You’ve seen Fallon, Kimmel and Conan dominate the late night scene. The audience. The atmosphere. The laughs. Funny is in the air but you just can’t taste it because you are stuck watching it on a TV in a Whitman common room. “All-Nighter with David Drew” brings the late night to you in Princeton’s “favorite (and only) late-night talk show”. Street got the chance to talk to Princeton’s favorite (and only) late-night host, David Drew ’14. Episode 4 happens tonight at 11:30 p.m. in Frist, and it is one all-nighter you definitely want to pull!
Q: How did this project come together?
A: As with all great Princeton stories, I have to be "that guy" and say that it was actually inspired by a class. In fall 2011 I took an amazing journalism class with a visiting television critic from the New York times, Alessandra Stanley, who not only had us analyze the late-night wars of the 90s and today with a visit from author Bill Carter, but actually took our class a field trip to a dress rehearsal and taping of Saturday Night Live (we first arrived when they were cutting Weekend Update jokes, which was hugely influential). I'd always loved late night shows, especially SNL and Conan, so this class was like a total livewire to that nerve.
Other members of Quipfire! and I had thrown around ideas for a long time about how to work together on a different comedy project, and after this class I started to consider the talk show format, but I held on to my thoughts until we met again over the summer in New York for a performance at the Del Close Marathon. When the topic of a new project came up, I finally mentioned the talk show idea, and Amy Solomon [‘14] and Adam Mastroianni [‘14] got so jazzed about it that soon enough we were bouncing ideas and plans off each other.
We kept in contact over the summer and brought on the amazing stage manager veteran Tori Cadiz [‘13] to help us figure out logistics, then got lucky by bringing on an amazing crew of writers and then got even luckier by finding a weeknight when Frist theater was free - a space we initially thought would be way too big. Apparently we needed it, since our first show filled beyond capacity and audiences have kept coming back! Since then, we've received a lot of support and enthusiasm, from Frist to ODUS to residential colleges to peer groups, but most importantly from our whole production/acting/writing family and from the audience. It's been so fun to work with everyone.
Q: Who or what are your humor inspirations?
A: When I was younger, I would sneak out of bed after my mom tucked me in, and turn the TV back on to watch re-runs of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, or I'd lay down flat in the hallway and listen to the TV in another room as my parents would watch Letterman. It was such a window into what seemed like a very cool, adults-only world. As I got older, watching new episodes of SNL or South Park became weekly rituals. Most importantly, I'd just kind of make up wacky stories or play characters with my brother, which informed my comedy and acting totally unknowable ways. I still watch SNL and Conan or Late Night with Jimmy Fallon when I get the chance.
The cool part of the show, though, is that we get to draw on the comedy backgrounds of so many different writers and performers and build material collaboratively, so my individual perspective gets melted into a wonderful mélange of comedy voices and backgrounds.
Q: What do you do if no one laughs?
A: Shrug it off and keep moving. If a joke or bit doesn't land, it's just one part of a bigger show. Thankfully, we haven't really had this problem (though I suppose we have a pretty kind audience).
Q: Do you have a pre-show ritual or tradition?
A: Not really; we have a lot of read-throughs and rehearsals in advance, but right before the show the writers and I just kind of run around taking in the audience and making sure we didn't forget anything while Tori or Amy or our other super-manager Bits Sola [‘15] keep the ship running.
Q: Do you have a team of writers? How does the planning and production of the show work?
A: Yes! The writers' room and production team are the lifeblood of the show. Our writing team is stacked: we somehow tricked Alex Moss [‘14], Rafi Abrahams [‘13], Will Pinke [‘14] and Eliot Linton [‘15] into working on the show, along with Adam, Amy and I.
We start with an initial meeting in which we toss around ideas for guests and sketches - basically, whatever our writers feel like doing that show. Sometimes they'll be ideas that have been percolating for weeks, or sometimes it'll just be a funny hypothetical or current topic tossed out in the meeting that somebody wants to run with. I'll take a first pass at a monologue and also bring it in for updates as more news goes down in the world and also to solicit changes from the group as a whole. We then workshop all of our written material over a few meetings and table reads, bringing in actors along the way and making changes as we feel out the material. Throughout all of this, Bits, Tori and Amy tackle each new logistical challenge or task to make sure we can use the space, book actors and promote the show.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about producing the All-Nighter?
A: There's always a kind of scary moment when we're waiting to hear back about guests. For me, that's the biggest challenge, because I think so much of the show comes from their being an engaging presence - though I'm sure Amy would say the biggest struggle is making sure we all get our material in on time to be produced and put into the script. I imagine getting the writers to submit sketches can be a bit like herding cats, or at least like herding a bunch of dudes who are only truly focused on making fake commercials for the religious mouthwash PopeScope or drawing pictures of macaws with colored pencil to use as props.
Q: If you could have anyone on the Princeton campus be a guest on the show who would it be and why?
A: We've already had some really awesome guests, and one dream guest is also tentatively booked for our April show, but the biggest catch would clearly be President Tilghman before the end of her term. I also think it's important to find out other people's favorite professors and see why they're so beloved- that's how we get great guests like Jeff Nunokawa or P. Adams Sitney!
Q: If you could have anyone be a guest on All-Nighter who would it be?
A: That's a hard question, because you really need someone with a license to talk freely, so Obama or really most politicians and "big interesting people" would probably be a bore. I'd have to be really selfish and ask for a comedy idol like Bill Murray, Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert (out of character), or someone who's been involved super deeply in comedy behind the scenes like Lorne Michaels (the longtime producer of SNL), just to pick their brain about comedy. It'd probably end up a bit like the old "Chris Farley Show" sketch on SNL though, sadly.
Q: Could you see yourself pursuing a career in TV after Princeton?
A: Absolutely! That's the goal, at least - maybe not in front of the camera, though. I don't think I'll be happy if I'm not able to be involved in comedy, at least in some broad sense, and even being a small cog in the process would be so satisfying.
Q: If you could tell Jimmy Fallon one joke what would it be?
A: I'm gonna have to steal a joke that Drew Carey told at a Price is Right taping I went to, since I'm still not over it. Q: What are the sexiest farm animals? A: Brown chicken brown cow. Say it out loud, it's amazing.