HBO’s Game of Thrones Season 8 campaign asks who’s coming #ForTheThrone. And the answer is a pair of brilliant and beautiful Coco Khaleesis, Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson.
Though they started out as podcasting royalty, thanks to the success of 2 Dope Queens, the comic duo conquered premium cable last year with a four-episode HBO special of the same title. Now the knockout second season, which premieres Friday, sees them settle fully into their thrones.
At a time when so much of comedy seems paralyzed by the shifting rules of progressive culture or stuck in a rut of endless Trump reactionism, 2 Dope Queens offers a world of contagious optimism and laughter.
There’s no drastic change to the format between Seasons 1 and 2, but instead a palpable refinement. At times, last season felt like a promising trial run that didn’t fully transfer the spark of the smaller-scale, audio-only version of their live shows. But now, these majesties of comedy know how to use the decadence of the visual medium to put on an extravagantly hilarious variety hour unlike any other.
The somewhat nervous energy of last season has been replaced with their trademark unapologetic confidence. At first, there was the potential that an HBO special would remove some of the intimacy that makes their the podcast feel so special — like you’re just hanging out with two extremely funny friends.
But their return to the big stage of HBO squashes that potential risk. They use the opulence of the stage to heighten the sense that you’re at low-key the most lit party you’ve ever been to.
Every single part of their game has been upped in Season 2, especially when it comes to guests. In the first two episodes, we were given in advance of its premiere on Feb. 8, the interviews touted A-listers like Lupita Nyong’o and Daniel Radcliffe.
Basically the exact opposite of a traditional late night talk show, their version of an interview segment is an organic, joyous descent into chaos. It’s pretty indescribable, waiting at the edge of your seat to see what will ensue when these celebrities are thrown into, essentially, low key sketch comedy.
Nyong’o is grilled about her highly anticipated and mysterious upcoming Jordan Peele movie, Us — while deep in the throes of a hair-braiding competition. Radcliffe gives the queens feedback on their flashy wand work — after doing a compatibility test with Williams, who is a die-hard Harry Potterfan (and even a recent cast addition to the Fantastic Beasts series).
There is an aliveness to it all, this sense that just about anything can happen (and, boy, does it). It instantly fills you with giggles to watch all the beautifully messy mayhem unfold.
Then there are the superb comedians, who do quick ten-minute sets in between Williams and Robinson’s banter. Those familiar with the podcast will also be familiar with some of their names, though many of the comedians remain criminally unknown for their caliber of talent.
Each standup is memorably unique in his or her own way, with a decided lack of Your Standard White Guy in the line up. The result is a comedic ensemble that speaks to the non-homogenous world we actually live in. Through the specificity of their marginalized identities and experimental material, they bring an undeniable freshness that’s been sorely lacking from the mainstream comedy scene.
The glue that holds all the elements of 2 Dope Queens together remains, of course, the effortless and incomparable chemistry between Williams and Robinson.
Sometimes it’s like watching two halves of the same whole, perfectly in tune with each other like two instruments in a symphony. Without question, Season 2 officially solidifies their status as one of the greatest comedic partnerships to grace standup in years.
The feat is made doubly impressive by that weird place we find comedy to be at this moment in time.
The old guard of Standard White Guy comedy is dead, and the Daniel Toshes and Judd Apatows of the world haven’t figured how to become relevant again to the current zeitgeist. Meanwhile, the likes of Standard White Guys like Jimmy Fallon have taken to trying their damnedest to do some bastardized version of woke AF political comedy. And it’s getting old. Quick.
But 2 Dope Queens is just uncomplicated and unadulterated humor. They’ve conquered a new landscape of comedy in the most organic way imaginable, and it’s a delight to watch every minute of it.
So the former rulers (or rather gatekeepers) of comedy should take note: You can live in the new world created by these 2 Dope Queens — or you can die in your old world.