Our Lives Online

Marissa A. Ross Cracks Jokes to Win the Internet

How technology is helping one socially active comedian showcase her style, wit and the wine-chugging “Ross test” to a hungry internet audience.

She drives around all day doing errands for comedic actor Mindy Kaling, but Marissa A. Ross is a sensation in her own right, thanks to her quirky comedic style and huge internet presence.

As a comedy writer, actor, stylist and personal assistant to Kaling, it seems there’s nothing the self-described “professional wine enjoyer” with “exceptional hair” doesn’t do.

If you enjoy wine, “The Mindy Project” on Fox and laughing at yourself, then Marissa A. Ross is right up your alley. She’ll make you laugh, which is said to be good for our souls.

Humor is a universal language that helps us better understand ourselves and connect with the world around us. Not only does a good laugh relieve stress, but it improves the immune system and even burns calories (albeit you’d need to laugh for 12 hours straight to shed just one pound).

Humor offers a connection that quickly transcends physical and geographic boundaries, especially now, thanks to technology.

With more than half a million comedy channels on YouTube, today’s up-and-coming comedians are adeptly harnessing technology to hone their crafts. Like Ross, these future stars use everything — from blogs and Twitter to Tumblr and Instagram — to stand out above the internet noise.

Ross, like Matt HardingKonrad Waliszewski and other Digital Nomads profiled by iQ, is enjoying a unique career path thanks to technology. She largely credits technology for the success of her career — after all, her blogs and video series wouldn’t exist without it.

Born and raised in Southern California, Ross, 28, began working for Kaling in 2011, but is best known for her dilettante wine tasting blog, Wine. All the Time., and her blog-cum-web series, Tangents & The Times.

In this latest LOL-worthy series, iQ spoke with Ross about the first joke she ever told, how she fares with technology and whether she’s funnier than Mindy Kaling.

When did you first decide you wanted to pursue comedy?

I’ve always wanted to do it, since as far back as I can remember. When I was a little kid, I was always putting together variety shows for my family with jokes and magic. I don’t know where it came from because it’s not like I come from a family of performers or comedians — it’s just always been with me.

What was the first joke you ever told?

When I was about four or five, I started telling this joke about what the telephone said to the bowling ball. I’d change the punch line every time and it never made sense, but I thought it was hilarious.

What role has technology played in your comedic pursuits?

It’s played such a huge role. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for technology. Technology has given me platforms to share my writing. It’s also given me social media to be a part of the comedy and wine communities, as well as gain an audience. It’s really incredible. Nearly all of my career opportunities have stemmed from writing and engaging with people on the internet.

You’re a personal assistant, a stylist, an amateur wine blogger, plus you created, wrote, starred in and produced your own web series. How do you manage it all?

I really don’t know how I manage it, aside from the fact that I just have to. Sometimes you have to do a lot to do what you love.

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What is a typical day like for you?

My schedule is unpredictable and insane, but generally I’m just driving around all day running errands for Mindy and making sure her life is running smoothly. Once a month I style shoots for Wildfox, which is really fun, but very stressful because I still have to run errands and things for my other job.

After work I come home, clean the house, then immediately open a bottle of wine and start writing and/or filming. Eventually I watch TV because I love TV so much and I need to chill out. Chilling out is very important. Then I go to bed, wake up and do it all over again.

How much are your jokes informed by the technology you use? Could they exist independent of the digital world?

I’d like to think they could, but probably not! I use a lot of pop culture references, and pop culture and technology are practically one and the same these days.

When you work in comedy, how important is it to be able to laugh at yourself?

I think it’s the most important thing, whether or not you’re working in comedy.

Have you had any technological hiccups while on the job?

Oh, totally. I don’t have an office I report to, so everything is done through communication. I rely very heavily on text, email and my calendar, as well as my boss’s calendar. If something’s not in the calendar, it can be disastrous.

Also, just with blogging, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written whole essays only to press “Publish” and have all that hard work get sucked into the void of the internet forever. Or like the time my computer crashed and almost immediately after, my external hard drive crashed. I lost years of writing, video and music.

Technology giveth and technology taketh away, just like that. Save everything everywhere all the time, because everyone gets the hiccups.

What’s your favorite thing about having a career in comedy?

I just love making people laugh. I think that laughter is integral to wellbeing and happiness. Laughter helped me through the most difficult times in my life, so if I can bring laughter to a few people and maybe help them through something difficult, then I feel like I am positively impacting the world.

What is your greatest comedic accomplishment?

I don’t feel like I’ve had it yet, but if I had to pick something, I would say it was my Wine Time Live show. It was me reviewing wine for 30 minutes, which is a long time to be on stage in a room full of people expecting you to make them laugh about wine. But it went really well, everyone laughed and it was really reassuring to see I could carry a show alone.

Who makes you laugh more: yourself or Mindy Kaling?

Me! Even answering that just made me laugh. Honestly, it’s impossible to compare us. She’s so funny, and in such a brilliant way. She’s in a league of her own. But I’m generally alone all day and if I didn’t make myself laugh, I’d go insane. Life is hard and stressful. As I said, laughter is integral to wellbeing, so I make sure to make myself laugh all day long.

Images courtesy of Marissa A. Ross.

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