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Comedy TV alumni share advice

A full house plus a comedy television legend showed up at Emerson College Los Angeles on March 13 for a panel discussion with several alumni who work in the business today.

Allan Blye, producer, writer, and creator of legendary shows such as the Andy Williams Show, Sonny and Cher, and the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and his wife, Rita, got a warm welcome from panel moderator Kevin Bright ’76.

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Alumni panelists Adam Ginivisian '07 and Natalie Gergely '10 with legendary TV writer and producer Allan Blye at Emerson Los Angeles on March 13. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)

“And I’m still alive!” Blye exclaimed to a crowd that erupted into laughter.

Bright, founding director of Emerson Los Angeles and former executive producer of the hit show Friends, said Blye’s shows were the reason he began working in TV.

“That’s the era I grew up in,” Bright said. “That’s what was on TV in my household at the time.”

On the discussion panel, The Business of Being Funny: Emersonians Talk Comedy, were: Eric Falconer ’01 and Chris “Romanski” Romano ’00, executive producers of How I Met Your Mother and Blue Mountain State; Tess Rafferty ’97, writer for @Midnight and author of Recipes for Disaster: A Memoir; Noah Garfinkle ’06, writer for Workaholics and Kroll Show; Adam Ginivisian ’07, talent agent for ICM Partners; and Natalie Gergely ’10, digital development coordinator for Comedy Central.

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Alumni panelists Tess Rafferty '97, Eric Falconer '01, and Chris “Romanski” Romano '00 at Emerson Los Angeles on March 13. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)

The panelists offered lots of advice for students and recent graduates trying to get started in stand-up comedy, acting, writing, and producing.

“You sit at a lot of bars hoping someone will put you up,” said Rafferty, who used to write for The Soup. “[You] hope you don’t develop a drinking problem while you’re waiting.”

“I actually got into one place here,” she said, “by showing up every Friday night for six weeks. They made me arm wrestle a very large man, and I won, and I got a spot. You never know what your foot in the door is going to be.”

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Chris “Romanski” Romano '00, Emerson Overseer Michael Mara '81 with his nephew Eric Falconer '01, and Amy Grill, director of student and alumni engagement for ELA. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)

When it comes to signing with a talent agent, most panelists said it’s a good idea to hold off until one becomes established after a few years.

“If you get good, we will find you, especially today,” said Ginivisian, an agent. “It’s different than it was 15, 10, even 5 years ago because of new media, because of YouTube and Twitter.”

Gergely, of Comedy Central, said the popular show Workaholics was originally a web series that was discovered by the cable network, which approached the three creators and gave them money to produce a pilot.

“If you’re sitting at home with a sketch that nobody’s reading, shoot it, make it,” Falconer said. “With the technology available today, there’s no reason anybody who has a script cannot just shoot it.”

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After the March 13 panel discussion, Kevin Bright '76, ELA director, poses for a photo with actor Rosanna Iversen-Berdahl '86 and her actor son, 15-year-old CJ Berdahl (arms cross), and his friend, actor Zachary Conneen, age 15. (Photo by Dan O'Brien)

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