Comedy Central provides smirks, guffaws, and career experience?
While one of these three may seem laughable, Puget Sound alumnus Drew Shannon ’10 knows it’s no joke. Drew is completing a 6-month internship with the television network to gain experience in the entertainment industry.
The internship has kept his days busy, offered glimpses of the realities of life working in entertainment, and provided the opportunity to meet a few of his idols. On a recent campus visit, Drew shared some insights about his experience.
CES: What does your Comedy Central internship entail?
Drew: Comedy Central’s internship program provides a comprehensive view of life working in the entertainment industry. The tasks vary day to day, and include anything from organizing lunch orders, to greeting guests (I got to meet Will Smith!), as well as reviewing show pitches and scripts.
CES: What’s a typical day like?
Drew: I’m scheduled to work 3 ½ days each week. On my full days, I’m typically in the office from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. At 7 I continue my evening by either attending sketch performances or going to comedy clubs to scout for potential talent.
On Fridays I spend half a day attending the “Pitch Grid” meeting. The Pitch Grid is attended by the majority of the top executives of Comedy Central, and our parent company, Viacom. During the meeting, any and all of the pitches heard in the current week are discussed and reviewed. Individuals who we think we should keep an eye on are identified.
This meeting also provides an opportunity for the sharing of information across the various channels of Viacom. We may have heard a pitch for a show that is not the right fit for Comedy Central, but the plot, or an actor may be right for another network’s show.
Something great about this internship is that the Executives truly care about what the interns have to contribute. They recognize that I, as a 24-year-old male, bring a different perspective to the table that is just as valid as the demographic they represent. They understand that their audience is diverse, and they ensure that our input is actually being utilized in the decision-making process.
CES: Tell us about one thing that you are learning.
Drew: I have learned that everything is relevant. The skills and experiences you learn in one field or job will likely end up proving transferable to another field or job.
The Comedy Central executives and interns have diverse backgrounds ranging from theatre arts to chemistry. This is where I view my liberal arts education serving me extremely well. It has taught me how to learn— to adjust, adapt, and apply what I know, no matter the situation, setting, or employer.
CES: How is this internship helping you with your career exploration/decision-making?
Drew: My goal is to get into the talent/acting side of the entertainment industry, and my internship is proving invaluable by revealing to me the business side of this field.
I have now seen firsthand what good and bad pitches look like. By understanding the business side, I am more adequately prepared to manage myself in the manner that I have seen positively impact a pitch or audition.
For example, we’ll occasionally hear pitches where the individual will be asked “Who is the ideal actor for this role in your opinion?” and the response will be “Whoever you want.” I’m sure the individual doing the pitch thinks their odds of selling the pitch are increased by being willing to flex to whatever the executives want, but from a business perspective, this looks disorganized or as if it was not completely thought through. Knowing the details is the better approach.
CES: What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing an internship in the entertainment industry?
Drew: Be persistent and dedicated, but be open to the realities of the industry and location.
Coming from Puget Sound, an environment focused on sustainability and reduction of excesses, it was a harder transition than I realized it might be to life in Los Angeles that is not nearly as progressive as that of the Pacific Northwest. If I became fixated on the relative excesses of LA, it would have reduced my ability to take advantage of the opportunity at hand, and wouldn’t have allowed me to experience all of the great cultural differences Los Angeles has to offer.
Additionally, make yourself readily available at your organization. The relationships, connections, and experiences you leave the internship with are more important than the name of the employer.
I have gained exposure to a multitude of individuals I wouldn’t have been able to connect with if I kept my head down and just did the bare minimum to get the name Comedy Central on my resume.
Lastly, be nice to everyone. You never know in this industry when someone who works for you may become the person you report to.
An executive shared a story with me about this specific topic, mentioning that the lady he now reports to was an office assistant at his former employer years ago. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by being nice to everyone around you regardless of their position in relation to you.
© 2011 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photos: Drew Shannon