Every weeknight at 12:35 a.m. EST, millions of late-night television fans flip on their local NBC stations to be entertained for an hour by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Of those millions, only a select few have been granted a glimpse behind the Late Night stage, a club of which Noah Gebstadt can now count himself a member. Gebstadt, a Michigan State University student majoring in English with a specialization in Creative Writing, recently interned at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in New York City.
“There were times it would hit me,” said Gebstadt. “I’d be standing there and The Roots would start playing and I’d be like, I’m really here- I’m in New York City.”
Fellow Spartan Lindsay Benson, a sophomore Media and Information major, can relate. She is a comedy intern in Burbank, Calif. at TBS’s Conan, a late-night talk show which, like Fallon, attracts millions of viewers.
“The coolest thing for me is being able to sit in on rehearsal every day,” said Benson, “and watch the writers, producers, Andy Richter and Conan [O’Brien] work through each joke.”
Any student hoping to land a similar high-profile internship, or any internship for that matter, should begin closer to home.
“Start with the things around you,” said Karin Hanson, a career consultant in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. “Get involved. Find out what interests you and go from there.”
Both Benson and Gebstadt stressed how crucial their extracurricular activities at MSU were in preparing them to intern.
“Get out of your comfort zone and try something new,” said Gebstadt. “Find something you love to do on campus and delve into it. Do it as much as you can, learn as much as you can. That will translate into other things like jobs and internships.”
Now a senior, Gebstadt began his trek to late-night television over three years ago as a freshman with MSU Telecasters.
“That’s where I really honed my skills, especially with writing,” said Gebstadt. “I started going to the Telecaster alumni panels, meeting a ton of people, making lots of connections. I’ve done most of my learning within Telecasters.”
Benson, also a member of MSU Telecasters, echoed Gebstadt’s sentiments.
“What made me feel most comfortable about beginning [at Conan] were the things I worked on outside of class,” said Benson. “Working on MSU Telecaster shows, being involved in all the different aspects of producing content was great preparation.”
More so, however, than an extracurricular-heavy resume said Hanson, passion is the key to internship success.
“You have to follow your passion,” said Hanson. “If students have a huge passion for something, that’s what employers want.”
Gebstadt knows a thing or two about having a passion. He first applied for a Late Night internship as a freshman with help from his Telecaster contacts.
“Then it was two years of constantly sending emails to whoever I could. It was a lot of discouragement. I got a lot of, ‘oh, we’re not looking for anyone right now’.”
Gebstadt’s persistence paid off, as he ventured to New York City last May for a summer of Late Night interning.
“I started as a control room intern, which wasn’t exactly where I thought I wanted to be,” he said. “I was more into the writing aspect, but the control room ended up being this treasure trove.”
“I was the only intern in there so I got to spend so much time with the producers, picking their brains. I was able to see how the show really comes together from all angles.”
Being thrust into such a fast-paced working environment can be intimidating, but Gebstadt kept his head down and let his work ethic do all the talking.
“You just have to show that you want more responsibility,” Gebstadt said. “You do what you need to do, you stay late.”
His strategy paid off. When Gebstadt’s internship ended in August, he was asked to stay with the show through December.
Benson’s passion is also evidenced through hard work. She recalled working on a recent Conan bit about New York City’s restrictions on the size of soda containers.
“They had a fire hydrant bursting out “Coke”, which was just brown colored water,” said Benson. “The water was running down the street and me and two other interns had to stand there with squeegee sticks, stopping it from going down the drain. It started to accumulate in big puddles and it resulted in my shoes getting totally soaked.”
Benson and Gebstadt’s internship efforts put them a step ahead in terms of finding jobs post-graduation.
“I don’t want to say you can’t get a job without an internship,” said Hanson. “But you’d probably need to take a post-grad internship or go through some more steps to land a job.”
“I’m keeping all my contacts from the show,” said Gebstadt. “I’m trying to stay relevant, keep my face fresh in their minds.”
After he graduates in May, Gebstadt will return to New York City, specifically Brooklyn, and continue following his dream of working as a late-night comedy writer.
Benson isn’t 100 percent sure what she plans to do post-graduation. Although only a sophomore, she said she’s “already freaking out about securing a job after MSU.”
Hanson doesn’t think Benson has much to worry about.
“I think it makes all the difference,” said Hanson. “Internships are what set you apart, differentiate you.”