How ‘Abbot Elementary’ Creator Quinta Brunson Turned School Teachers’ Plight Into an ABC Comedy

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  • Quinta Brunson
    Comedian

Between COVID-disrupted classrooms, school shootings and the manufactured rage toward school board members about vaccination mandates and critical race theory, life of late for school teachers has been the furthest thing from comedy.

But ABC’s new comedy “Abbot Elementary,” which focuses on an underfunded school in Philadelphia, is seeking to make the plight of teachers at least somewhat humorous. But star and creator Quinta Brunson explains that means they have to be very particular about incorporating some of the many systemic issues in schools, which she argues all stem from the problem of being underfunded.

“We have to be special about the kinds of stories that we want to tell. And I think we did that in the show. That meant, are we laughing at these problems? Or are we laughing with the people who do the job regardless? I think there’s a huge difference,” Brunson said during Thursday’s ABC winter press event. “We don’t want to create an environment where we say, ‘Hey, these issues are are OK and shouldn’t be fixed.’ That’s not what we’re going to do. What we want to do is say, ‘Look at these people who do the job anyway, how can we support them further? How can we take a look at our school system,’ and say, ‘It shouldn’t be this way anymore.'”

“Abbot Elementary” stars a group of dedicated, passionate teachers — and a slightly tone-deaf principal — who are brought together in a Philadelphia public school where, despite the odds stacked against them, they are determined to help their students succeed in life.

Brunson added that they wanted to showcase the teachers themselves, including her mother.

“These people are going to do the job, nothing can stop them. They know all the systemic issues that are there. But at the end of the day, they have to teach your kid how to read. What we do is to make sure that the headlines out in real life don’t make it into our show. And I think that’s what was really important about this, giving people a behind the scenes look of what teachers really do through humor, and heart and straight-up comedy. I think we’ve made a funny show, because we want people to be at Abbott with our teachers.”