Photo courtesy of mtvU.
Since September, Quinn Marcus has been the face of undergrad trivialities on her hit mtvU series, Quinnterviews. Each episode is a quick, 90-second package of Marcus stirring up the pot of awkward as she sarcastically riffs on the classic man-on-the-street. The show covers everything from finding a roommate to finding love, and it’s all done with an innocently dry humor and a winking eye. For the high-strung, 21st-century undergrad, Quinnterviews is the perfect dose of schadenfreude.
Catch a recent episode where Quinn attends Collegefest to ask about the 2012 Presidential Election:
Impressively enough, Marcus is still an undergraduate herself. As a senior at Emerson College, she and cameraman Tyler Weinberger film the series in Boston while concurrently keeping up with her studies and performing with her improv trouple, This Is Pathetic. She’s confident but humble, sassy but sweet. Oh, and she’s gay, too—“So you can’t hit on me,” she quips.
We spoke with the up-and-comer about her gig with MTV, her hopes for the future, and how her sexuality gave her such infallible confidence.
Out: So tell us how Quinnterviews all got started.
Quinn Marcus: After my senior year of high school I was doing improv in downtown Atlanta with some friends. Right before we went to college, we decided to take a camera out onto the street and interview people. We went out there thinking we were going to pretend I was from PETA, the animal rights group, and then it just turned into Quinnterviews. My friend came up with the name, and then we edited it together and put it on youtube.
What was it like pitching Quinnterviews to MTV?
It was crazy. We just sent them a written pitch, then they called me while I was in class and asked for a video. They wanted a video of my personality, so I decided the best way to showcase that was to ask people on the street to tell me what they think my personality is. So we just interviewed people and sent [MTV] that video.
Then they came to Boston and I pitched it in person. It was really scary; I’ve never been so nervous. But it was really cool because I really lucked out. It wasn’t like I pitched it and then they didn’t like it. They had already liked it and told me that they just wanted to talk about how we were going to do it, so it was a really cool pitching experience. I don’t think it was a normal pitching experience.
What is it that interested you about improv and this quirky take on interviews in the first place?
I did improv in high school. When I did plays, there was one time we got to do improv, and I just realized I should not be doing plays, and that I’m not a good actor but that I really love just thinking on my feet and saying whatever came to my head in relation to being in the scene with my partner. So when we went out and filmed, it just kind of came easy to me. It’s my favorite thing to do.
Do you find that you approach both stage improv and Quinnterviews with a similar sense of humor?
I think Quinnterviews is different because I’m by myself, whereas my improv troupe is kind of a team thing, so it’s less selfish. I have to work with my team, so if I have something to say, I don’t always say it because it affects everybody. But with Quinnterviews, it’s just me.
How do you decide who to interview?
I guess we just grab whoever walks by. People surprise you. Somebody who looks like a businessman walking down the street, you think he doesn’t have the time. But then sometimes they just talk to you for a very long time ... and you wonder where they actually work.
How do you decide what to interview people about?
When I did the Quinnterviews just for YouTube, we would pick a random topic like ‘Earth Day,’ or ‘Love.’ But now that we’re with MTV, it’s based on the average college student’s year. So coming up we’re doing ‘Going Home for Thanksgiving,’ and we’re going to do ‘Spring Break.’ It’s less random and more based with the topic.
Do you ever hope to take Quinnterviews and branch away from the college demographic?
I think that college kids will always love it, but, I mean, my mom says she likes it so I think—she might be lying—but I think other people can like it, too. She might just be being nice.
You identify as gay. Do you think coming into comedy with that perspective at all influences your approach in humor?
Being gay, I’m very comfortable with myself. I had to get that way, so I think that I have a confidence that definitely helps. And I really don’t have any inhibitions [which is] probably part of being gay, too. I don’t really care if I walk up to a man and say something, or a woman. I kind of just talk to everybody the same. I think with Quinnterviews especially I kind of just flirt with everybody. I do think that being gay helped me get this confidence. It kind of just comes with a freedom to just say whatever I want.
Do you ever worry about breaking away from the traditionally more progressive college audience as a gay entertainer?
No, and I think it’s because I grew up in a very supportive household, and then I went to Boston and it’s very supportive, and Emerson is very supportive. I’ve never really known opposition or prejudice. I think that that has helped me in a way because I don’t allow myself to be afraid of that. I don’t think, “Oh, I’m scared for next year because I won’t have this support.” I’m not going out there asking for any negativity—I just look to positivity. So I’m not really afraid of that, and I wouldn’t really accept it.
There are some very prominent lesbian comediennes in the industry right now—Ellen DeGeneres and Jane Lynch, just to name the obvious two. Do they at all influence you?
I think they’re all very funny, but honestly my biggest influences are David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel. I don’t really view myself as a gay comedienne or a female comedienne. I view myself as a comedienne that is a gay woman. My humor and my jokes … I don’t do it through a gay lens. I am who I am—that lens is just gay.
You credit David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel as your inspiration. Is that something that you aspire to one day? Maybe taking on a late night show arena?
Yes, I definitely want to be a late night talk show host. They’re my inspiration for their humor and their skill at being a talk show host, not for their sexual preference. But we all like women.