Tori Bilcik ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Quinn Marcus graduated from Emerson College in 2013 with a degree in Comedy Writing and Performance, a major she created herself. During her time at Emerson, she was involved with the long-form improvisational comedy troupe This Is Pathetic and the EVVYs awards show from her freshman through her senior, and hosted Closing Time Live on the Emerson Channel.
Marcus’ comedy career took a drastic turn for the better going into her senior year of college. As an independent study, she decided to put together her one-woman performance Chasing Ballerinas, where she told her “coming of gay” story, as a lesbian woman who grew up in the south. At the same time, though, she was working with MTVu on a show she called Quinnterviews, which made for quite a unique college experience.
Today, Quinnterviews is still going strong, and Marcus is also a personality on MTV’s Girl Code. Since graduating from Emerson, Marcus and many fellow Emersonians worked together to adapt Chasing Ballerinas into an award-winning short film Alone With People.
Emertainment Monthly had the chance to sit down with Marcus and discuss balancing work and school, how she got her start with MTV, and where she is now.
Emertainment Monthly: When did you know you wanted to pursue comedy as a career?
Quinn Marcus: I was 14, and my mom was watching David Letterman. I was watching and it was the first time that I saw someone do a job and thought “that’s what I want to do, I feel like I could do that.” I had never seen a job that I wanted to do before. So when I was 14 I said I wanted to be a late-night talk show host, and I haven’t changed since then, and it’s been nine years.
And you still love it the same?
Well I’m not a late night talk show host yet. But that’s still what I want to do, yeah.
Well you’ve got a good start with the shows you’re working on now.
It’s a good jumping-off point.
Is it true that you started working for MTV during your senior year at Emerson?
Yeah, so during May of my junior year, I pitched the show [Quinnterviews] and they picked it up, so then the summer before my senior year I made my first episode. The topic was love and we filmed it in Central Park in New York and I just interviewed people about love, and that was the first episode that ever aired on MTVu. Then I made some more over the summer and then I got to school senior year and I did Quinnterviews on the street stuff. Then in December, they called me and they were like “okay, next week you have an interview with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd.” So I said okay and we just jumped into celebrity interviews
That’s a crazy match-up for your first celebrity interviews.
I know, it was two in one day. I had about eight minutes with each of them and I had never interviewed a celebrity before, and I’m not a reporter. I never studied broadcast journalism or anything so I didn’t know what to ask them.
How did you come to be so comfortable with celebrities and your role as the interviewer in these kinds of situations?
I don’t get star struck because it’s my job. I’m the one in charge, you know? I have to steer the interview and produce a Quinnterview. So I’m nervous sometimes depending on the person beforehand, but it’s more excitement. Usually they’re interviewed by somebody else first so once I start to hear them being interviewed, then I just get excited. I think it’s how you would feel if you were playing football or something, like I’m ready to go and I’m warmed up. It’s just excitement, because I feel like I’m playing a game, you know?
What have you learned so far in your experience at MTV?
I’ve learned a lot from interviewing celebrities about people. I’ll know before the interview starts whether it’s going to be good or not. So what happens is, they sit down in the chair, and their hair and makeup person comes over, and if they talk to me while they’re getting their hair and makeup done, then it’s going to be a really good interview. But if they don’t talk to me while they’re getting their hair and makeup done, it’s not going to be good, because that’s just the type of person. Is the person ready to just let loose and forget about promoting their movie or TV show and are they just going to talk to me about whatever comes up and just roll with me? That’s what makes a good Quinnterview is that back and forth and having a conversation. Then there are some people that are just – it’s not their fault, that’s just the type of person they are – maybe they’re not as able to improvise or just converse, they’re just focused on what their movie is about and what their character is like. But I’m not going to ask about their movie or their character.
What was it like being in school at the same time you were establishing a career with MTV?
My second semester senior year, starting in January, I got Girl Code, so every Friday I would get on a train to go to New York, and then I would come back for school. It was just very funny because Friday morning trains from Boston to New York are businessmen with briefcases and suits, and then there was me. I would leave at 7am from my apartment and bring my homework and do it on the train and then get to New York and talk about girl stuff in front of a camera, then go back to school. It was this weird world that became very normal to me, but sometimes I’d say it was weird. But I never once thought I didn’t have to worry about school. I was still very stressed out about homework. I was more stressed about finishing my papers and I was producing the EVVYs at the same time. So I would be on a train to New York about to shoot a show for MTV but then be on the phone talking about when we need the next draft of the show and being stressed about the show. It was kind of weird, it was very surreal, and I don’t think I realized how unique of an experience that is because that was just my experience. That’s the same thing now, people always say it’s so crazy that I’m meeting all these celebrities, but when you do something over and over it just kind of becomes your routine. So it’s not weird for me anymore that I’m going to go to a television show set and interview a celebrity because that’s my job, so it’s not weird. So sometimes I remember that yeah, this is really f**king crazy that this is what I do at 23.
