Inspiration. Ambition.
Passion. Process. Technique.

By: Marina Fang

Promotional poster for EVERYTHING'S TRASH

Host Marina Fang talks to Phoebe Robinson—the creator, writer, and star of EVERYTHING’S TRASH—about the experience of writing “TV Phoebe,” balancing studio notes with your creative vision, the importance of portraying realistic New York City living, and much more.

Phoebe Robinson is a writer, comedian, and actress known for her work as the co-creator and co-star of the hit podcast-turned-HBO series 2 Dope Queens and critically acclaimed podcasts including Sooo Many White Guys and Black Frasier, as well as for her starring roles in the films IBIZA and WHAT MEN WANT.

She’s also the nationally bestselling author of Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes, You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, and Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay, the latter of which is the basis of her comedy series EVERYTHING’S TRASH.

EVERYTHING’S TRASH follows Phoebe, an outspoken podcast star, who is forced to start her journey into maturity when her older brother launches a political campaign while navigating life, love, her career, and living Brooklyn.

The comedy series, which premiered on Freeform in July 2022, airs Wednesdays on Freeform and is available to stream on Hulu.

Marina Fang (she/her) is a senior culture reporter at HuffPost, based in New York. She primarily covers film and television, examining their intersection with politics, race and gender. She can be found on Twitter at @marinafang.

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OnWriting is an official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, East. The series was created and produced by Jason Gordon. Associate Producer & Designer is Molly Beer. Mix, tech production, and original music by Stock Boy Creative.

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Thanks for listening. Write on.


Intro: Hello, you’re listening to On Writing, a podcast from the Writer’s Guild of America East. In each episode, you’ll hear from the writers of your favorite films and television series. They’ll take you behind the scenes, go deep into the writing and production process and explain how they got their project from the page to the screen.

Marina Fang: Hi, I’m marina Fang, a senior cultural reporter at HuffPost, a member of the Writer’s Guild of America East and host of this episode of On Writing. I am really excited to speak with Phoebe Robinson, the creator, writer, and star of Everything’s Trash, which is currently airing on Freeform and streaming on Hulu. Welcome Phoebe.

Phoebe Robinson: Thanks so much for having me, so excited to chat.

Marina Fang: Yeah, I really love the show. There’s just so much, it’s so much fun. It’s also very real. I was really curious, just to start out, I know the broad outlines of this show are semi-autobiographical. Obviously the character you play is also named Phoebe and in real life, you’ve developed several podcasts, very successful podcasts. I know your brother, Phil is actually a state rep. So I guess, how did you go about figuring out where these similarities to your life would end in the show?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, I mean, I think anytime you’re writing something, that’s from your life, people don’t really care if every single step happened. I’m a person who loves story. I mean, I love jokes, but I really love story. So, I feel like if the spirit of what’s in the book is in the show and foundationally laid out, everything that we need to do with this show, if we’re going to have a writer’s room and have people from all different backgrounds, some are married, some aren’t, some have kids, some don’t, people grew up in Texas, East Coast, West Coast. So, you want to take advantage of that and really have everyone’s lives inform the characters in ways that are really exciting and surprising and interesting.

And so for me, I’m just always like, whatever’s going to tell the best story, that’s what wins. Whatever’s the funniest joke, that is what wins. The thing is, a book is a solo experience. I mean, yes, you have your editor, but you’re the one doing a writing and then a TV show is collaborative. So, you got to incorporate other people’s ideas and stories and what they’ve been through into the show. Otherwise, why have them in the room?

Marina Fang: Right, you mentioned the book and I know the show of is inspired by it, but how did you take the essays, which like you said, you wrote and are from your perspective, and then develop that into a show with characters, and with plot, and all the things that you expect from a show versus a book and a collection of essays.

Phoebe Robinson: When I started work with my show runner, Jonathan Groff, who is brilliant, show ran Black-ish, Happy Endings, head writer on Conan, I’m obsessed with him, will be obsessed with him until the end of time, we started working on this project in 2019 when my production company launched. And we really just sat down, talked about essays that really resonated with us and he really liked the women’s march essay, he really liked … Obviously we couldn’t do that because of COVID. So, we didn’t even try and touch anything that involved crowds, but he really responded to the money essay too and me talking about my financial history. I think that, for us, felt like a good essay to not have it be from book to screen, but really what is the spirit of the essay. The student loan debt, the credit card debt, the definite buying an outfit, because you have an event, charging your credit card so you can return it.

