Comedian talks race, gender identity at Kent State

Emily Wilbur

Phoebe Robinson, an American comedian, writer and actress based in New York City, discussed her newest book “You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain” Tuesday in Kent State’s University Bookstore.

Robinson is the host of two popular podcasts, “Sooo Many White Guys” and “2 Dope Queens,” which she co-hosts with former “The Daily Show” correspondent Jessica Williams. She has been published in The New York Times and Vanity Fair, and is a staff writer for MTV’s “GirlCode” and a consultant on Comedy Central’s “Broad City.”

“You Can’t Touch my Hair” discusses race, gender and pop culture. Robinson said her everyday experiences as a black woman in America played a major impact on her comedic work.

“When I was starting working on this book, two years ago, I was pretty … close to quitting comedy,” Robinson said. “I was freelancing and going to a lot of auditions.”

Robinson said the publishing world is very male dominated, and female writers aren’t particularly encouraged. She said she felt like she wanted to “add her voice to the conversation.”

“I’m a black woman and I have opinions,” Robinson said. “Society sometimes treats us as if we don’t have opinions.”

When talking about where the title You Can’t Touch My Hair” came from, Robinson said, “I feel black hair has been a really big part of our identity and —more importantly — how people respond to us.”

Robinson said she wanted to make a statement, and often changes her style of hair.

“Society took ownership over black women’s hair and they didn’t allow us to have a voice,” Robinson said. “Everyone was making opinions of us but wasn’t actually listening to us and how we chose to express ourselves.”

Stefanie Wise, a senior political science major, said Robinson was believable and hilarious.

“Phoebe talks about issues … that are really nice to hear from another woman, like things you didn’t know other people dealt with so it’s really reassuring,” Wise said.

Akron resident Brett Gilliland said her show was refreshing because “most stand-up podcasts don’t focus on having a lot of women and people of color or gender identities or sexualities.”

After the book discussion, the audience lined up for photos with Robinson and signings of “You Can’t Touch My Hair.”

Robinson, originally from Cleveland, is half way through her book tour.

Emilyl Wilbur is the religion reporter, contact her at [email protected].