Night Out: A Birthday Party With ‘2 Dope Queens’ and One Jon Stewart

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Night Out

By JACOB BERNSTEIN

Last Thursday at the Bell House in Gowanus, Brooklyn — as Hillary Clinton accepted her party’s presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention — the comedian Phoebe Robinson acknowledged the event not with a political button but a tank top that read “Dad Bod 2016.”

“That’s about as political as we get,” Ms. Robinson said, referring to “2 Dope Queens,” a podcast she hosts on WNYC with Jessica Williams, a former correspondent on “The Daily Show.”

Recorded at clubs around the city, the performances by the two close friends in real life intersperse stand-up sets by other comics with their own conversations about boys, SoulCycle and working in the entertainment industry when there are still few roles for minority women.

As Ms. Williams said in a recent podcast: “I’m constantly running into Gabourey Sidibe at auditions. We’re all competing for the same one Shequoia part.”

Nevertheless, Ms. Williams and Ms. Robinson seem to be doing pretty well.

Ms. Robinson has been consulting on “Broad City” and recently started another WNYC podcast called “Sooo Many White Guys.” Her first book, “You Can’t Touch My Hair,” is due out from Plume this fall. Ms. Williams has a development deal with Comedy Central.

Last week, Ms. Williams turned 27 (Ms. Robinson is 31), and the two celebrated at the Bell House with a panoply of comedians that included Kevin Avery (a comic who tells lots of jokes about S.T.D.’s) and Jessi Klein (Amy Schumer’s equally blue writing partner). After some banter, it was time for the hosts to map the show.

“This is like the opening night of ‘Chicago’ with Bebe Neuwirth,” Ms. Robinson said.

“Or ‘Hamilton,’” Ms. Williams said. “With none of the work.”

The show began with Ms. Robinson shooting Silly String into the audience as Ms. Williams yelled out, “Welcome to ‘2 Dope Queens!’”

The opposites-attract quality of their schtick was readily apparent. Where Ms. Williams is sharp and caustic, Ms. Robinson is goofy and sweet.

But for the fact that these women are black, tell jokes about penises (one recent podcast was devoted almost entirely to the subject of Lenny Kravitz’s), and have divergent taste in men (Ms. Williams has a heavily tattooed 26-year-old boyfriend; Ms. Robinson is single and has made her interest in older guys something of a meme), they are more or less Betty (Ms. Robinson) and Veronica (Ms. Williams).

Podcast Advice: 2 Dope Queens & Radiolab collide

Video by WNYC

A few minutes into the set, Ms. Robinson told a story about a recent misadventure involving a 42-year-old guy with a “real man butt” (apparently good) as well as a girlfriend (apparently bad), while Ms. Williams stood to the side in her pleated gold Alice and Olivia skirt shaking her head.

“He wasted your time,” Ms. Williams said, dropping to the ground and feigning death. “That is time you will never get back!”

From there, the duo waded into presidential politics, commenting not on the policy positions of either of the two major candidates, but on Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s septuagenarian sex appeal.

“When he dropped the word ‘malarkey,’ that was so good,” Ms. Robinson said, before introducing the evening’s first comedian, Mr. Avery, and making her way backstage with Ms. Williams.

There, a production assistant was waiting with news: The evening’s surprise guest was on his way but had maybe gotten lost somewhere between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Jon Stewart is having trouble getting here,” the assistant said.

But not too much. Five minutes later, the former host of “The Daily Show” moseyed into the backstage area in a baseball cap and gray jeans, peering at a stack of speakers on the walls and declaring himself displeased.

“My rider said 10 speaker cases,” he said, with mock disgust. “I only see eight.”

Soon, Ms. Williams, Ms. Robinson and Mr. Stewart were plotting his surprise entrance.

It occurred a half-hour later, after an onstage interview between the Dope Queens and Ms. Klein and a birthday video with appearances from Ms. Robinson, Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia” and a male comic who sang to Ms. Williams in falsetto. (“Like Mariah Carey,” he said.)

Standing onstage with Ms. Williams, Ms. Robinson noted that the floor was filthy and that someone ought to come clean it.

So a scruffy maintenance man with a 5 o’clock shadow waltzed out, his cap slung low as he wiped it up for them. When he took off his hat, the audience whooped and hollered, realizing that it was Mr. Stewart.

For the next 15 minutes, they (“Three dope queens,” Mr. Stewart said) hammed it up.

A repeated meme was life at “The Daily Show,” where the former host said he served primarily as Ms. Williams’s first exposure to the frailties of seniors.

“We would be in the morning meeting,” he said, “and she’d be looking at me like she was trying to figure something out: ‘O.K., I’m going to go with hepatitis and osteoporosis.’”

“It’s true,” Ms. Williams said. “I also learned so much about Jewish people.”

(Primarily, this cultural anthropology seemed to involve studying her boss’s bad dance moves and love of starchy foods, which she discovered over catered Katz’s Delicatessen lunches.)

Ms. Robinson got in on the action by flirting with Mr. Stewart.

“Do you know I’m currently on the market for an older gentleman?” she said. “Jess is about to throw up, but I was wondering if you had any tips about how I should go about procuring one.”

“Don’t hug them too tight,” Mr. Stewart said.

A little after 10, Ms. Williams got teary when a birthday cake shaped like her face was brought out.

“This is like a ‘Real Housewives’ cake,” she said, making it clear that there was no bigger compliment in the Western world.

It even had an edible septum piercing and remarkably lifelike braids.

“They’re fondant,” Ms. Robinson said proudly. “I don’t know what that word means. I just heard some white people say it and was like, ‘Yeah!’”

So they took it backstage and cut it up for a group of about 15. Then, Mr. Stewart went home, and the party moved to a nearby bar, where meatballs were eaten and vodka shots thrown back.

“This burns,” Ms. Robinson said, as her comedy partner gave her a loving look, the kind a child gives upon discovering that her favorite sibling is covered in chocolate.

“What am I going to do for your birthday?” Ms. Williams asked.

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