Pitt Tonight announces Andrew Dow as new host


Pitt Tonight named Andrew Dow the next host of the late-night talk show. John Hamilton | Contributing Editor

By Ashwini Sivaganesh and John Hamilton / News Editors

For a show that is only wrapping up its second season, “Pitt Tonight” is already at the end of an era.

“Pitt Tonight” announced on Twitter Wednesday that first-year Andrew Dow will be the next host of the show, starting fall 2017. He will be the successor to Jesse Irwin, who is finishing his reign after creating the show and hosting the first 12 episodes. The executive producer will also be new next year, with sophomore Annabelle Hanflig taking over for junior Hayley Ulmer.

Irwin, a senior film studies major, started “Pitt Tonight” — a late-night talk show taped on Pitt’s campus — in 2015. The first season, which included an appearance from Mayor Bill Peduto and a live autopsy, was nominated for two college Emmys. The show’s second season, which included a women’s empowerment episode in March, will wrap up later this month.

According to Ulmer, who is leaving the show at the end of the year, they started planning the second season in the summer of 2016, while also working on finding the next host in anticipation of Irwin’s graduation at the end of the spring 2017 semester.

“I decided I was going to leave the show when [Irwin] did,” she said. “It just felt right.”

After spending countless hours getting to know Irwin as a comedian and person on and off stage, Ulmer said the choice for her to leave the show, even though she is a junior, was a no-brainer. Besides wanting to study abroad fall 2018, she knew the relationship she established with Irwin was vital to the show.

“Everything that’s going on onstage basically comes down to us two communicating and making sure things are running smoothly,” Irwin said.

Irwin and Ulmer both agreed that beyond the comedic qualities of a late-night talk show host, they wanted to find someone that could work well with the existing staff — particularly Hanflig.

“It’s about fit,” Ulmer said. “It’s about who jives with the staff.”  

Dow began auditioning for the role of the show’s next host in January, alongside about 20 other students.

Irwin said he stood out during the second audition and callback segment when all the finalists were asked to mock interview Hanflig. Rather than simply interviewing her, Dow decided to play a game with his guest. After asking her what it’s like to be a mother — to her two cats — Dow started reeling off a list of names of celebrities and asking which ones she thought were the tallest.

“That was so fresh and so interesting. We really cracked up,” Ulmer said.

Following the callback, Irwin sat down with the final three people they were considering for the job, and just chatted with them one-on-one to get to know their personalities. These conversations were taped so the executives of the show could see the potential hosts in their natural element and then decide who was the best fit for the job.

“It just felt really right to hand whatever this is off to Andrew,” Irwin said. “We’re all pretty confident.”

While some of the people who auditioned were from within the “Pitt Tonight” family, Irwin seemed confident that Dow would bring new ideas and his own take to the show.

“When you have a fresh face come in, there’s nothing set,” Irwin said. “I think that’s a huge advantage that Andrew has.”

Dow’s interest in the show sparked after he watched the taping for the November 2016 episode. He was particularly struck by “Vote or Vomit” — a segment where Head Writer Ossia Dwyer asked Councilperson Dan Gilman to guess if a location in Oakland was a place students could vote or a place she’d vomited in the past.

“I remember going to a ‘Pitt Tonight’ show and just being mesmerized by it,” he said.

For Dow, a sociology major, this was just the opening he was looking for.

“Comedy is such a good tool to talk about the serious and the funny,” Dow said. “It’s a very human way of speaking to people.”

As of now, the “Pitt Tonight” staff is focusing on their last show, which they will tape on April 15, in the Charity Randall Theatre.

Dow and Irwin had a Facebook live segment Wednesday to make the announcement and are working on making Dow more well-known to fans of the show. Dow and Ulmer said although Dow is a first-year student at Pitt, his run on the show will be taken on a year-to-year basis.

“I’m really excited get so know so much more about Pitt and the people who go here,” Dow said. “It’s such a wonderful privilege.”

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