How We Are Doing the Most and the Absolute Least at the Same Damn Time, she examines shortcomings of mental healthcare access and the way in which “self-care” has moved from an act of revolution to a commercialized commodity while detailing her own journey to therapy. In Guide to Being a Boss from Someone Who Has Been Building a Mini Empire for the Past Two Years and Counting, Robinson tackles her own journey from freelancer to mogul-in-the-making and provides advice to fellow Black lady business owners.
In fact, Robinson has made the very point of her business to amplify the voices of others and tell stories from an underrepresented perspective. She recently started her own publishing imprint, Tiny Reparations, focused solely on distributing works from debut authors, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. People who, like Robinson initially, are often told “no” by publishers because of the assumption that books by new and non-white authors don’t sell.
“I knew how hard it was when I was shopping my first book around in 2015,” she recalls. “I just didn’t want my imprint to be a place where women, people of color, and people in the queer community are just going to be rejected based on how they look or what they identify as.”
She now has 11 titles on the slate, with her own book being the first on her list. Each other writer is a first-time author with an exciting story to tell, and Robinson positively lights up while detailing the plotlines of their culturally-informed debut novels.
Now, mostly out of quarantine (“Even though people are out in the streets, I’m still like, ‘I’ll see you guys, maybe 2022,’” she muses), her new book out today, her imprint set to crank out three new titles from now through Spring, and with a just-announced HBO Max standup special, Phoebe Robinson: Sorry, Harriet Tubman premiering on Oct. 14, Phoebe has a lot to be excited about.
The first-ever comedy special to be taped at Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Robinson’s standup features jokes about her relationship, moving in with her boyfriend, her close encounter with Michelle Obama, her father’s quirks, and even reparations.
“It really just sort of runs a gamut of personal stories and also looking outward a little bit,” she says of her special. “I had a lot of fun taping it and I can’t wait for people to see it.”
“I think this notion of there’s only one right way to be a woman, to be a black woman, to exist in society, I don’t think it has been beneficial to a lot of people.”
“The bottom line is life is very short and you really just have to live it the way that works best for you,” she says of her book’s message. “I really just feel like I want people to walk away from the book feeling empowered that they can make choices in their lives and not have to feel guilty about it.”