MTV’s Kusbit returns to roots


While attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Bob Kusbit met a group of students… While attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Bob Kusbit met a group of students taking pictures of beer cans in a dorm. When Kusbit asked the students what major required them to do this, they told him, “Communications.”

“I went right to my counselor and asked to change my major,” Kusbit said.

In more recent years, though, Kusbit served as the senior vice president at MTV productions and was responsible for casting Carson Daly. He oversaw such shows as “Total Request Live,” “Say What Karaoke” and MTV’s annual “Spring Break.”

Kusbit has since started his own production company and has produced MTV shows such as “MADE,” “Camp Jim” and “Boiling Points.”

“Boiling Points” uses actors and hidden cameras to drive unsuspecting participants to anger.

“In the end, they just think it’s funny,” Kusbit said.

The Steeltown Entertainment Project Pitt and Pitt in Hollywood, a student group with the goal of improving communication between the entertainment industry, co-sponsored the event as part of an initiative to increase the presence of arts and entertainment within the city.

Carl Kurlander, a screenwriter responsible for “St. Elmo’s Fire,” helped moderate the event, which drew an audience of about 100 in David Lawrence Hall.

“He has many things to atone for,” Kurlander said, listing the shows Kusbit has worked on.

Kusbit spoke about Pittsburgh’s trouble keeping young people in town, and his belief that, to seriously pursue a career in entertainment, a person must leave the city.

“I think you have to go and get experience before you can come back,” said Kusbit, who grew up in Latrobe, Pa., near Pittsburgh. “It would be nice to change that.”

Kusbit talked about his experiences working for MTV as a vice president and as a producer for his company, One Louder Productions.

“The beauty of working at MTV is you have to think like an 18-year-old,” he said. “Sometimes that gets you in trouble on the weekend.”

Kusbit also gave pointers on how to pitch an idea and added that, if someone is rejected, he should keep trying.

“You should never be afraid; the creative muscle must lead,” Kusbit said. “You have to get yourself out there.”

Kusbit recounted some of the events of his past that led to where he is today. While working as a cameraman and video editor in Altoona, he left a six-second gap in a segment that went on the air, but Kusbit kept working.

“But you don’t get fired in Altoona,” he said. “They just say, ‘Try harder.'”

Kusbit also shared with the audience the key to succeeding in the entertainment industry.

“Start small and work your way up,” Kusbit said. “You create your own opportunities by working hard and showing other people that you want to work hard.”

The audience asked questions, including one inquiry about the skills or majors most useful in the entertainment industry. Kusbit cited MTV and the many roles that need to be filled, such as human resources, computer graphics and accounting.

“There is a need for everything,” Kusbit said.

Another question targeted the role professional writers play in the formation of a reality television show.

“We bring in writers to brainstorm ideas,” Kusbit said, stressing the overall importance of learning how to write well.

“Writing is the key to everything,” he said.