Quinta Brunson: Her Buzzfeed Road To Abbott Elementary

The first social media crossover star?
Quinta Brunson: Her Buzzfeed Road To Abbott Elementary

High five, Quinta Brunson!  Your new show, Abbott Elementary, is the most-tweeted comedy show of 2022!  (We guess that's a thing?) AND it was just renewed for a second season!

Warner Bros. Television

Because of course it was. ABC must have been absolutely begging Brunson to come back as Abbott Elementary is the network’s highest-rated comedy in years.  It also has to be ABC’s most unlikely success -- when was the last time a viral video star created a successful sitcom?  

Um … never?

I have a vision

Sure, Quinta isn’t the first entertainer to parlay social media success into a more mainstream career.  Jake and Logan Paul parlayed YouTube success and controversy into weird boxing/attention-seeking careers. And then there’s … well, it’s not a long list. 

That’s what’s so cool about Brunson’s path.  It all started with a video she posted on her Instagram:

That turned her into a walking meme.  

That’s … not always a good thing. Would you want to go through life being known as Bad Luck Brian?  But for Brunson, the video’s popularity allowed her to do what we all want to do: quit the day job. Off to Los Angeles to pursue comedy.

Her video helped her land a Buzzfeed residency, “a program for aspiring on-camera personalities and YouTubers/TikTokers.”  She started hitting them out of the park right from the start, like this video about The Actual Scariest Things On Earth.

Three months later, she interviewed for a full-time position.  "I have a vision for BuzzFeed Video," she said in her job interview. “I see a world where these videos are serialized. Where we write characters and storylines that people will follow, much like they follow TV characters.”

Dum dum dum!

(She got the gig.)

For the next four years, Brunson provided fuel for the Content Machine, producing a number of popular videos with millions of views. And while still at Buzzfeed, she pitched and sold a variety of video side-projects, like Quinta vs. Everything for Facebook and Up for Adoption, a workplace mockumentary that hints at the Abbott Elementary to come.  (Seriously, check it out and you can see where Quinta was headed.) 

That branching out led to Brunson eventually tackling more and more outside opportunities, including work on A Black Lady Sketch Show and Big Mouth. You know what happens when the side hustles eventually become the hustle-hustles?

Child of the internet

And there’s your rags-to-riches comedy story, one that could only have happened in the 2010s.  As Brunson says in her “Why I Left Buzzfeed” video, she hit the Internet at a very specific time, one not yet dominated by algorithms (or, at least, dominated by the right algorithms) that allowed her viral videos to find an audience.  It also gave her a venue that encouraged networks like ABC to take a chance. 

Now the question is:  Did Quinta actually blaze a path for others here?  Based on the success of Abbott Elementary, it would make sense for networks to be scouring popular YouTube and TikTok channels for the next crossover star.  But Brunson doesn’t believe it has to be one or the other.

“In reality, I’m a child of the internet, she told OkayPlayer. “I was born with it, I love it and I use it every day. I don’t want to abandon it. People … think that they have to get out of it to be on TV or movie land. I don’t feel that way and I never want to feel that way.” 

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Top image: Buzzfeed

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