I was a wear and return queen for years, you know what I mean? Because I couldn’t afford anything. And so I think, for example, with that, it’s something that we just share in the room and we talk about and what my experience was and what I went through and what was funny about it. And then, we just were yes and-ing. And that’s how we ended up with an owl, which is so fun and terrifying, because I was like, “Oh shoot, I have to actually act with an owl,” but that’s an example of how we would take something from the book and be like, how can we make this as funny, as possible, as visually engaging as possible, while still honoring the book and also honoring the show? I will say working with Groff, he’s really good about just … In the beginning, I was just out pages of, “This is I think what the world is and I want to have my brother, and sister-in-law, I want to have my podcast producer friend. I want to have my best friend.” And I would write things out and then show it to him and he would ask really good questions and have me dig deeper.

And then we started figuring out of a pilot episode, we did two pilots. We did the OG pilot is what we call it, which we shot 2021 in LA. I really wanted to shoot in New York, but it was just so crazy expensive to shoot in New York. So, the network was like, “Well, just do it in LA on sound stages in Burbank.” And obviously it just didn’t translate and so we shot it … we did a of it. But when I sat down with him and we really developed a pilot story and then we pitched it to the studio, ABC’s Signature, my home studio, and then we pitched it to Freeform and you get the notes back and you try to fight for things.

I really fought for the Plan B stuff. I really had to fight for it and I think it was worth fighting for. Then once we got green lit for series, it was really just like, “All right, let’s just find the funniest people. We’re going to do this on Zoom.” Writer’s room on Zoom, never done that before. So, now we can just have the people we want, they could live wherever, they don’t have to uproot their families. I think we got a really great quirky, just awesome mix of people together because of that. They all brought their own ideas to it.

I think when people watched the show, they could sense that it’s filled with love because I think there was just a lot of love in the writer’s room. That was a 27 minute long answer, felt like a white guy with that one.

Marina Fang: That was great though, there were so many things I wanted to follow up on. One, you mentioned, I can’t believe that you shot a version of this in Burbank, because it’s such not just New York show, but very Brooklyn. I live in Brooklyn too, so I really love that it’s a very Brooklyn show and I think that adds a lot of specificity, but yeah, can you talk a little bit, I mean you’ve obviously lived in Brooklyn a long time. You’ve come up through the New York comedy scene. What did you want to capture about Brooklyn and how did you fight to make sure that you shot in New York?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, I mean, I was very adamant about it. I was like, it’s based off my book. It’s based off my life. I’ve only ever lived in Brooklyn as an adult, so let’s do it there, Freeform totally got it. And I think for me, I love watching New York shows, Living Single, Friends, obviously Sex and the City is cannon for someone like me. I just love those shows and Freeform is great in that they’re really trying to expand their audience and show before college age, early 20s and now we have someone in their 30s and then Single Drunk Female I think is late 20s as well. So, trying to show just different of life experiences and different stages of your life. I love a lot of New York shows, but I think so many of them, while we wanted to be aspirational, and Freeform is very much an aspirational vibe, which I totally get, I also wanted to be realistic.

I’m like, “I don’t know anyone who lives in a loft.” You know what I mean? Carrie Bradshaw wrote one article a week and had this fantastic life where she was just buying clothes all the time and going out to dinner every single night and that’s just not realistic. So, I wanted to have fun with showing this struggle of New York, but you still love your life, especially when you live here in your 20s and you’re just, the struggle is part of the joy of living New York. It’s like, “Yeah, I’m going to have dollar pizza tonight.” Or, “Yeah, I’m going to drink shitty beer and that’s going to be part of the story.” I really wanted to capture that and I think a lot of shows, if they show New York, it’s just, “So, Tribeca, the gentrified parts of Williamsburg.” I was like, I’ve lived all over. I’ve lived in Crown Heights before it was gentrified. I went to Pride Institute. I’ve lived in Kensington. I’ve lived, Sunset … My office is based in Sunset Park, I’ve lived near Bay Ridge. I’ve lived in Boerum Hill, Park Slope. I lived all over with all these amazing communities that are full of people of color and queer people. And I really wanted to show a different Brooklyn that’s not just a bunch of white peeps who are drinking green smoothies.

Marina Fang: Yeah, and going to overpriced brunch on Sunday.

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Marina Fang: Which, no shade, is a nice indulgence, but I feel like that’s very overrepresented on New York shows or just shows about people in their 20s or 30s.

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, absolutely.

Marina Fang: Yeah. I’ll say something about Carrie Bradshaw that I will never stop thinking about, is that there’s an episode where … The Vogue episode where she’s getting paid $4 a word for an article. I’m like, “Who makes that much? No one does.”

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, that’s not true. It’s more like a dollar 50. You know what I mean?

