You might know Phoebe from her badass standup career, her editorials in the New York Times, or as the brains and voice behind the critically-acclaimed website “Blaria.” I know her as all those things, but also as one of the hardest working girls I went to school with who, despite this, was always willing to take a break to watch Felicity in her dorm room. We shared some quality time at Pratt and I couldn’t be more proud of all the things Phoebe’s done post-grad. She’s kind of a big deal. Read on and hear for yourself!
If Daria was real and you met her for a slice of pizza, how would you describe Blaria to her?
I would tell her that Blaria is clearly inspired by her, but with a twist. She’s droll because she was going to high school and high school can definitely suck, but I’m droll in my blog whether it’s because of the War on Women with reproduction issues or because of the show “Girls,” which, like a lot of TV programs, has a diversity problem. So I guess it kind of like you think/hope you’ll be less droll/angry/sarcastic about the world once you leave high school, but you won’t be. And now there is WordPress, so you have an outlet for it.
What made you decide to start Blaria?
This is obnoxious to write, but because of the “New York Times” reached out to me about writing an op-ed for them. Ha. I mean, that’s just the most name drop-y thing in the world, but it’s true! I went to Pratt for screenwriting and after graduating in 2006, I kind of stopped writing. Because I’m idiot. No, because I was trying to see if I could work my way up the ladder at a couple of film companies, so that really zapped a lot of my energy and eventually made me depressed because I wasn’t being creative. Then a few years later, I started doing stand up, so I was writing again, but obviously, with stand up, you’re writing for performance, not to have your material read. At any rate, I had been in the “NYT” in a couple of articles about stand up comedy, so I suppose I had some sort of relationship with the paper, though it was a very minor one. But I was on their radar enough that Hilary Howard, an editor for the “Room for Debate” series, reached out to me and asked to contribute an op-ed to their debate about how comedies are rarely nominated for Oscars. So I did. It was an awesome honor and a week later, I was approached to audition to be a host for a TV show, so I had to write about 3 subjects and then present it. I had maybe a day and a half to do it. The audition went well enough and when I was done, one of the people in the room was like, “You wrote all of that? That was really funny. You’re a really good writer. I mean, you only had a day or something to write all of that. That was great.” So I was kind of pumped up about that. I didn’t get the gig. Haha. But I just think that might have to do more my being kind of green on-camera. ANYWAY (this is the longest story of all time), a day after audition, a comedian/author Jason Good (I believe his first book comes out either this year or the beginning of next year) asked me if any literary agents had reached to me after the “NYT” op-ed because it was pretty good. So it just kind of struck me that two people had praised my writing, so I was like, “Maybe I should get back into this.” But I didn’t know how. My boyfriend always teases me about how indignant I get about things and I’ve always been a fan of “Daria” and a couple of comics and I had joked about how I’m such a Daria sometimes and then the idea popped into my head that I’m a Black Daria, hence Blaria was born.
What do you hope to accomplish with it?
To get a book deal and have the book be in the same vein as Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” or Mindy Kaling’s book. They’re both very funny, but also, like them, I’m not trying to be the next Faulkner. Just want to write some comedic books and hope to inject some smart stuff in there as well. I told my manager (at the time) about my plans for the blog and she totally dismissed it: “Well, they’re famous, so…maybe you should do a web series instead of a blog.” And this was after she admitted she hadn’t read the blog! Go figure. Luckily, I didn’t listen to her, kept doing the blog, and by the end of the first two months, which is May 31st, I should have 10k views, which is beyond exciting. But in addition to the book deal, I’m going to launch a Blaria Podcast on the six month anniversary of the blog and live comedy shows on the one year anniversary of the blog. To me, Blaria is my brand, so I’m really putting a lot of energy and faith into it and I’m creating what I one day to be my empire (#barf). Ha. But I can totally see Blaria Productions in my future and just working with my friends and people I admire. I like to dream big. And then follow through to make those dreams a reality.
Can you link to your favorite post?
