Pitt Tonight ready to return in-person for next season


Image courtesy of Tess Roth

Pitt Tonight will return for its seventh season on Oct. 2, hosted by Victoria Chuah. The show is expected to film in front of a live studio audience in the Cathedral of Learning — a change from last year’s production which consisted of sketches on YouTube or guest interviews over Zoom.

By Jessica McKenzie, Staff Writer

Nothing compares to a late night comedy show’s introduction — a live audience applauding to a jazzy melody and spotlights on the stage as the host emerges from behind a curtain. The experience is especially thrilling when it’s filmed from the basement of the Cathedral of Learning, and the production is put on entirely by Pitt students.

Pitt Tonight host Victoria Chuah, a senior computer science major, said it takes a village to make it all happen. Pitt Tonight has marketing, writing and production departments that generate monthly episodes for the show.

“There are so many moving parts to the show,” Chuah, who is returning as host for a second year, said. “I get to meet with so many great, talented people who I wouldn’t normally work with or have classes with except through this organization.”

Pitt Tonight will return to the Cathedral’s Richard E. Rauh Studio Theatre for its seventh season on Oct. 2. The show is expected to film in front of a live studio audience — a change from last year’s production which consisted of sketches on YouTube or guest interviews over Zoom. In an effort to enforce some social distancing measures, the studio will hold 50% of its normal capacity this year.

Chuah said she’s looking forward to Pitt Tonight’s upcoming season because the team is returning to indoor in-person activity for the first time since the University’s initial shutdown.

“I think everyone at Pitt Tonight is just so excited to be in a theatre space and to actually hear people laughing at our jokes,” Chuah said. “Last year, when we would record the monologues or desk pieces, it was so weird because there would only be three production people and some writers there to laugh.”

Chuah joined Pitt Tonight in February 2020, meaning she’s spent the majority of her tenure as host online. According to Kaitlyn Dawson, a production executive, Pitt Tonight will continue producing online content throughout the show’s seventh season.

“We are keeping that online presence we had last year because some people in our club still aren’t comfortable with meeting in person,” Dawson, a junior film and communication major, said. “For every single guest that we have, we’re coming to them, wherever their comfort zone is, and we’re going to be doing more exclusive interviews.”

Dawson joined Pitt Tonight’s production team during her first semester. She is now an intern at ACC Network and said Pitt Tonight helped her make connections with people who share similar career goals.

“Pitt Tonight gave me a group of people that I can always rely on and go to if I need help with a creative project — they’re always willing to help me out if I need advice,” Dawson said. “It’s definitely a very welcoming community to meet people with the same goals as you.”

But you don’t need to be dead set on a career in entertainment to join Pitt Tonight, Dawson added. She said the team is also actively seeking people who are new to the many aspects of television production.

“We want everyone to find their niche in their given department,” Dawson said. “There’s a lot of training for people to know what to expect out of the production crew, so we have people that are either novices or masters of television production.”

Although the special guests for this season of Pitt Tonight have yet to be revealed, the show has a history of featuring famous Pitt alumni ー such as “The Bachelorette” contestant Ed Waisbrot 一 school-wide clubs and even Chancellor Patrick Gallagher.

Carson Pieper, a sophomore marketing major, is the marketing executive director and talent manager. He selects various guests to interview and play games during the show. Pieper said he’s grateful he joined Pitt Tonight last year, since he often struggled to meet people outside of his pod during his first year at Pitt.

“Pitt Tonight was the first thing I got involved in here,” Pieper said. “It was great to get to know people who weren’t in my immediate pod or dorm room.”

According to Pieper, the first episode of season seven was originally scheduled to be filmed last week. Due to inclement weather, the Pitt Tonight production team postponed the episode’s release to October. Presuming that it will be safe to do so under the University’s COVID-19 guidelines, the crew will enter the theater by the time the episode is scheduled to come out in October.

Executive producer Benjamin Asciutto, a junior film and business major, said one of the best parts of Pitt Tonight is that it gives students real-world experience in television production in a college environment.

“[Pitt Tonight] is a combination of real-world experience where we take the same development process as ‘The Tonight Show,‘ or Cohen or Colbert, but we bring it down to the student level,” Asciutto said.

Asciutto said he looks up to Jesse Irwin — who served as Pitt Tonight’s first host from 2015 to 2017 — because of the classy, live show atmosphere he created, starting in the very first episode.

“In my position, I’ve been trying to emulate the mood of the first episode within the new season,” Asciutto said. “Now that we had a lot of sketches over YouTube last year, I’d like to get back to that late night vibe and experience — we’re all so ready to have a live audience.”

According to Chuah, Pitt Tonight is recruiting new members to work in all departments. Applications are now open for writing, marketing and production positions on the show’s website and are due on Sept. 17.

Asciutto said he wants prospective members of Pitt Tonight to be just as passionate about the show as the rest of Pitt Tonight’s team.

“Everyone in this organization thinks of Pitt Tonight as larger than just a student club or organization,” Asciutto said. “If you feel like you’ve had that passion to make Pitt Tonight the best show it could be, then you’ll have a great time and a lot of fun.”