Marina Fang: Right and that’s good. Anyway, but yeah, I really like that idea of just taking the things that are great about New York, but also showing it’s a struggle to live here. A lot of shows do not show that struggle at all. You mentioned the writer’s room and doing it over Zoom, which I imagine, like you said, I imagine must have been really great for casting a wide net and gathering the best people. How did you go about assembling the room? What kinds of strengths did each of the writers bring? And also you mentioned incorporating everyone has a different background. How did you incorporate that into the storylines?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, I mean, Groff and I … because this was his first time show running a room on Zoom as well. So, it was cool, even though he has all this TV experience in the half hour space and I don’t, I feel like that leveled things out a hair. I think what we did is we just relied on people that he has worked with for a while. One of our producers and writers is Laura Gutin Peterson, who’s also from Black-ish, she’s fantastic. She’s been in this business for a while. She actually started out as his assistant and she’s just really funny, she’s just a joke killer. And so I think we going to have people like that, but then Calise Hawkins is a standup comedian, I’ve known her forever. Jordan Carlos, I’ve actually known … I’ve been doing comedy for 14 years, I’ve met him 13 years ago and we’ve always just had of a brother, sister kind of energy, so I think it was very easy for us to just play that.

And so having that in the room, I think really was helpful building out the relationship between those two characters. So, we have a good mix of standup comics. Some people who have been in the industry for a while and then some people who are like, this is their first major writing job on a TV show. And so, we wanted to have a good mix of people because we just feel like you just get different stuff from different people. And sometimes maybe someone who’s green, they don’t quite know what they don’t know, but they really come up with exciting, excuse me, amazing ideas that you might not have gotten otherwise. And we really just try to make it as balanced as possible.

I think while at first on Zoom, we were like, “Oh, this feels a little weird. I wish we were all in the same room.” We quickly were able to just bond and talk about our lives in a really fun way. I think about the money episode when TV Phoebe, that’s what we call her, she gets in the cab and she’s like, “Oh, if you take me $5 up Atlantic Avenue, that was taken from Calise’s life. She’s like, “I’ve done that before.” So I think, it’s escape room stuff. One of our writers, Lauren Bans, who’s also a writer producer on Single Drunk Female, who’s a big escape room person and I’ve always wanted to do it, but none of my friends ever want to do it. So I’m like, “We’re going to do it on the show.” And then Devin Walker is another writer. He came up with, “Why isn’t it just a [inaudible 00:14:05] escape room?” Because that’s just so funny and ridiculous.

And so it’s really cool how we’re able to work together and build these things out that have everyone’s little bit of their stamp on it, but still pass through my voice. So, I got to say, after doing a season via Zoom, I think I would want to do … If we got a second season, knock on wood, yeah, I would want to do it on Zoom because I think we have these short orders. You can’t really be like, “Hey, I know you have kids, but can you move to New York for three months to write on this show?” And so, I think it frees people up to be with their loved ones and still show up fully and contribute to the show.

Marina Fang: Yeah, totally. You mentioned the episode that just aired as we’re taping this, which is the escape room one. I mean, in general on the show, I love the real specificity and the density of the jokes in this most recent episode, and the NASA diaper lady hell, which really took me back because I was like, “Oh right. I remember that story very well.” Another one I liked is of course the Rich Whites Show, which I imagine is inspired by a certain show we all know and love.

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah.

Marina Fang: But yeah, with the jokes and the topical references, are you all just pitching those in the writer’s room and then riffing on each other and then being like, “Oh, maybe we’ll put that into this episode?” Or how does that work of figuring out the jokes and then where to put them?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, I mean for each episode we would do an outline, beat out each episode as a room and then whoever was assigned to the episode, they would then do an outline, a fully fleshed out outline with all the beats. And then sometimes some of this stuff, The Rich Whites, I think that was Jordan Carlos’ episode. I think we came up with rich whites in the room, but then I think he fleshed things out and I think it’s a good process because everyone can chip in. But then when you go off on the outline phase, you might discover some things that just weren’t thought of in the room. You know what I mean? And that can enhance it that way, but it really is, there are a lot of super funny people. I love pop culture stuff, Ray Sani is a big Real Housewives fan. She’s on Twitter, she’s up to speed, so we would have … I feel like everyone’s just obsessed with … Succession was often talked about in the room just because that was … Season three was happening while we were writing. And so I think there was a lot of, we wanted to make each other laugh and even things we were just around on breaks because sometimes end up in episodes.

And so, I think we really just were like, this is a show that while it has a lot of heart, we want it to be extremely funny. I love a good pop culture reference, so I want that to be present in the show. And there’s just a lot of yes and-ing and one up being each other and really fun ways. And, so that’s how we would just come up with jokes and I think it worked out pretty well. I would say it did.

