The Comedy, Music, and Friendship of Austin Martinez
Austin Martinez, best known for their music videos like EMOJIJAM and “Morning Face” (a “Flawless” parody) are ready to break out of the small screen of YouTube and into the slightly larger screen of television. The duo, Molly Austin and Shamikah Martinez, started as a two-prov fashion show but has gone beyond viral and signed to truTV as well as collaborated with Dolce and Gabbana for a surreal, self conscious video.
I sat down with the pair at the Tick Tock diner where they showed up in matching green velvet outfits. Before the interview began, the two had instructed the waiter on how to make a hot toddy.
Has working together helped you develop your personal voices?
Molly Austin: I would say that there is a certain confidence that comes with working with someone and making things that are good. I think that having that confidence pours over into other situations. There’s not a lot of shit that I will take from people because I know I’ve been through — eh, I can just call and ask Shamikah. We make a real effort to…
Shamikah Martinez: Check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.
MA: That and we incorporate how important it is to be a woman and I think that shows.
SM: I would say that we are stronger from each other. There is a power to when you are second guessing yourself and your partner is saying “No, who cares if it’s weird?” Then you’re sprinting towards weird with your partner doing the Arsenio Hall whoop but sometimes you just need the Arsenio Hall whoop to run a tiny bit faster.
Do you ever have arguments?
SM: I would say that they’re more debates than arguments.
MA: One time we kind of had an argument because we got too high and got confused.
SM: That wasn’t really an argument, though, that was a debate. I would say that because we’re two women, the question of ‘Do you fight’ comes up more often than not.
MA: Very often.
SM: To the point to where someone was interested in us for another job and called us in. They were like, ‘Okay, where’s the drama? What are you two going to fight about?’ and we were like, ‘Oh, we don’t really fight. We just talk it out’ And their faces, you could tell they were so disappointed that two women weren’t going to yell at each other.
MA: They were trying to get us to say something and finally, Shamikah just goes ‘We don’t fight, we’re adults.’
SM: But also we’re friends! We’re actual friends!
But do you ever feel like you get defensive about your ideas?
MA: That’s a natural reaction but I do think that working with a person that you think is funny — and remember, you have to think this person is funny, it’s so important because you’re a team. You’ll never do anything that will damage you because it’s a beneficial existence and that makes it easy to work with each other.
SM: And I think we know that we’re lucky because you don’t find this with every partner you work with. That’s part of the reason why we keep working together no matter what we’re doing. It’s not easy to find someone who doesn’t get super defensive when you don’t agree with the first thing that they said. But, I think as two educated women who love comedy, we’re never like ‘Why didn’t you like my idea?!’
MA: I think a lot of artists can’t handle…
SM: Constructive criticism.
MA: Right, and honestly? This is the shallow end of our pool. The universe is deep and vast and this is not the end and beginning of all that. We do different things, we have ideas constructed for shows and TV shows and different web series.
How do you feel watching older videos?
MA: It depends on the video. We used to do these lip synching videos and I love watching those.
SM: Our dance moves are on fire! I can’t think of a video I don’t like.
MA: Remember the one we did in the morning when we forgot we weren’t morning people?
SM: And didn’t put our makeup on?
Is your material intentionally female-centric or is it a byproduct of being two women working together?
MA: I would say that it’s the result of the micro aggressions on a daily basis that we’ve come to expect. And I think that we are both very staunch in not accepting it. That quality about us is something that bleeds over. It’s something we notice, it’s something we feel. You don’t walk past a rack of magazines without feeling like you’re less.
SM: And it’s just natural. We talk about it in real life. Life leaks into art leaks into life leaks into art leaks into life.
MA: We saw Anne-Marie Slaughter at BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music].
SM: Our new mom!
MA: It was based on her article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and I think that there are things that aren’t being talked about and things that slide that we don’t really stand up against and I think that’s a big part of it.
What mistakes have you learned from?
MA: I think we both are very instinctual in the ways that we feel about the product that we put out. The way that we conduct ourselves and our comedy. I think there was a period of time when we didn’t dive into that belief. I think we could have been doing this sooner.
SM: Yeah, a thousand percent
MA: This could have been a while ago, but it’s hard to say why you came to realizations but it’s like, what the fuck were we doing not doing this? We knew it, we both knew it was going to be a big thing for us.
SM: As an artist, I think some of the early time was spent not doing enough of exactly what I wanted to do or not writing that lyric because would people get it? Then at one point, all of sudden, you stop trying to write something that everyone will get. Then it’s like if we get it and if we like it, it’s fine.
What are some regrettable gigs you’ve had?
SM: We used to get sent out as, this is my favorite, pop culture commentators. We both got those for a while and I know that I was very bad.
MA: I started saying ‘Who cares?’ I went into a few auditions and asked if they were real, like is this a real thing? And I bombed, like ate all the dicks.
What are the benefits to working together?
SM: [Laughs] I almost said teaming up against other people
MA: This is a difficult world to navigate. Comedy, entertainment, and…
MA: …the internet. But life! I think if you can do it with another person to be like, ‘Is this okay? Does this make sense?’ Which is usually me asking Shamika, honestly. But I think it does make it a lot easier.
SM: And I think the fact that we both come from an improv background where we learned the rules of Yes, And. We use that in every single thing that we make. Trying to take the other person’s idea and add to that. It’s always more funny and fun than being like ‘no, no let’s do this.’ It’s like if you’re just by yourself in your room doing your rhymes, it’s one thing. But when you’re with someone else, which is why we always start the ideas together, it’s like not only can you rap about that but here’s another idea to do on top of that. It’s like magic!
MA: And if something you’re doing isn’t working, you can stop and be like, ‘What is the joke you’re trying to make here?’ and then you make it better with having that conversation.
Photo by Adam Donald.
You can check out Austin Martinez’s work at AustinMartinezComedy.com and you can see Molly Austin every first Monday of the month at her CATS! Show at 87 Ludlow Street, NYC.