In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people the same 11 interesting questions.
Quinta Brunson is what marketing consultants might call a “digital native.” Her breakthrough in comedy came with an Instagram series, “The Girl Who’s Never Been On A Nice Date,” and making videos for BuzzFeed was one of several ways—alongside writing, acting, and performing stand-up—that this Philadelphia native built a reputation in her new hometown of Los Angeles. More recently, she joined the casts of Big Mouth and A Black Lady Sketch Show, and wrote a collection of essays, She Memes Well, about her life on and off on the internet. (That book is out June 15.) We spoke with Brunson over Zoom on April 20, in a conversation that ranged from insightful—including her thoughts on documenting our current historical moment—to silly. It also made both interviewer and interviewee hungry, which is to be expected when you’re talking about snacks.
Quinta Brunson: My best trip was to Florida. My family went with two other families that also had five children, and we all caravaned in our Plymouths—you remember those vans?—down to Florida on this long trip. I think it’s a day-and-a-half drive. And it was the most fun because I was with all of my friends and my family and we did all the parks in the span of that trip. We did Disney, Universal Studios, a disgusting water park that was a lot of fun… I remember the trip so vividly. I remember the bungalows we stayed in, and going to Universal Studios and getting on the King Kong ride. It’s one of my most vivid memories from that young age.
AVC: You said three families, five kids each, so 15 kids?
QB: Yeah. All of our families happened to have kids pretty much in the same age range, so everyone got to be with their friends. And it was really nice. It was families from our religious place of worship. And it was really cool.
AVC: Do you like to go to Disneyland now, as an adult?
QB: I’m strictly a Universal girl. I don’t do that Disney shit. I know Disney World is tight, like, I know, but it’s for kids to me. I’m a Universal Studios girl.
AVC: It’s a big thing in L.A., Disneyland. People that you wouldn’t think would be Disneyland people are all about it.
QB: I’m really not with it. Friends will try to get me to go. “Let’s go to Disney today,” like it’s some easy task.
AVC: Or just a thing that grown-ups do.
QB: If you wanna do it, go to Universal, where you can drink and go on The Simpsons ride, you know? Universal is a little bit more [Laughs.] “rated R.” I’m not that big of a Disney girl anyway. I didn’t see see Snow White until I was 21.
2. What’s something that’s considered a basic part of your current career that you struggled to learn?
QB: Taking pictures.
AVC: You mean like headshots?
QB: All versions of still pictures. Anything for an EPK [“electronic press kit,” which is compiled by studios and includes fact sheets and promotional photos —Ed.] that they use in the final marketing materials. Moving and talking and being a character is one thing. I can do that all day. But when you have to take photos and stand still, it’s so difficult. I’d rather be caught off guard. Those are hard. They make me sweat, and I don’t enjoy doing them. But it’s a regular part of the job. You have to do it all the time! But it’s not that easy for me.
AVC: What’s funny is that the picture that you’re talking about is probably what we’re going to use for this interview.
QB: Any picture you guys will use will have been hard for me. I get very Ricky Bobby. I don’t know what to do with my hands.
3. Did you pick up any new skills, hobbies, or get into something you hadn’t before during quarantine?
QB: I got into flowers more than I had ever been. I can’t say it was a hobby, but I started appreciating things like flower arrangements so much more, and loving having live flowers in the house. That’s one thing that changed about me from prior to that time period. And then air-frying, for sure. Me and everybody else.
AVC: What do you like to air-fry?
QB: Chicken. That’s my main thing. My fiancé has made quite a few things in there, but chicken is what I really enjoy because it’s so fast and so much healthier. And then I’d say—I was already a pretty big video game player. Well, certain video games, like Mario Kart. But I just started playing Mario Party every single day. I think while everyone else was playing Animal Crossing, I was playing Mario Party. I found it to be a real stress reliever. It’s basically a board game, which requires some skill, but not much. It was a nice break from everything that was going on in the world, as well as my work. There was a lot of problem-solving in what I was working on at the time. And so it was really nice to turn that logical part of my brain off and play a game that brought me joy.
4. What restaurant do you not live near, but make a point to hit every time you’re in the right town?
QB: I can’t say Wawa, but it’s true.