Marina Fang: Yeah. When you’re shooting, do you stick pretty strictly to the script or were there alts, or improvising, anything like that?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, I mean usually when we write the scripts, whoever’s assigned to a episode would write the script and I’d do the Phoebe pass and then we would go back, and bring the script back into the room to do a final pass. And then a lot of times it would just be like, “Okay, let’s try and beat jokes.” That would just be what would we do. We would just go through script and try and beat jokes. And then if we’re like, “Okay, we like this,” but then we would have an alt file. So, then we would just put jokes that we for certain scenes into the alt file and that would be printed out with sides and Groff would hold onto that. And just on the day when we’re shooting, it would be stuff was scripted, stuff in the alt file, improvised stuff. So, it was a good mix, which I think is what you want for a comedy show.

For instance, when the fight between Jayden and TV Phoebe and the pilot on the street about Gal Gadot, we were just going back and forth and just on one … I think it was the second to last take and I just did that walk back, I just improvised it. And then, that ended up in the episode because it was just so fun and really you’re like, “Okay, I definitely know who this character is.” So, we leave a lot of room as long as we can get the story out. We do leave room for improvising, especially Moses Storm. It’s just like, he’s so hilarious. So, he would definitely riff stuff, that was just golden.

Marina Fang: You mentioned Jonathan Groff a couple times. I’m wondering how did you meet and then figure out your working relationship of him as the showrunner, you as creator, writer, star?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah. So, once I got my production company started, Tiny Reparations, in 2019, the studio and my agents were just having me go on meetings because I wanted to develop my own half hour comedy. I’d been trying to do that for years and it would almost happen here, almost happen here, didn’t happen. And so I was like, “Okay, yeah cool.” I really wanted to have black woman as a showrunner and both the studio and my agent Tim Phillips was like, “Hey, we really love Jonathan Groff.” And I was like, “Yeah, he’s a white dude. I don’t know.” And they were like, “Just meet with him. You might hit it off and if you don’t like, it’s fine, he’s busy, you’re busy, no hard feelings.” I was like, “Okay.” So we met on, I think it was on FaceTime and we just sparked right away. We just had the same sort of nerdy sense of humor.

I think obviously I’m a little bit dirtier than he is, but we were not afraid to just have a vulnerable moment and not undercut it with comedy. We were off to the races. He really liked the book that I wrote, Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay. And he was like, “This could definitely be a TV show.” And so, once we got into the room, first of all, I would say, I think the heartbeat of the show is him and I. we just really mesh in a way comedically, that is really exciting. He’s the best creative partner I’ve ever had and probably will ever have. And we really just were like … I don’t know, it’s hard to explain unless you’re in the room, but it just really felt like this delicate dance where we’re intuitively almost always on the same pages.

There are certainly moments where we disagreed about certain things. But for the most part, I think we both really saw clearly what we want this show to be and what we feel like it has that happy ending sort of feeling, but also still TV Phoebe’s the true lead in that way. So, I think when we went into the room, we just really A, wanted to foster an environment that was going to make people want to be excited, show up every day, and share, and contribute, and tell jokes, also really hold ourselves accountable and make sure we’re not just doing jokes that are very first thought. You know what I mean? Because it’s easy to be like, “Oh, I came up with this, boom.” And then I think we really just wanted to … I really learn a lot from him and I think he’s really an open communicator and is so nurturing and encouraging, that I really learned a lot about being a leader from him.

And so, I think he just brought so much to the room that I … This whole podcast could just be how much I love this man, but I really think he brought so much intelligence and grace and just so funny, so much heart to the show. I think I bring a lot of heart and funny to the show and I think we just were like, “We want to make something joyful.” That was the thing that we want. We don’t want to do a half hour comedy where no one’s laughing because I know that’s very in and we just really wanted something where it’s like, “No, we want you to be able to turn your brain off and feel good at the end of this episode because it just made you laugh.”

Marina Fang: Yeah, totally. You mentioned the development process. I’m curious, was there at any point where it was like, “Okay, maybe this person just doesn’t get it.” I guess, how do you balance notes that are actually helpful and useful that you’re going to incorporate and notes that are just like, “Okay, this person just does not get my vision. I need to fight to make the show that I want to make.”

Phoebe Robinson: I think it’s hard. I think you definitely have to figure out which hills you want to die on. Like I said before, the Plan B thing was something that I was willing to die on and I was like, “This is staying in the script.” But I think it’s also, what I will say to Freeform’s credit is that a lot of their notes are really good. You know what I mean? I think sometimes it’s just about being able to figure out, okay, what’s a great note that we could apply to the show and what is a note that’s more like a lateral move where it’s like, yeah, we could do that, but we also already have this. So, if it’s not going to make it better, then I don’t know if we necessarily need to take the note, but we do appreciate the note.

