When she began drafting her first collection of essays, Quinta Brunson wasn’t sure she had anything meaningful to say.
The comedian and actress spent years providing the internet with viral videos and memes that spoke the most for her and inspired people to express themselves using her image.
He said that the most difficult thing he found while writing the book was getting personal.
“I’ll come back to this and do my best to turn the sentences into paragraphs in my life, and then turn those paragraphs into chapters,” Brunson said. As a comedian, he said, “You turn things that happened to you into one-liners, to make fun of. But a book requires you to undo all the one-liners.”
For nearly a decade, people have become accustomed to watching Brunson, who is 31, do stand-up or appear in sketches online, including what is arguably his most famous series “The girl who never went on a good date.”
The way she contrasts her face in these videos to emphasize her shock as she marvels at the splendor of a “fancy” date, taking it to meme status. The laughter comes from her terrifying reaction to completely mundane treatments from her date, like taking her to a restaurant with really good water or buying more than one snack at a movie theater. There are moments when she recognizes her flaws, but she dismisses them because, unlike other men, she is not broken. Her slogan, “Us Paisa Mil Gaya,” became an aspirational boast that was shared, retweeted and repeated over a million times online.
Now, with “She Memes Well,” which Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish on Tuesday, Brunson breaks down her journey from struggling stand-up comedian to being recognized by strangers around the world. The book includes hilarious anecdotes about growing up in West Philadelphia, being a black woman, dating, and life after internet fame.
She also takes a serious look at the development of memes, and how they have emerged as a powerful tool to help people communicate and organize online. The memes mostly succeed as comedic relief, but Brunson thinks they deserve more respect than they do.
“Today is Earth Day,” she said during an interview in April, “and I posted on my page nothing but memories about climate change and how corporations are honestly participating in ruining the Earth. What I love about the memes I’ve shared is that it’s an easy translation to a much larger topic that hopefully people will look at this issue further.
Brunson credits the memoirs of other actors and comedians such as Gabrielle Union, Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey as the inspiration for his book.
“Those books hugged me at times when I needed a hug,” she said. “I want my book to embrace a little black girl who I am.”
Growing up in Philadelphia, Brunson was the youngest of five in a close-knit family. She knew by age 5 that she wanted to be an artist, but she kept it a secret from her parents for most of her teen years, and decided that studying advertising at Temple University was something she could get behind. Huh.
Eventually, she dropped out of school, got a job at an Apple Store to earn “$13 an hour,” and later moved to Los Angeles, until she got her big break.
Her mother, Norma Brunson, was initially disappointed with her daughter’s decision to drop out of school, but eventually came to grips with it.
Norma Brunson said, “I reflected on my youth, and how I made decisions that might not have made my parents happy.” “She’s always been determined to do certain things, and is trying to figure that out. And being the youngest in five years, I think she took on a little bit of everyone’s personality and this ‘Quinta’ came with the person.”
Quinta, whose name means “fifth” in Spanish, arrived unexpectedly, she writes in her book, and was told that her appearance was a “cure” that strengthened her parents’ marriage, which over the years was stressful.
“She’s always been extremely attentive and very expressive at the same time, so I embraced that part of her personality,” Norma Brunson said. “She’s always been a delightful person. She always brought lots of happiness to our home.”
“She Means Well” was written for Brunson during a transitional period. When she began writing it, about three years ago, she was single and working in a BuzzFeed video (a job she affectionately calls “9 to 5”), where she performed in a variety of parodies and sketches. , a format that dominated the web. those days.
Such videos have declined in popularity, as Internet users have turned to apps like TikTok and Instagram for similar content, but Brunson’s career has flourished in more traditional ways.
He has been featured in several TV shows, playing a lead role in the first season of HBO “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” which was nominated for three Emmys in 2020, and will produce and star in “Abbott Elementary,” a workplace comedy about Philadelphia teachers currently in development at ABC.
In April, Brunson received her first pedicure in more than a year, and smiled over a video call about how the treatment felt like “a vacation,” after months of living inside her home with her fiancé in Los Angeles. Afterwards, Mario was playing Kart video games and drinking more than she’d like.
Despite being physically isolated, and spending most of her time focused on her own little bubble of family, friends, and rare trips to Palm Springs to “see a few different walls at Airbnb”, she’s curious about the big world. seen from. She wrestled emotionally with Derek Chauvin’s verdict in the murder of George Floyd, and with Ma’khia Bryant’s deathA 16-year-old black girl from Columbus, Ohio, was shot and killed by a police officer the same day. We spoke two days after both the incidents.
“I’m struggling with the reality of the news,” Brunson said. “But at the same time, trying to strike a balance with the good things going on in my life and trying to find space for both of those feelings.”
Kate Napolitano, the editor who acquired “She Means Well,” said she first discovered Brunson’s work in 2014 through the “Nice Date” video series. Napolitano, now an executive editor at Day Street Books, said that when he saw the proposal for an essay collection in 2017, it felt like the perfect moment for the comedian to “explore a different side of his creativity” .
“We had always planned for a mix of serious essays between more lighthearted ones,” Napolitano said, “but after the death of George Floyd and a wave of protests across the country, Quinta was determined to channel the urgency of that moment.”
In his memoir, Brunson writes about losing his 17-year-old cousin to gun violence a few years ago, and touches on how writing a book during lockdown and the widespread protests against police brutality felt.
“Do I feel like these things keep happening without radical change? Yes,” Brunson said. “What are we going to do? And I think that’s a tough question for America and for Americans, because it’s going to force us to reflect on some truths that we don’t want to face.
“She Means Well” has tonal changes, as Brunson elaborates on her favorite pieces of pop culture from lists to essays about self-acceptance and mental health. Her relationship with comedy is steady, and how she’s adapting to it has changed for her.
“I love comedy, and comedy is taking me back,” she said. “Maybe I’m not going as fast as some of the others, but I don’t want to go as fast. I want to move around comfortably. And I feel like that’s what I’m capable of doing now.”