How did you get involved with Girl Code in the first place?
The vice president of MTVu and MTV2 is the executive producer on Girl Code so he knew me from Quinnterviews and they were forming the cast and he said I should audition for it, so they put me on my business class train. I didn’t know what Girl Code was because I hadn’t seen Guy Code, and they never said anything. They just said I was coming in for a Girl Code audition, and this was before Girl Code existed so I did not know what that meant. I showed up to the offices and I got my makeup done. And I had done my own makeup on the train, and I walk in to get my makeup done and she goes “okay so you don’t have any makeup on, right?” And that’s when I realized that TV makeup and hair is ten times the amount that a normal human wears, but it doesn’t look like that because it’s TV. So then I went into this small, small green room with one camera and these two men and the woman who is the director of Girl Code, Laura Murphy. Laura was directing me and she asked if I got the topics in the email. I told her no, I don’t know what this is and I don’t have any topics. So she said “okay cool we’ll just improvise.” Thank god I am an improviser and not a stand-up comedian because I thought that was fine. But I did not know. So I sat on the chair and she says “okay, dancing.” And I said I don’t understand the show and she said to just talk about dancing and what I think about dancing, and I just started talking about dancing. She asked what I do when I go to clubs but I don’t go to clubs and I just started talking about what I think of dancing. Then we started talking about snooping on your boyfriend’s phone.
This is hilarious because I know the exact episode of the show that you’re talking about.
Really? Well that was my audition episode. So those two men in the room, I thought they were in charge of the show, so I went up to them after the audition and I was very polite. I shook their hands and thanked them for having me, and I walked out and I told my producer on MTVu who got me the audition that I think those guys really liked me. And he just goes “Quinn, that’s the audio guy and a camera guy.” So I was so nice because I thought they were the ones making the choice but it turns out I was just being nice. So that was in December, and then I didn’t get a call for weeks, and I just figured I didn’t get it, whatever that was. Then in January, I was standing outside of Piano Row after a This Is Pathetic rehearsal and I got the call that I got it and I was going in the next week for filming. I was freaking out, running down the street because I just found out I was going to be on MTV.
Do you have a favorite topic you’ve discussed or a favorite episode so far?
It just aired, the one about money. Carly and I got to go to a money manager and that was a fun day because Carly and I didn’t know anything about money. It was very fun. I like shooting with Carly, and I like doing field pieces with people. I did a sketch once in Season 2 with Alice Wetterlund and I really enjoyed that. I really like doing the field pieces and the sketches and I like topics that are more silly. I like the topic about purses, because that’s just kind of whatever. But then we get into topics like race, and it really freaks me out because you’re on TV and I’m very worried because with things like feminism and race, you can very easily be misconstrued with what you say.
You mention in Chasing Ballerinas that you’re the only LGBTQ woman on Girl Code. Do you think that plays into your role on the show at all?
It honestly doesn’t at all until I get interviewed by a reporter. I’ll do interviews when we’re promoting the next season and they’ll always say “So as the lesbian cast member…” but no, I’m a cast member. I’m not in the makeup chair and they’re like “okay since you’re the lesbian cast member, this is how we’re doing your makeup,” or “since you’re the lesbian cast member, this is your wardrobe.” I’m Quinn, I sit down and talk about whatever, and half the time what I relate to in the topic is going to be what I’ve been through. If it’s about boyfriends and girlfriends, then yeah, my current stories will be about my girlfriends, but I mean I dated boys in high school, so I have weird stories about that. Then when the topic is money, it doesn’t matter. I’m not spending gay money all over gay places, I’m just spending regular money.
I remember when the show first aired, there was this whole LGBTQ uproar on Tumblr about how it’s mostly hetero-centered. Before we wrap up, do you think the show would benefit in adding cast members with more diverse sexualities?
Well, someone once asked me if there should be a Lesbian Code. But are they saying that a lesbian is not a girl? It’s Girl Code and Guy Code, it’s not like there’s Straight Code and Gay Code. I think most of the topics are pretty universal. So yeah, the background I’m bringing to it is a lesbian background, but it’s just about being a person. Like for purses, I didn’t wear purses, but another cast member didn’t wear purses either, but it wasn’t because she was gay. She just had weak arms.