So I’m going to cheat and link a few of my favorite posts. Hope that’s okay, but I can’t just choose one. Here they are:
1) At nearly 1300 hits, it’s by far my post popular post. So let’s clap it up for that. Or you can clap it down if you don’t give an eff. As long as you clap, but don’t have the Clap. Ugh, I hate myself. Haha. Anyway, I wrote a scathing critique about the TV show “Girls,” which I thought maybe 50 people would read. Instead, a whole bunch of people read and shared with friends and lead me to having my highest views in one day thus far (928), lead to my 2nd op-ed piece getting published in the “NYT,” and I became an official blogger for the Huffington Post based on my “Girls” piece. So because this post is really the one that kind of put Blaria on the map and one of the top posts people will read after they read the most current one, it’s probably my favorite one: http://blaria.com/2012/04/18/girls/
2) This is my most recent post and it’s about the Jennifer Holliday/Jessica Sanchez duet on the “American Idol” finale. A lot of people are surprised that I love “AI” because it’s so cheesy and my blog can be intense. Haha. But I love “AI” and all it’s manufactured ridiculousness. And this duet was an amazing piece of TV history, not only because it’s the best duet in “AI” history, but because it showcased two extremely talented singers (Jessica is only 16!!!). But beyond that, I decided to write about this performance because J Hollie is know for her over-the-top facial expressions and this performance is chock full of them. I’m a big fan of hers, so I wanted my readers to understand why I love her: http://blaria.com/2012/05/25/american-idol-recap-jennifer-holliday-made-my-life/
3) The “Time” magazine cover with the hot mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old child was just soridiculous.org/donations that I had to write about. It was so about shock value and not about attachment parenting and I like to call b.s. on obvious ploys to get attention, so this has classic Blaria written all over it in terms of how I take it to snark town before providing some more insightful commentary. I think it’s a pretty funny take down of the article and I’ve gotten plenty of positive feedback about it: http://blaria.com/2012/05/11/a-yo-ma-lemme-suck-on-that-titty/
4) This one is a little more serious. There’s been a lot of discussion about gay marriage in this country and I’m firmly on the side that gay people are normal and they should have the same rights as everyone else. So seeing people spewing vile and hatred and violence as Pastor Harris did towards gay people really bothered me and I felt it was my responsibility to write about it:http://blaria.com/2012/05/09/its-too-late-to-apologize/
5) Like the “Time” magazine cover, Brooklyn Industries was just trying to “shock” people with their ad campaign called Jungle Fever. As someone in an interracial relationship, I just thought it was ludicrous they were trying fetishize something that is completely normal to sell clothes. So I took them to task as well: http://blaria.com/2012/05/04/brooklyn-industries-can-s-mah-d/
What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened with your website so far?
One of the most exciting things was definitely becoming a blogger for HuffPo. Really cool that they’re on board with my voice and they give me a chance at reaching a bigger audience. Outside of that, the positive feedback, auditions, writing job opportunities/submissions I’ve received. Been great to get more exposure. And when a buddy of mine told me Blaria is like “The Daily Show” to her, I was just completely humbled. That show is amazing and I hope to reach their level of quality with Blaria one day and maybe write for them one day. So it was cool to get that kind of encouragement.
I hear you do standup also… Where can people see you and what can they expect?
People can check me on Facebook or my tumblr (phoeberobinson.tumblr.com) for show dates. This summer, I’ll just be bouncing around NYC and hopefully, going to Boston in August to do shows. What they can expect from my stand up is what they read in my blog. Sometimes I will be ridiculous, but I’m always honest and there is a nugget of truth in what I say.
Anything else you want people to know?
Yes, I’m on Twitter (@PRobinsonComedy). Also, if people like Blaria, please click the “Follow” button. My goal is to have 300 official email followers by the one year anniversary of the blog. So help a sister out! Finally, this is some promotion for someone else, who totally doesn’t need it, but I’m a HUGE fan of Issa Rae’s web series “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.” It’s super funny and smart. The second season starts on June 14th, so catch up on the first season now. Love you, Issa! Hope to meet her one day.
Check out more from Phoebe at Blaria.