AVC: I mean, if it’s true, that’s the answer.
QB: It’s so deep that my mom gives me a gift card to Wawa when I come to Philly, because that’s where I like to go get snacks! [Laughs.] It’s not a restaurant, but they have good hoagies, and that’s where you go to stock up. I really love to go there. But I’m going to give you a better answer than Wawa. I think it’s a little beneath me to say that’s a restaurant. I can’t let that be the representation of myself. Think, Quinta, think! Okay, that’s bad, but that’s really my answer. And then my second answer is going to be Dunkin’ Donuts, so…
AVC: There’s no Dunkin’ in L.A.?!
QB: The Dunkin’ Donuts here just kind of sucks. They haven’t gotten the hang of it. It’s an East Coast delicacy. They know how to do it over there, but they’re just now figuring it out here in L.A. The donuts, the coffee—none of it is right.
AVC: What kind of snacks do you like to get at Wawa that you can’t get in L.A.?
QB: A hoagie, first of all. Wawa just does a hoagie a certain way that only Wawa can do it. It’s not the best hoagie in Philly or anything, but I like Wawa’s hoagies. And they have these iced teas that only Wawa can do. You can get your Herr’s sour cream and onion chips from there, all of your Herr’s chips, which are a staple. What else do you need from there? Oh, Tastykake! Have you had those?
AVC: I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never had one.
QB: I got to introduce my fiancé to Tastykake, and it’s a game changer. It’s what Hostess wants to be. Hostess thinks she’s Tastykake, but she’s not.
AVC: You sound like a real snack connoisseur.
QB: I am. Philly snacks, for sure. It’s bad for you, trust me. You can taste the dough when you put a Tastykake in your mouth. But it’s really good.
QB: I was just thinking about this recently. I would like a more efficient dictation [app]. Something that takes my random thoughts and knows what folder to put it in for later. It would be really nice to talk and talk and talk, and also this technology would turn your over-the-top, out-there rambles into cohesive statements.
AVC: So you can just ramble, and then a coherent paragraph comes out.
QB: Yes, that would be great. My thoughts are so all over the place with everything going on in the world right now, and sometimes I just wish my ramblings could turn into a cohesive, readable thought. Not for other people, but for me, even. But also, I’m not sure if I want it to exist.
AVC: There are some thoughts that probably are best not written down.
QB: And, you know, I just feel like if that were to come about… with great power comes great responsibility and you’d have to be responsible about how you use it. But then I also think about Jurassic Park, and it’s like just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should.
AVC: Yeah. But writing is also really hard.
QB: It is. And I want us to be documenting our generation in a better way. We’re very rapid-fire. Even with our articles, things that are well-written, it’s just rapid-fire [documentation] of a quick moment, and then it’s on to another moment. Sometimes I want more cohesive writing on the times we’re living in, and less moment-to-moment writing.
AVC: You mean how social media is made up of these little fragments of thought?
QB: Yeah. And some areas of journalism have also become fragmented, which is not a bad thing. But to document everything that’s happening right now? I just hope that more cohesive writing is being done.
QB: Many people are very great. But I’m going to go ahead and say Seth Rogen on this fine 4/20. He is a person who really is what is presented. He very much is that person in real life, even to a fault—sometimes I’m like, “Seth, you’re too nice,” but he’s a nice guy, you know? But he’s a nice guy! He really, really is! Nice and normal. I think I would have to say him. And if not him, I would say Daniel Radcliffe. I think my expectations of him were low, because you hear a lot about child stars. And not just a child star, but a super fucking famous person. One of the most famous people in the world!
AVC: His whole life was changed by something that happened when he was, what, 13 years old?
QB: Right. So I didn’t know what to expect. But he is one of the kindest, most normal human people I think I’ve ever met in the industry, period. I just felt like he was the homie! I was like, “Come kick it!” Not because he’s Daniel Radcliffe, but because he’s a real, good, down-to-earth person. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “How did you do this? How are you so normal?”