I think it’s just as writers, I know for myself, I had to get better during the notes process. In the beginning, I was very much just like, “I don’t want to hear this note,” and blah, blah, blah. And then I got to a place where I was just, anytime I would give a note, I would go, “This is Phoebe and the note has been received.” Just to give myself that moment to not be like, “You’re wrong. You don’t know what’s funny, you … blah, blah, blah.” It’s just like, just take that moment to process it. I think we really did luck out and they really got when I said I didn’t want this to be a show about respectability politics and we want these characters to be messy. We want to show different sides of Blackness. We want to just have all of that in there and they got it.

Every once in a while you get a note and you’re just like, you go, “Oh, how could they write this now?” But then you just go, “Okay, I understand where they’re coming from.” And so you try to see their perspective. And a lot of times you can see the note behind the note and you can go, “Okay, I get that. I know what you want and that makes sense.” So, I think sometimes it’s having to do an ego check, A. B, sometimes realize they’re just going to be some jokes that they don’t necessarily get, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not funny. And that’s okay. So, you’re just like, “Yeah, they don’t get that joke, but that’s okay.” And then there are the other notes where you’re like, “All right, we’re going to have to have a little bit of a battle, but I think it’s exciting creatively.” I feel like if you’re in a project and there isn’t one note that makes you have a back and forth, then it’s like, I don’t even know if anyone really cares about this project that much that no one’s willing to fight over something.

Marina Fang: I feel like this ties in well with podcasting too because I imagine a lot of your work coming up as a podcaster probably was a lot of how do I stay true to my voice as a podcaster, but also dealing with a lot of different people telling me what I have to do? And you incorporate that into the show. So, I guess I have multiple questions about podcasting, but the first one is how did you incorporate your experience into the show, into TV Phoebe’s podcast career, and what did you want to say about podcasting, I guess? If there was something you wanted to say.

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah. I mean, when 2 Dope Queens came out in 2016, it was number one, the iTunes charts and everyone’s like, “Oh my God, this is so amazing. Your life is going to change.” And it’s like, yes. I mean, it did change in certain ways, but it was like, I was still broke. It didn’t lead to all these jobs right away. You know what I mean? So, I really wanted to show that you can have this of outwardly successful career, have people really enjoy your work, but financially the money hasn’t caught up to that yet, so I wanted to show that. I think the Malika character certainly was inspired by Joanna Solotaroff, who was my producer on Sooo Many White Guys, Joanie Mitch as I called her on the show, and also was my producer on 2 Dope Queens. And just, I wanted to have that heart and that funny and that ride or die person by your side.

And then, also just making fun of the different podcasts, like the Murder Gals and Brooklyn Dads, and just that space of, we all know those podcasters where you just roll your eyes and you’re like, “All right, I’m just trying to avoid these people as much as possible.” Because I wanted to have a playful energy when it came to talking about podcasting, because I think it’s now … It’s so oversaturated in a way, but I think what’s great about it is that podcasts really do summarize someone’s personality. Every podcast helps you go like, “Oh, I know exactly who you are, based on what you’re talking about and how you’re talking about it.” I know that was really, really fun.

Marina Fang: Yeah. You bring in the fact that a lot of people can’t really make a living off of podcasting, which I feel like people from the outside, who don’t work in media don’t fully grasp. It’s not a huge profit-making thing. So, I love in the show, TV Phoebe is like, she’s doing okay, but it’s not like she’s just raking in money from the podcast. So yeah, I guess, wondering how do you feel like podcasting has changed over the years and also what do you think needs to change, especially to make it more equitable, especially for creators?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah. I mean, gosh.

Marina Fang: I know those are big questions.

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, no, it’s a great question. I mean, I feel like podcasting is so difficult. We started taking 2 Dope Queens in 2015 and obviously there was Marc Maron who was such a landmark in those early days before us. There was still an element of it being underground in a way and a little more indie, and now it’s just so saturated and anyone who has a following or is famous, is doing a podcast now. For example, I love Ellen Pompeo, she’s a fantastic actress, but I’m like, “Don’t you have enough money? You have Gray’s Anatomy, you don’t need to do a podcast.” And so I feel like podcasting, much like anything, once it takes off and becomes mainstream in a way, it’s just now dominated by famous people in a way that I think sometimes could lead to a lack of creativity. You know what I mean? Because when you’re super famous and you’re doing a podcast and we live in a culture where everything’s going to be dissected, you’re really just going to not … Everyone’s interviewing the same people. Everyone’s about the same stuff. So, I miss the days when it was a little bit … I don’t know if 2 Dope Queens were to come out now, I don’t know if it would resonate.

