Quinta Brunson is like a mini–Hadron Collider. The Emmy-award-winning comedy writer, actress, producer, and meme wiz is a creative powerhouse packed into a 4’11” frame. How she got to be one of the world’s most prestigious people in comedy took a lot of dedication and confidence. She didn’t go from Instagram to the Emmys in a leap. It was a marathon. Here is how Quinta Brunson took the internet (and Hollywood) by storm.
Quinta Brunson’s Philly Roots
Quinta Brunson was born on December 21, 1989, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her name means “fifth” in Spanish, and she was the youngest of five. Her mother, Norma Jean, was a kindergarten teacher.
Quinta grew up studying dance, which gave her an appreciation for performance. She developed a love for comedy while taking an improv class at Charter High School for Architecture & Design. She attended Temple University but later dropped out and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Through her job at an Apple store, she transferred to the West Coast.
Working for Apple didn’t bring in much money for the aspiring actress and creative. Brunson told People that she considered a banana and a cup of noodles to be a normal meal. “If I could get both or get two bananas in one day, I was doing well,” she said.
From LA Comedy Clubs to Instagram Memes
While in LA, Quinta was asked to put on a sketch show for The Comedy Store. She told Fast Company that it was basically a shot in the dark because audiences generally visited the showroom to watch stand-up. But her sketch show was a hit, which inspired her to start making shorts for Instagram.
Quinta Brunson released a series of short videos for her Instagram series, titled The Girl Who’s Never Been on a Nice Date. The videos immediately went viral along with her character’s catchphrase “He’s got money.” But viral things don’t always last, and eventually, Quinta needed money. So, when her comedian friend Justin Tan invited her to go eat Doritos with him for a BuzzFeed Videos segment in exchange for $200, she leaped at the opportunity.
Quinta Made Comedy Sketch for BuzzFeed Videos When That Was a Thing
Once at BuzzFeed, Quinta admitted that she needed a job. Per BuzzFeed, she was given a residency as a creative for the company’s new video branch. She produced and starred in her first project with BuzzFeed, a video called “The Actual Scariest Things on Earth.”
According to an interview called “Why I Left BuzzFeed: Quinta Brunson” (a BuzzFeed video), Quinta lucked out because YouTube Red, Facebook videos, and web series were just becoming popular at the time. Quinta continued writing, producing, and starring in sketches for BuzzFeed videos from 2014-2018.
During Quinta’s time at BuzzFeed, she also created and pitched her own projects to outside platforms. She wrote and sold her first full series, Broke, to YouTube Red. She created and sold an animal shelter mockumentary called Up for Adoption to a platform called Go90. And she created and sold a series called Quinta vs. Everything to Facebook. Meanwhile, Quinta continued to perform live comedy shows at LA’s popular club, The Laugh Factory.
Voice Acting, TV Roles, and a Lot More Sketch Comedy. Quinta Brunson Does it All.
Quinta also spread her wings towards larger film studios. She was cast in a variety of TV parts, including for iZombie, Single Parents, and Miracle Workers. She did voice work for a variety of projects, including for Adult Swim’s Lazor Wulf and Netflix’s Big Mouth. HBO then cast Quinta for their extremely popular sketch TV series, A Black Lady Sketch Show, which ran from 2019 to 2022.
In the midst of Quinta’s career, she also gave an incredible TEDx Talk about finding her value. She spoke about shifting her perspective from letting everything she watched from her art, to viewing it with a more “critical eye.”
Quinta was asked to play Oprah Winfrey in the Weird Al Yankovic biopic. She told People that the role initially intimidated her but, when she realized it was a comedy, she knew she could make it work. “I read it and thought I could do it justice,” she said. “It wasn’t too serious, but it also wasn’t too dumb, because I didn’t want to insult Oprah or tarnish her legacy.”
Quinta Brunson’s Abbott Elementary Took the World by Storm
And then there was Abbott Elementary. Quinta’s “passion project” came from deep within. She told People that “I wanted to bring back the straightforward 22-minute workplace comedy.” By then, she’d had plenty of practice writing comedy, to say the least.
She told The Hollywood Reporter that she knew the show had potential. “With Abbott, it was like, ‘If this doesn’t go, I don’t know what I have to give to the world because this is the best I can do.’ I could see us winning awards. I could see us becoming really popular,” she said.
The first network that Quinta and her fellow showrunners pitched Abbott Elementary to didn’t pick it up. While Quinta hasn’t named them publicly, she said that was the only snafu they ran into. ABC recognized the value and picked the show up immediately.
“ABC won that bidding war,” Brunson told People. “My co-showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker also saw the vision right away. I was fortunate. It’s most certainly not a common L.A. story for Black creators, but I think [I’m] a sign that times are changing.”
The show was a smashing success. It went from 13 episodes in its first year to 22 episodes in its second. The second season premiered in September and is still running. Abbott Elementary drew in 28 award nominations for Quinta Brunson, 19 of which she has won, and 5 that are still pending. Among those were 2 Golden Globes, one for her acting, one for the show, and an Emmy. Quinta Brunson was the second black woman in history to receive an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.
One thing is for certain. Quinta Brunson isn’t worrying about how many bananas she can get anymore. This woman is a Queen and we can’t wait to see what comes next.