Pitt Tonight prepares for sixth season with new host

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Courtesy of Victoria Chuah

Victoria Chuah will take over as host for season six of “Pitt Tonight.”

By Kaitlyn Nuebel, For The Pitt News

After hosting Pitt Tonight for the past three seasons, Andrew Dow’s time as a “Pitt-lebrity” has officially come to a close. Still, going into his fifth year studying communications, he can’t praise the show enough.

“It’s one of the most ambitious things you will ever see a student-run group do,” Dow said about the late-night talk show written, produced and marketed entirely by Pitt students.

Dubbed Pitt’s best — and only — late night talk show, Pitt Tonight mimics traditional late-night comedy shows on television, but focuses specifically on Pitt. Dow became the host after its original creator and host, Jesse Irwin, graduated in 2017. But the late-night show, which didn’t undergo many changes during Dow’s reign, will look different this fall. 

Now, not only will there be another new host, staff members have also been figuring out how to adapt it in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to Pitt Tonight executive producer Tess Roth, the show’s staff, who await information from the theatre arts department about how the University will handle in-person performances, remain uncertain if hosting live, socially distanced shows will be feasible this coming semester. If not, they plan to rely more heavily on their YouTube and social media platforms, where they will start releasing content for their season premiere on Aug. 30.

One thing is for certain, however — the identity of the show’s new host.

The audition process for the position, which occurred this year from January until March, required candidates to perform a monologue from a late-night show of their choosing, act out a few sketches created by the show’s staff and conduct a one-on-one interview with a member of the Pitt Tonight Executive Board.

After vetting the 10 students who applied for the position, the Pitt Tonight Executive Board unanimously chose Victoria Chuah, a rising junior computer science major, who has experience performing improv in Pitt’s on campus comedy troupe, Ruckus. Chuah will be the third person and first woman to hold the title of Pitt Tonight host since the show’s inception in 2015.

Besides performing with Ruckus, Chuah also serves on Student Government Board, dances with the Pitt Ballet Club and competes in pageants. She was the second runner up in last year’s Miss Virginia competition.

While she plays characters during improv, Chuah wanted the opportunity to be herself on stage, believing her involvement in many organizations on campus would bring a different perspective to the show.

“I really liked [Pitt Tonight] when I first saw it,” Chuah said. “We never really get to be ourselves when performing [in Ruckus] but I like being myself and I thought I could bring something new to [Pitt Tonight].”

Dow, who originally met Chuah through Ruckus, described her humor as subtle.

“There’s something blissfully dry about Victoria’s humor,” Dow said. “You have to be listening and thinking, but if you hear what she’s saying it’s always very cunning and smart.”

Under normal conditions, Pitt Tonight, like most late-night television shows, opens with a monologue followed by sketches and a few tunes played by its very own house band, “The Allies of the Boulevard.” The show also features live musical performances by local artists and interviews with Pitt students and faculty, as well as notable individuals from the Pittsburgh region.

From University higher-ups like Chancellor Patrick Gallagher to local celebrities like Curt Wootton, known for his YouTube series “Pittsburgh Dad,” a myriad of people have sat on Pitt Tonight’s guest couch, something Dow said can bring out a new side of them.

“You can see a Pitt administrator give the same speech 1,000 different ways, but you’ll never get to see them the way you see them on Pitt Tonight,” Dow said.

In a completely virtual format, Roth said Pitt Tonight would interview people in the Pitt and Pittsburgh communities — and perhaps beyond — and create sketches to upload to their YouTube channel, where viewers would be able to watch content in short bursts or a binge. As far as music, Roth said they want to showcase artists via livestreamed performances, starting with “The Allies of the Boulevard,” and possibly reaching out to other Pittsburgh artists later in the season.

Roth, a rising senior marketing and supply chain management double major who joined the show’s marketing staff as a first-year, also said the Pitt Tonight staff wants to continue the show regardless of circumstances so they can continue to carry out the original vision started by Irwin in 2015.

“At the end of the day we just want to be a powerful welcoming force in the Pitt community and in the greater Pittsburgh community,” Roth said.

While the audience’s laughter may seem effortlessly provoked, it takes the month-long labor of around 60 students working behind the scenes to bring each episode of Pitt Tonight to life, who do everything from writing jokes weeks in advance to handing out event flyers days before the event.

Roth said to her, Pitt Tonight’s importance extends beyond bringing laughter to campus — it’s also a means of self-expression for the people who work on it.

“The environment provides you with the space to be yourself and not be afraid that you’re going to be judged for it,” Roth said. “It made me more comfortable expressing how I feel, even if it’s not in the majority opinion.”

In regards to content, Chuah said she wants to incorporate more games into the upcoming season, like those emulating Vanity Fair’s lie detector series. Chuah also said she wants to highlight more of Pitt’s professors and maybe even the owners of local businesses, such as Fuku Tea.

“I love Fuku Tea,” Chuah said. “[The owners] don’t know who I am, but I’m there way more than most people.”

Regardless of what season six of Pitt Tonight looks like, Dow said he believes it will be one Pitt students won’t want to miss.

 “I have all the confidence in the world that her season of Pitt Tonight will be the best one we’ve had so far,” Dow said.

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