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A Noble Profession

The year 2000 changed my life forever.

You might be thinking, “But Maia, you were only 2 years old.” To that, I say, “Good math, I was only 2 years old.” Even if SpongeBob SquarePants was all I had on the brain, 2000 was life-changing because Dave Chappelle released his comedy special, Killin’ Them Softly. It wasn’t until my freshman of high school that I actually watched it, but it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. Not only was it hilarious –– it made you think.

In a cover letter I wrote to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah during my sophomore year of college, I wrote:

My name is Maia Guterbock and I want to be an intern at The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. I’m currently in my second year at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, pursuing my B.A. in media and journalism. How boring is that? Believe me, my dream job isn’t to be a journalist writing about the political turmoil in this country. I’ve always wanted to pursue a more noble career, such as being a comedian writing about the political turmoil in this country.

I have always been a storyteller, advancing from writing short stories in third grade about a magic vacuum cleaner that could clean my bedroom to performing stand-up comedy in college. I became intrigued by the way that words and storytelling devices can be leveraged to connect with people. My interest in storytelling led me to study media and journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

While studying abroad in 2019, I interned for the Paris-based journalism agency Worldcrunch. I translated articles from Le Monde and Les Echos into English, developed social media content, and wrote stories of my own. This internship helped me realize that rather than being a reporter on trends, ­I want to use storytelling to cultivate brand culture. This epiphany was a revelation of how I envision a meaningful career: one that influences taste and creates tangible impact.

With that fresh perspective, I redirected my career goals to advertising and public relations. While my career goals have changed, storytelling has remained at the center and I come to marketing with a special skill set: a background in stand-up comedy that has taught me how to question, observe, make connections, and experiment.

Growing up, watching Saturday Night Live was a weekly tradition in my house and, as a former "theatre kid," joining a comedy troupe and performing stand-up in college felt like a natural progression for me. My sophomore year, I joined the femme and gender non-binary troupe I Just Said That as well as UNC's only stand-up, sketch, and improv comedy troupe False Profits.

Writing jokes and performing material has given me the propensity to interrogate the status quo and ask “what could,” “how might,” and “if X is true, then what does Y mean?” Sometimes this is as simple as combining different anecdotes to form a single story, but it often requires experimentation where an idea is built upon over time. No one wants their joke to fall flat, especially in front of a large crowd, but I learned the best material often “bombs” many times before it triumphs. My passion for making people laugh has taught me that originality is more evolutionary than revolutionary. I know the ability to effectively connect ideas and change perspectives can be studied and learned. These qualities are crucial for success in comedy and marketing.

I wasn’t kidding when I said I believe comedy to be a noble career. The best comedians turn society on its head and through their humor, confront our current reality. I’ve always admired how the best comedians can provide entertainment while challenging audiences' perspectives. Through this lens, comedy is a valuable form of social activism with the potential for so much good. I truly believe that.

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