Marina Fang: Why do you think that is? Is it because there have been so many podcasts that have come after it?

Phoebe Robinson: I think that, A it’s so saturated. And I think it was a show that, while Jessica and I really did have our voice down for the most part for the beginning, it is a show that really … You could hear us finding ourselves and it growing and taking whatever comedic risks that we wanted to take without worrying about, “Oh, what are the download numbers on this platform? What branding thing can we get out?” It was a show that was just made because we love hosting variety shows. We were like, “We’re just going to do something fun and different.” We didn’t expect all these things to take off and I think now it’s really … I just think it’s really hard to break through. I think there’s so much noise. People are pulled in a million different directions. If you don’t hook them right away, they’re out.

Especially towards the end of doing podcasts at WNYC, with Sooo Many White Guys, I would have to fight for the length of the show. Because they’d be like, “Research has shown that people want to listen to a podcast that’s no longer than 40, 45 minutes,” but I’m like, “Okay, but I’ve never heard anyone go, ‘This podcast is so good. I’m having such a great time. It’s 50 minutes, so I’m out.’ ” You know what I mean? But it’s these things where now it becomes like an algorithm or we’re … and it’s not the free for all it was in a way, where it was kind of like the Wild Wild west and you’re just doing shit and seeing what sticks. Everything is like, “We’ve gone over the data.” I think when you’re now relying on data a lot, I think that hurts the art form a little bit.

Marina Fang: And it feels like that’s just a model in TV a little bit. Maybe you can tell me your experience in TV too, but it feels like that it can make … A lot of TV now is driven by, “Okay, the algorithm told us that people like these shows, so make more of these.” But yeah, I guess I have multiple questions about that too, but yeah, I’m curious how your experience developing TV has been compared to podcasting?

Phoebe Robinson: I mean, TV is slow. It took us three years to get here with Everything’s Trash. And I think, what I always find so interesting about TV and film, and not even just Hollywood, but just various industries, it’ll be like, “Okay, Fleabag worked, so let’s try and do 10 of those.” And it’s like Fleabag worked because it was very much Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s, it’s not because she was trying to … You know what I mean? And so it’s just like people … it’s like they view anything that’s different as a risk, as opposed to, well, you could have something that’s a copy of something else and [inaudible 00:34:21]. So, it’s like why not do the original thing that you don’t know how it’s going to work out, but it’s going to be more exciting to make? So, I think that’s the thing that I think I’m happy about Everything’s Trash.

To me, it does feel like it’s unlike anything that’s on TV right now, in a way. Just the sense of humor, just the energy of it. I don’t know, I just think the shows that I love are always the shows that really are unlike anything else. The Sopranos isn’t like anything, Martin wasn’t anything. It’s just those kind of things that just have a DNA that’s so identifiable and I wish execs would understand that is ultimately what audiences crave, even though they don’t necessarily know how to articulate that. That is actually what they want. They don’t want 27 versions of The Big Bang Theory, even though we think that’s what the audience wants. They want just whatever it’s going to speak to them and excite them. And yes, you want something to have familiar tropes, that’s fine. But I think the show that has a really unique point of view, execs just get scared sometimes and it’s real. And then when something works and they’re like, “We knew,” and it’s like, “Mm-hmm, sure.”

Marina Fang: Yeah and it’s tough because like you said, it is nice to work with familiar tropes, but then make sure more people are being represented in those tropes. But then also, I feel like a lot of the pitching process is often, okay, it’s an existing show, but different. I feel like a lot of it is execs needing … We should say many of them are white and male, part of this needing that familiarity, or needing a reference point to be like, “Okay, I get what you’re trying to do.”

Phoebe Robinson: But sometimes it just feels lazy to me because I remember when Broad City came out and you could see these reviews, they were comparing it to Girls and I’m like, “Those are two totally different shows, tonally different, visually different.” Broad City was a broad comedy and Girls was much more of a drama. People were like, “It’s like Girls, but a little bit grittier.” And it’s just like, it’s not true. Quit being lazy, take a second to really articulate what you like about a show instead of using this shorthand, that I think isn’t helpful in the long run. I know if you go like, “Oh it’s like Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” You go, “Oh, I know what I’m getting.” But I think that sometimes … I don’t know. I just think over-reliance on saying, “It’s like this means this.” I just don’t think you could summarize a show based on two shows it’s kind of in the same genre as.

Marina Fang: What was your experience when 2 Dope Queens became the HBO show? I know it’s obviously very different show from Everything’s Trash, but what was that experience like? What did you learn from it as you were trying to get Everything’s Trash off the ground?

Phoebe Robinson: I mean, I will have to say HBO was a fantastic partner on the show. We were doing the podcast for a while and I went to Jessica and I was like, “I think we could get this show on HBO.” I was like, “I just feel like this could be a super fun variety show. There, Comedy Central, wherever.” And so we sat down with them and we had a great meeting with them, or the exec, we met with Nina Rosenstein and she was just like, “We don’t want to change anything about this show. We want you to do what you do, but just elevate it.” And we were like, “Okay, that’s cool.”

So, I think what was great about 2 Dope Queens, is that that’s where I really started to learn how to become a producer and being in creative meetings, working with the writer, a season while we had Amy Aniobi, who’s from Insecure, writer, director, producer, and then season two was Joanna Solotaroff, who was our producer on WNYC and just seeing how something’s built from the ground up and looking at the set and doing all these things that are not on camera. I think it really did prepare me for Everything’s Trash to step into the executive producer role, which felt very natural and comfortable for me.

So, I think having that training ground of for 2 Dope Queens, the specials, they were pretty much, we just shot them all the way through, we didn’t … the only time we’d do a pickup if we had to redo it intro, but there was no, “Let’s redo your segment with Lupita.” It was, “This is what it’s going to be, this is how it’s going to end up on TV.” So, knowing that makes you want to be on your toes and makes sure you’re 100% behind decisions that you’re going to do when you tape. And so I think it definitely helped with Everything’s Trash, just making sure you have the confidence, making sure you’re thinking things through as a producer. So, I think it was a great training ground for me and I’m so grateful to have that experience to be able to produce Everything’s Trash and hopefully other shows in the future.

Marina Fang: You’ve had a really incredible career in terms of the variety of things you’ve done and the types of writing. How do you think about … you’ve written books, you’ve obviously done a lot of podcasts that you started as a standup. You had a successful blog. Do you see all of these types of writing as connected? I guess, yeah, how did all of these different mediums of inform the others? Or do you see them as separate projects or separate entities?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, I think they all helped hone my voice, to be quite honest. I think when I started my Blaria blog, that was 2011, because I started standup 2008, so maybe I started the blog … I think my first post, I remember my first post, was about Girls when it premiered. So, whenever that show premiered, that’s when I started. I think book writing is very much, like I said before, a solo experience, same with blogging, TV is more collaborative. Standup is solo, you know what I mean? So, I think what I try to take is that I want each thing to just make me better as a writer. I feel like I was a really strong writer, I guess I feel like I was a really strong writer coming into Everything’s Trash, but then the process of doing a Phoebe pass on every script just taught me about how to edit better and make jokes tighter, and just the more reps you get in, then the stronger you become.

So, I think standup certainly helped me have a very laser-focused point of view comedically, but then book writing allows me to … I think I like to go off on tangents and so books allowed me to do that and do the pop culture stuff. And, “Hey, you remember this thing, I’ll get back to this other point, but you remember this thing that was really funny, that happened?” And so I think it’s all really worked together to help me create the writerly voice that I have right now, which I feel like is a mix of smart pop culture, a little ignorant, together. And it’s a fun mix, I think.

Marina Fang: I guess, as you’re figuring out what you want to do, do you like the experience of writing alone versus the camaraderie, the writer’s room? How you feel about the different kinds of writing, and also the experience of writing? Some people really like writing alone, some really being around people, some people like having a mix of both.

Phoebe Robinson: I think now, having a mix of both. I definitely would sum up pre-Everything’s Trash, I really enjoyed writing alone because I felt my first draft was always fine, but I always felt like I was a really strong editor and re-writer and that’s where things started to take shape for me. And then, with the writer’s room, it was just great. There were just things where it’s like, “Oh, I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of doing X, Y, Z.” For instance, we knew the Hamilton character, we wanted to have someone in Jayden’s world, because that would create really intrigue, what have you. But I would’ve never thought for him to be a single dad right away, you know what I mean? But it’s just talking about it in the room and how can we ground this in a real, complicated way for this character that’s going to challenge her and make her really look at her life and be like, “If you’re a dating single parent, you have to really want to be in that relationship. Because they have a kid you can’t fuck around with that.”

You know what I mean? And I think narratively, that’s an interesting way to push her. And so, we have a couple single parents in the room and so, they were able to talk to us about it and just be like, “Yeah, when I started back dating, I definitely wasn’t telling guys right away that I’m a single mom because I wanted to see if they were going to be shit or not.” And I was like, “I get that.” You know what I mean? And so I think with Everything’s Trash, Groff and I wrote the finale together and we had so much fun making each other laugh that I was like, “Oh, I really like writing a script with someone,” which is really fun. So, I think I like doing a mix of both. I think that’s where I land. I think there are pros and cons to each thing, because I can be a little bit of a control freak, so when you write with someone else, you can’t control everything, but often [inaudible 00:45:06] write with someone else, they’ll push you past where you would’ve gone solo.

