The story behind digital comedienne’s screen name and why she’s not interested in TV or movie deals
The self-taught comedy video blogger, whose real name is Jenna Mourey, runs one of the most-subscribed channels on YouTube and her bits have been viewed more than a billion times. She loves the creative freedom she has with YouTube, whipping up a weekly blend of offbeat jokiness, cutesy charm and disarming sex appeal. And she isn’t eager to go Hollywood.
Mourey, d.b.a. J Marbles Inc., shoots most of her YouTube videos from her Santa Monica home. They’re usually solo acts, though her two dogs — Mr. Marbles, a Chihuahua, and an Italian greyhound, Kermit (a.k.a. Kermie Worm) — make frequent appearances. The pups have become minor celebs in their own right: Mourey sells stuffed dog toy replicas of them on her blog site at jennamarblesblog.com/shop.
It’s not a bad a living: On YouTube, the Jenna Marbles brand earned nearly $350,000 last year, according to an estimate by TubeMogul as reported by the New York Times.
In an interview with Variety, the 26-year-old comedienne revealed the story behind the Marbles name and shared other details of her life as a YouTube icon.
She adopted the Marbles screen name because her mom complained about Google search results:
At first, she posted videos as Jenna Mourey. But she switched to the fake last name because her mother protested that the YouTube clips were showing up in Google searches and might put off prospective employers: “She said, ‘Every time I type in my name, this weird video comes up.’” Today her mother, Deborah, works for J Marbles Inc. and also runs a marketing consultancy.
She named her dog Mr. Marbles after a ventriloquist dummy in a “Seinfeld” episode:
In the episode, “The Chicken Roaster,” Jerry fears that Kramer’s dummy, Mr. Marbles, will come to life and kill him in the night — a la Chucky from “Child’s Play.” Jenna not only bestowed the name on her Chihuahua but took it for herself.
She’s turned down TV deals:
Production companies have approached Mourey about developing a TV show or a movie based on her YouTube persona. She’s declined the overtures. “I have had a lot of cool offers to move into traditional media but I’m not completely sold I have to do that,” she said. On YouTube, “I can do whatever I want, say whatever I want.” Hollywood studios “want to own your soul,” she added. “And the coolest thing on YouTube is nobody owns you.”
She was not a class clown as a kid:
Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., “I was relatively quiet,” she said. “I came out of my shell in college.” Mourey earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from Suffolk University and a master’s degree in sports psychology from Boston University. Once YouTube success “sort of fell into my lap,” she moved to L.A. to produce videos full time.
She doesn’t feel like a celebrity:
Mourey says she occasionally gets recognized in public, mostly by young girls, who are the biggest segment of her audience. But they don’t treat her like a celeb: “It’s less of, ‘can I get your autograph?’ and more like they already know me and we’re already friends. It’s not a weird idol thing.”
What’s next for Mourey? Besides continuing to post YouTube videos weekly, “I have no idea,” she says. “There’s a big difference between me and other YouTubers — a lot of them have big, concrete plans. I’m still this weird chicken with my head cut off. I don’t know what I want to do next and haven’t known that since I started.”
Watch Mourey’s first video that went viral, “How to trick people into thinking you’re good looking,” in the summer of 2010: