Capone ’17 Enjoys a Taste of Late Night TV Interning with Stephen Colbert

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Tom Capone ’17 with other interns and Stephen Colbert. Capone is standing behind Colbert, wearing white T-shirt.

Bowdoin students do a variety of cool things over the summer, but it’s doubtful many of them could boast a summer job as cool as rising senior Tom Capone’s. The government major is spending two-and-a-half months in New York City as an intern at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Capone, an aspiring comedy writer and president of Bowdoin Sketch Comedy, hopes to use the experience to get a full-time job at The Late Show after he graduates in May 2017, although he recognizes that the competition is steep. “I’m also really excited to use what I’ve learned over the summer and apply it to the work I do with Bowdoin Sketch Comedy this year,” he said.

Capone said the internship was organized on a rotational basis to give all the interns a good insight into the business. “I worked in three different areas of the show—musical talent, house band, and production. Everyone has to do a stint in production, which I think of as the ‘liberal arts’ of the internship—a little bit of everything with a lot of versatility required.”

In production, he explained, the job involved making sure everyone had what they needed to do their job. “That ranged from picking up sound equipment from across the city, to transcribing phone interviews for the producers, to making sure all the refrigerators were stocked with food and drinks for the staff.”

During his stint with the house band, Capone was able to hang out with the resident musicians as they prepared for the day ahead of them. “Since each show has different guests and occurs in a new political atmosphere, the musical selections are always subject to change.”

It was remarkable, he said, “to watch these amazing musicians improvise each day to create new music specific to the needs of that particular show.” Happily, said Capone, the band’s soundcheck coincided with Stephen Colbert’s rehearsal, which enabled the Bowdoin student to witness the host’s monologue and joke-telling.

“This was the most enjoyable part of my internship,” Capone said, “because I was able to see how his jokes were developed between the rehearsal and the actual show.” He said it also provided an insight into how the show’s executive producers and other staff members interacted with Colbert to help develop the jokes.

The experience gave Capone a taste of what it takes to be the producer of a late-night TV show. “The adrenaline and emotion required to make a show that comments on politics and society on a daily basis is truly unbelievable.”

Working with in the musical talent portion of the show brought Capone into contact with a lot of celebrities, including Ryan Adams, Ziggy Marley, and Tony Bennett. Capone said this part of the job required the most restraint and maturity, “because you are in close contract with famous musicians and celebrities and the urge to request selfies with them is insane, but we were strongly advised against that.”

This part of the job also involved close interaction with other, non-musical celebrities, “but towards the end of the summer the shock and awe of meeting famous people on a daily basis receded and began to feel more normal. I was fortunate enough to meet with Jude Law, Bryan Cranston, and Jon Stewart, among others.” And of course there’s Colbert himself, who Capone described as kind and welcoming, an attitude which seemed to permeate the atmosphere of the whole office.

“Despite being a very fast-paced and busy environment, writers, producers, and other staff members were friendly and willing to converse with the interns if we had any questions for them.”

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Thomas Capone ’17 acting a scene with Jude Law

Capone described the two weeks of shows during the Republican and Democratic national party conventions as a particularly hectic time. “I’d be in the office around 11 in the morning or so, and wouldn’t get home until 2:30 the following morning. Everyone was running on adrenaline and caffeine to produce the freshest content possible in response to the often unpredictable developments at the conventions.”

Capone said he doesn’t remember another experience quite as exciting as that two-week period, not even playing for The Late Show‘s undefeated softball team against other late-night TV shows.

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