Caroline Schaper, 2011 Avonworth Graduate and former avonews editor-in-chief, visited Monday, November 30th, during 4th period to share how she not only landed a job as a writing intern for David Letterman on The Late Show but also ended up writing two jokes that were delivered by Tiny Fey and Bill Murray on the show’s final broadcast.
Caroline was like many high school students, still wary about what she wished to major in after graduation. She explained “as I was leaving Avonworth I started figuring out that I wanted to do something with writing… I started writing jokes in my free time for practice.” Caroline also recognized her love for television and was elated when she discovered she could major in screen arts and pursue broadcast journalism as the University of Michigan. She had many obstacles to overcome in order to succeed, and she shared them with Mr. Tuffiash’s 4th period Academic English 11 class and a handful of other interested Juniors and Seniors in the Video Conference Room of the Collaboration Center.
She learned the hard way that, “the less TV you watch, the more you write” and additionally, “the more you read, the more motivated you are to write.” Despite her success, including an interview segment on CNN about writing jokes for the final Late Show episode, she is still seeking out a full time writing job. She encouraged not just thinking about other people as people you network with, but instead focusing on making friends. Her hope is that by connecting with other writes and comedians, she “finds people who she has a similar sense of humor with, who she gels with, and who she would enjoy working with.”
Many people worry about being denied in performance professions but she assures that when disappointment comes it can be “very heartbreaking but I have to go in the next day and just try again…you do more packets, you get better at them, and eventually, hopefully, you’ll get a job.” Schaper explained about packets, a combination of jokes and ideas writers submit to TV shows when applying for a job, and other behind-the-scenes information to the engaged students, a few whom asked questions for about 10 to 15 minutes.
The core of her story to the students, as well as Mr. Tuffiash, Mrs. Frauenholtz, and a few other staff members, focused on her success as a writing intern on the Late Show. After one exciting phone call, Caroline’s internship and career took off. She stated that she was promptly informed that “we are not hiring you to be a writer – you are here to learn how to be a writer”.
Being on the set of David Letterman’s show, as she talked about, was an amazing experience for a second semester Senior in college. After humorously noting how taking her “soda filling responsibilities seriously” helped people trust that she was a competent person, she continued to explain how she was able to learn from one of the most popular talk show hosts in TV history, whom she said was “a really nice guy…who cared about his show and his staff” while at the same time crafting her personal jokes. Caroline worked behind the scenes, slowly improving jokes and her writing capabilities while getting a chance to submit jokes to the head writer. She also explained the hierarchy of TV writing, both on the Late Show and at her other brief job writing celebrity segments for the short-lived Ice T and Coco daytime talk show, finally getting a joke on air, only to watch later and see that her contribution to one of Letterman’s famous Top Ten lists was cut.
Among many takeaways for the students, she confidently encouraged the students to “make your own content, be the master of your own destiny!”