It’s not often that I identify with Sarah Jessica Parker.
While we have a few things in common — we’re both middle-aged white moms who live in New York City — that’s where the similarities, such as they are, end. It took Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, known to many as the 2 Dope Queens, to teach me that the Sex and the City star is all of us — and by “us” I mean “white people” — when it comes to understanding black hair.
Episode 2 of HBO’s four-part 2 Dope Queens comedy series —based on the hit podcast of the same name — is titled simply “Hair.” Williams and Robinson invite Parker out for “brunch” and some girl-talk about halfway through the hour, and after some genuine fangirling (“I’m wearing your fragrance ‘Lovely,’ that’s how much I want to be your friend!” confesses Robinson), they get to the point of her visit: Talking about black hair. “What do you know?” Williams asks Parker. “How can we walk you into this?” The actress’s response speaks to how fraught the subject can be.
“Let’s focus more on what don’t I know,” replies Parker wisely. As the actress tries to formulate a question on the spot — “I don’t know how it stays… how you can have…” — the audience begins to laugh at her nervous stammering. That’s when Williams and Robinson step in.
“This is a safe space!” Williams scolds the crowd. And based on the two episodes made available for review, HBO’s 2 Dope Queens (premiering Feb 2 at 11:30 p.m.) is a safe space — not just for the underrepresented comedians of color and from the LGBTQ community, who the podcast has long championed. Williams and Robinson use their humor, vivacious charm, and genuine curiosity about human nature to make their show a safe space for anyone who wants to know more about the black female experience in 2018 America. (Or anyone who wants to know whether Jon Stewart, Williams’ former Daily Show boss and a guest on 2 Dope Queens‘ HBO premiere, can tell “fancy” New York pizza from a $1 slice.)
Parker does finally formulate a question about black hair: “How do you keep it nice for so long?” she asks of the meticulously-crafted, “mixed-media” styles she sees African-American women sporting on the subway. The Dope Queens embrace Parker’s description (“This sounds like a New York Times art critic review and I love it!” says a delighted Williams) and then walk the actress through weave care and maintenance, and black hair categories like “comb-breaker” and 4C. “We all learn to walk,” Williams tells the crowd at one point. “Admit what you don’t know.” Good advice, delivered in the dopest way possible.