“2 Dope Queens” made the jump from podcast to four-episode HBO special in February, bringing co-hosts Phoebe Robinson’s and Jessica Williams’ unadulterated discussions on sex, gender and race issues to the silver screen.
The HBO special was filmed at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn in front of a live audience of 3,000 people. Robinson and Williams carefully orchestrated the show to be as comfortable as a late-night talk show, but with improvised one-liners and stand-up comedians.
The show follows the same pattern as the original podcast, with three comedians and a featured guest. Mirroring their efforts on the podcast, the co-hosts feature female people of color and LGBT comedians on the show. The hosts perform sets of their own, framed as regular conversations, with hints of scripted speech.
The stage is decorated to embody a Brooklyn rooftop with couches, bar stools and potted plants scattered around the stage. A barbeque and table are tucked away in the corner. Brick walls with string lights surround the stage and a door leading from a rooftop staircase sit in the background.
The first episode was more cheesy than funny, making it very underwhelming to someone unfamiliar with the podcast. Together the girls are loud and obnoxious, making the guest stars the best part of the first episode. The rest of the episodes nail humor, drawing viewers in with jokes based on current events from comedians with different backgrounds.
Episode one, “New York,” features comedians Michelle Buteau, Mark Normand and Baron Vaughn. They discuss moving to New York and their first apartments in the city. Williams’ old “Daily Show” boss Jon Stewart joins the stage to talk about living in the city.
The second episode in the series, “Hair,” welcomes guests Aparna Nancherla, a recurring voice actress on “BoJack Horseman,” Rhea Butcher from the sitcom “Take My Wife” and “Fresh Off the Boat” writer Sheng Wang. Robinson and Williams have a conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker later in the episode about hair, specifically that of black women.
“I don’t know how it stays,” Parker says.
Before she finishes speaking, the audience erupts into laughter, which prompts her to say “you know that I’m about to ask the very thing that you don’t know either.”
“Drag them, Sarah,” Robinson says. Poking fun at white cluelessness is a recurring theme across the four episodes.
Butcher does a set on how gender identity is evolving, and what it’s like to live as a butch lesbian. She claims that she looks like a genderless guitar tech for The Lumineers and goes on to tell a story of how she went along without correcting a Lyft driver who thought she was a man.
The third episode, “Hot Peen,” begins with Robinson and Williams encouraging the audience to “shoot your shot” and talk about past crushes. Comedians John Early, Jackie Kashian and Kevin Barnett do stand-up sets throughout the show. Tituss Burgess, co-star of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and the episode’s featured guest, discusses channeling his inner Beyoncé between sips of pinot noir. The trio performs hilarious “yas choreography” for him, dancing across stage, before loudly proclaiming “yas” and striking a pose.
“I know Adele admitted it, but Beyoncé should have won,” Burgess said. “In fact, she did win because we’re still talking about ‘Lemonade’ right?”
The final episode of the HBO special, “Black Nerds (aka Blerds),” welcomes Uzo Aduba of “Orange is the New Black.” They discuss nerdy pastimes like old-school gaming and play a game of “F–k, Marry, Kill” with other self-proclaimed nerds. Guests include “Broad City” writer Naomi Ekperigin and comedians Al Jackson and Gary Gulman.
Unapologetically genuine, HBO’s “2 Dope Queens” is worth the watch for fans of raw comedy. The special aired on Feb. 2 and is now available to stream on HBO.