QB: For no reason other than the menial tasks—it wasn’t the people, the people were great—but American Eagle. Folding jeans. I don’t like that kind of stuff. Also, when I was there, they were like, “Sign up for a credit card! Sign up for an American Eagle credit card!” They encouraged us to do it, and it did nothing but fuck up my credit at a very young age. Those retail spaces, they do that. They’ll encourage you to sign up for whatever reason. I did it, I shouldn’t have. My dad told me not to, and I still did it. And it fucked up my credit. That was another reason why that job sucked.
QB: Well, let me first say, I love my family and I only want to be a part of my family. But one of my favorite families on TV of all time was the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. I’ve been watching the show a lot lately, because it’s just been coming on TV. They were just so fun and funny. I love that family dynamic, for sure.
9. What’s the first piece of art or earliest piece of media that inspired you to go into your field?
QB: Even Stevens is and was a big part of my comedic appreciation journey. I talk about it in my book and how that show transformed what comedy was to me. I was watching all these little kid comedies at the same time—Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven, Cheetah Girls, blah, blah. But this show! I was like, “This is heightened. This is taste.” And I was trying to talk to other kids about it, and they’d say, “That show is weird.” I was like, “It’s not weird!” And at the time, this kid is, comedically, he’s on the same level to me as Jim Carrey. And I think that’s when I started to realize, “Oh, taste is something different. I’m not just enjoying what’s given to me. I have the ability to have taste and say what I think will be next,” which was a defining moment for me.
After that it was Napoleon Dynamite. I also talk about that in the book, being the first person to introduce that to my school, me and my friend. I brought the DVD into the school and was like, “We have to watch this,” to my teacher. Everyone’s like, “What is wrong with you?” Then we watch it once, and everyone’s obsessed. I think it was that [idea of] differentiating between, “Okay, do I just love this or do I have taste with this?” Little things like that start to lead you to what your career could be.
AVC: It sounds to me like it’s about having confidence in your own tastes.
QB: Yes, absolutely. Not only having that taste, but having confidence and sticking to it and being like, “No, I know this is going to be it. You guys may not see it yet, but I’m trying to put you on to the fact that this is [great].” Sometimes you can see that really, really early, but it’s hard to communicate that to people, I think. Especially with comedy. There are some comedians that are out there now who are going to run the world in five years. Other people may not see it that way, but they have no choice but to be next. They’re talking about what no one’s talking about yet. They’re taking a different approach. And it’s time for a new wave of comedy, in my opinion. A new, game-changing wave.
AVC: Is there anybody in particular you’d like to plug?
QB: Sam Jay has a late-night show coming out that I think is going to be a real game changer. Not only that, it’s coming out at the same time as Ziwe’s show and A Black Lady Sketch Show and a bunch of other things. But I just think Sam’s take on life is going to be refreshing, biting—sure, some people are going to get mad, but I think it’s time to stop playing it fully safe again. And I think she’s the one to do it. I’m not necessarily trying to hear that from an old white dude, but I do want to hear it from someone like Sam. I think she’s really something else.
There’s also Taylor Garron, who I’ve been obsessed with for years now. She’s a writer for Reductress [as well as a contributor to The A.V. Club’s sister site The Onion —Ed.], and I feel like she is about to have what I always knew was there! She’s about to really have those moments in the public space.
There’s also a writer named Kevin Iso—he’s your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian, basically. He has a show that’s coming out on Showtime this year, and I think he’s going to be a very big part of the next wave of “personal journey” shows, and what those are going to look like.
AVC: This ties in to what we were just talking about.
QB: Sam Jay.
AVC: For all the reasons listed above?
QB: She’s just effortlessly funny. I don’t know if you saw her stand-up special, but she’s pushing something different out there. I’m trying to think—there’s also a comedic actor. His name is Jon Bass. He just effortlessly makes me laugh. I think he’s one of the funniest people in the world, and in a totally different way from Sam. She’s a stand-up and a talker. He’s an actor who just cracks me up. So I’d have to say those two people.
QB: Turkey slices, mustard, onions. Tomato. Banana peppers. Oregano, a little bit of light oregano. Light vinegar, light oil. Mayonnaise. And I just made myself hungry!
AVC: That tends to happen.
QB: I just described my Jersey Mike’s order. [Laughs.]
AVC: And of course your sandwich would be sold at Wawa.
QB: Absolutely! I would say Jersey Mike’s, but that would just be so un-Philadelphian of me.