The Washington Post

Viral ‘I Quit’ video creator wins over Queen Latifah, holds out for Kanye

AS A FAN of filmmaker Mike Judge’s, Marina Shifrin can deeply appreciate the dramatic job exit.

Shifrin has never quit a flair-wearing restaurant job in finger-pointing fashion, as the Jennifer Aniston character does in Judge’s “Office Space.” Not that she hasn’t dreamed of it. “Everyone has had a job where they’ve felt unfulfilled and fantasized about a dramatic exit,” Shifrin tells Comic Riffs. “I once had a waitressing gig where I wanted to pour all of the freshly squeezed orange juice — our most expensive drink — over my body and walk out.”

Last month, though, Shifrin followed in the form of another memorable employment exit in “Office Space”: She danced to cranked-up music with the intense joy of a farewell’s freedom. Only unlike the trio of lead software dudes in Judge’s 1999 comedy, she turned the camera on herself while doing so.

Soon after giving notice to her bosses at Taiwan-based Next Media Animation, Shifrin made the video public on Sept. 27 — several days after she created it. The video — in which the 25-year-old producer “interpretively” dances to Kanye West’s “Gone” as captions spell out her job complaints — soon went viral, amassing more than 15-million views.

So far this month, the University of Missouri journalism grad is experiencing another “Office Space”-like twist: Everything is coming up roses. Queen Latifah offered her a job last Thursday on her show, and Y&R Israel followed with its own employment offer.

Still, there’s one related name Shifrin has not heard from: Kanye.

“Can you believe it?” Shifrin jokes about ‘Ye. “My next goal is to be a backup dancer in one of his videos. I think awkward Jewish females are underrepresented in the rap community — and it’s time this changes.”

Comic Riffs caught up with Shifrin to talk about her flair for the dramatic, her hope for that next job — and her sudden status as a meme:



MICHAEL CAVNA: Congrats on the virality of your video, Marina. Did you make it with huge viewership in mind — or was the intended audience a few friends and soon-to-be former co-workers?

MARINA SHIFRIN: Thank you! Isn’t this so weird? I always try to execute wacky ideas and then figure out what I want to do with them after the video was made. So there was nothing in mind besides, “Hey this could be funny!” I made the video [on Sept. 23] and sent it to my parents and few friends. I kept it on “unlisted” on YouTube because I didn’t think it needed to be out there for the world, and my boss, to see until I gave proper notice to the head of the company.

As more friends saw it, and I showed it to some co-workers, everyone thought it was cute and funny. So I gave notice to the head of the company and took it off unlisted [on Sept. 27], knowing someone who was Facebook friends with me would eventually forward it to my boss. Although the intention was just for a few people to see it, I knew taking the video off of “unlisted” was a big risk.

MC: Unlike most people who might dream of making such a video, you’ve actually been in the viral-video business — albeit topical animation. As an expert, why do you think your video struck such a massive chord?

MS: With any video, book, movie, etc., the success lies in a few crucial factors. One being relatability — I learned that from standup. Everyone has had a job where they’ve felt unfulfilled and fantasized about a dramatic exit. I once had a waitressing gig where I wanted to pour all of the freshly squeezed orange juice ... over my body and walk out.

None of us act on those impulses because of the future implications. I think people are truly seeing a “disgruntled journalist” slightly lose her marbles in the goofiest way imaginable. It was a big risk, and no one could’ve really predicted how this would’ve worked out because it hasn’t happened before.

MC: Part of why I like the video is that you let the viewer tap into a certain vicarious joy. I’ve talked with [director/animator] Mike Judge about some of his worst jobs out of college, and to me, your video has that same sense of when Judge’s three twentysomething leads in “Office Space” dance to “Take This Job and Shove It.” As both video subject and creator, why do you think dancing to a catchy song is an inspired way to convey some small victory over, or “freedom” from, an employer?

MS: Wow, good question. ... Well, when you — the overarching you — are unhappy at a job, it’s all you think about and talk about. My friends were probably sick of my whining. I was dealing with this feeling of “the Man” getting me down in an unorthodox manner. I was doing the opposite of being upset, while I was clearly upset.

The dancing shows that I am still having fun and being silly, even though I was admitting being defeated by the job. It’s all just so silly.

MC: Speaking of: You’ve got [some] great dance moves — did you learn those back home in the U.S. of A. — clubbing? — or Taiwan? And [perhaps related]: Where did you grow up and go to art school/college?

MS [laughs]: That’s been the biggest surprise of this whole thing. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and went to the University of Missouri where I studied journalism I was in the strategic communication sequence of our J-school, which is Advertising, PR and marketing combined.

While in college, I started to do standup at a comedy club, which was above a nightclub. It was such a great combination because at the end of the night, you’d have drunk sorority girls in skimpy outfits and then the awkward comedians dancing the night away. Mizzou was where I learned how to dance properly: in a sports bra with comfortable shoes and a stiff drink.

Working her magic: Marina Shifrin at the screen. (courtesy of Marina Shifrin /.)

MC: So the real money question: Why did you quit *exactly*? Was NMA [so unfulfilling to you as] an employer? I’ve only dealt with their media relations department over the years, and my perception was of this spunky and slightly [wonderfully] warped upstart of a creative company that has an amazingly fast news-cycle turnaround. What’s [your] view from the belly of the beast?

MS: That is the real money question, isn’t it. There is a very specific moment I knew I had to leave, and a very specific reason for why I made that decision. However, I don’t feel there is a need to share it. I made a decision and I know it is the right one. I will say this about the company as a whole: It is an “awesome” company, as I said. They are doing something no one else in the world is doing, they treat their employees really well and the staff is extremely talented. I am on good terms with almost everyone there, and I look forward to see the incredible things they will continue to accomplish.

MC: How long did you work there — and did you like the job at first, professionally and socially? I’m also curious what drew you all the way there, and what your specific role and duties were as a [writer and] animator?

Marina Shifrin: a world of words. (courtesy of Marina Shifrin /.)

MC: So, any contact from Kanye or his peeps yet?

MS: NO! Can you believe it? My next goal is to be a backup dancer in one of his videos. I think awkward Jewish females are underrepresented in the rap community and it’s time this changes.

MC: Congrats on the Queen Latifah job offer. Was she serious-serious, and were you serious about taking it?

MS: She was serious-serious. Honestly, I don’t know what I would’ve done without the “Queen Latifah” show staff. They really took care of me and got me in touch with a bunch of very smart and powerful people in the comedy/entertainment industry.

I am very serious about taking the job, but with any job offer — especially one as amazing as this one — it’s important to think about your options and figure out if it’s the best fit.

MC: Lastly, what did you think of the video response from your ol’ NMA colleagues [which has roughly 4-million views]?

MS: I think the response from my co-workers was the complete right move. One of the many, many things Next Media does is put out responses to viral videos. They’ve made some great parodies. Creating that response shows that they get it. They understand that the video was a joke and a tip of the hat to my time there. I may have to help them out with their dance moves, though!


Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
What can babies teach students?
Unconventional warfare with a side of ale
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Play Videos
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
Is fencing the answer to brain health?
Scenes from Brazil's Carajás Railway
Play Videos
How a hacker group came to Washington
The woman behind the Nats’ presidents ‘Star Wars’ makeover
How hackers can control your car from miles away
Play Videos
Philadelphia's real signature sandwich
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Europe's migrant crisis, explained