Marina Fang: Yeah. When you write alone do you have a routine or set up, do you like writing at home?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, a routine. So, I’m in my office right now at my production company, but I really enjoy writing at home. I use this app called Pomodoro, which is so great. That’s how I write now. I didn’t used to do that. And then when I was working on … Gosh, I think I was working on my last book, Please Don’t Sit On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes.” I was pulled in so many directions, then I was launching the imprint while I was doing that, all this other crap and a friend of mine was like, “Just use Pomodoro. You will get the word count that you want much faster.” And she was right. So, I use that and I usually listen to music, it all depends. Sometimes it’ll be a little YouTube, Chaka Khan, just a fun playlist on Spotify.

Got to have a lit candle. I like to have a candle while I’m writing. I tend to have three to four beverages. So, I’ll have a water, I’ll have a tea, I’ll have a energy drink, maybe a green juice all at my desk, so I could just take different sips throughout the day. Then, I put my phone and computer on Do Not Disturb and that … I know, it’s like, “Oh … ” If someone needs to reach you, they could reach me later. But putting your self on Do Not Disturb will help you not be like, “Why don’t I just text a friend instead of writing.” You know?

Marina Fang: Right, and then 20 minutes later, it’s like you’ve just lost [inaudible 00:46:53]-

Phoebe Robinson: Exactly, so that’s what I do but I try to … When I first started writing my first book, I was like, “Oh, I just have to sit down. I have to write all day.” And it’s like, “I have to write all day and I have to write every day, Monday through Friday. I got to write eight hours a day.” That’s insane, that’s truly … That makes zero sense. And so, I definitely like to write every day, but I don’t always write every day. And the number one thing that I do when I write, which has helped me is that I always in my writing sessions when it’s getting really good, so that way when I come in the next day, I have that runway, you know what I mean? I’ll never be like, “Oh, I’ll start act two tomorrow.” It’s like, “No, start act two tonight.” So that way, when you come in the next day, you’re like, “Oh, I have a little progress.” You know what I mean? And then you can go from there.

Marina Fang: Yeah, you already have the momentum so you don’t have to find it again.

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, exactly.

Marina Fang: Yeah, last question before I let you go, what else are you working on, or hoping to develop, or launch in the future, or things that you can talk about at this point?

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah my imprint, Tiny Reparations books, we have our next book, Perish, coming out August 23rd. I’m not sure when this is going to air, but August 23rd’s when the book comes out. I want to write a romantic comedy for me to star in, they’re my favorite genre of movies, so that’s huge for me. I don’t know if I’m going to do standup this year. I feel so tired, I’m so tired. I’m like, “I don’t know if I can be out in these streets at night, at 9:30 telling jokes.” I feel 85. I don’t know if I could do it, but I think I’m going to have a movie idea, hopefully get season two and we’ll be back in the writer’s room.

Yeah, and then we just have other stuff that we have in development with my production company that I can’t talk about yet, but I’m trying to be booked, but not unnecessarily busy because I burned myself out. I really did burn myself out. And part of it’s the show was just so intense, straight from writing and then we were shooting and then we were editing while we’re shooting. We wrapped July 1st, it came out July 13th. And so, then I was doing press until July 27th. So, it was just a crazy run of nine months and so the show turned out so great, so I’m fine with that. But I just don’t want to burn myself out where I’m just not … Renee Zellweger said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, “Busyness is the enemy of creativity.” So whatever Renee says, I agree with. That’s a good point, yeah. So, I’m trying to have lulls where there’s not just like bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, so I can actually create something fucking interesting.

Marina Fang: Yeah, I like that. I’m going to go look up that interview.

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, I think you’d like it, it’s good.

Marina Fang: Thank you so much, Phoebe. This was really great. I love that we got to talk about so many different things and yeah, congratulations on the show, again. I’m really excited to see, I guess there’s four episodes left as we tape this. So yeah, excited to see the finale. Again, knock on wood that you got a season two.

Phoebe Robinson: Yeah, thank you so much. This was so fun. I love talking about the show, so thank you so much for having me on.

Marina Fang: Yeah.

Outro: On writing is a production of the Writer’s Guild of America East. This series was created and is produced by Jason Gordon. Our associate producer and designer is Molly Beer. Tech production and original music by Taylor Bradshaw and Stockboy Creative. You can learn more about the Writer’s Guild of America East online at You can follow the guild on all social media platforms @WGAEast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. Thank you for listening and write on.

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