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Late night laughs
Kevin Carroll teams up with Q30 to create Quinnipiac's first late-night show
Kevin Carroll stands atop the piazza of the Carl Hansen Student Center. Sporting a pinstripe black suit and a pair of charcoal and neon green suede dress shoes, Carroll surveys the crowd. It’s certainly at capacity, with all 55 chairs filled and additional students standing about.
A voice takes over the student center speaker system. It beams, “Live from the piazza at Quinnipiac University, it’s ‘Late Night with Kevin Carroll!’”
Carroll runs down the piazza steps, pumping his arms before grabbing the microphone, to a cheering crowd.
It’s all-routine for the senior. Carroll, who has been involved in comedy since he was 14, is about to put on his fifth show of “Late Night,” a program that launched October 2012.
It wasn’t always this way, though. Just like his comedy career, the show began with a desire and a dream.
* * *
It’s his freshman year of high school and a younger Carroll is walking down the halls of St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Mass. The Melrose native had just enrolled in the school after spending his entire life in the public system. Carroll’s mother, Kim, thought public schooling wasn’t the best option going forward, and it was time for a change.
“My mom felt like I wasn’t getting what I needed from there,” he said. “It wasn’t a great school, and I was kind of coasting.”
After enrolling at St. John’s Prep, Carroll felt lost and out of touch with his friends from home. Only in his first year of high school, he was without a license and a car.
“Even the friends that I made there, couldn’t really hang out with them after school cause I had no way of getting there,” Carroll said.
Carroll’s mother pushed her son to get involved. Originally, he intended to join drama guild as a member of a stage crew, even though it didn’t appeal to him.
“I went down to do that, just on a whim,” Carroll said. “I never really had any particular interest in it.”
After walking to the club’s office, Carroll discovered it was closed. Yet across the hall, he noticed a black-box theater with an improv group practicing at the time.
“I caught one of the jokes and I peeked inside,” Carroll said.
Standing in the doorway to the theater, Carroll watched as the group went through its act, parts of which made him laugh. Noticing Carroll, the group motioned for him to participate as an audience member. Audience members, according to Carroll, “come up with new ideas or concepts for scenes.”
Carroll immediately took an interest in the group, attending weekly meetings as a member of the audience. Shows were held on a monthly basis, Carroll later being asked to attend.
“It was always a blast, always really funny,” Carroll said. “The practices, half the time, were funnier than the shows. That’s improv, it’s whatever you make of it.”
Though he didn’t have experience working with the skits, Carroll sat in for his first show as a cast member. Carroll felt nervous with a crowd there. Deservedly so, because he was the lone freshman among a group of seniors that was about to go on stage for the first time.
With little warning, an upperclassman in the group, Sam, grabbed Carroll by the shoulders to let him know that he was going out for the next act. The group was playing a game called Freeze. The audience gives the two actors on stage a scene. At any point, someone can yell freeze and replace a member of the cast.
“I don’t even know what was going on in the scene, or what I came out and said. I think I did some sort of ridiculous dance,” Carroll said. “But I’ll never forget it got a laugh. That to me was a feeling unlike any other.”
From that point on, Carroll became even more involved with the club. By his junior year, he was president, a title he also held through graduation.
“Comedy has always been my thing,” Carroll said. “Didn’t have much going for me in athleticism, or good looks or any of those other things that make you cool in high school.”
* * *
Carroll took an interest in stand-up from his best friend, Brad DePrima. The two originally met at orientation after Carroll told his orientation leaders that he was interested in comedy.
“They said, ‘You gotta meet Brad,’” Carroll said. “We’ve been best friends ever since. He’s a real role model of mine.”
Carroll would watch DePrima’s stand-up shows at Side Street Bar & Grille or at Joker’s Wild in New Haven, as the two would travel to each location together.
“We’d write stuff together, pretty much hit off through that,” DePrima said. “He got a lot better at it.”
The performances inspired Carroll to try stand-up comedy. He made his first appearance at a “Ledges Got Talent” show his freshman year.
“It was awesome,” Carroll said. “It was all my friends, so I never really could separate the genuine laughs from the pity laughs.”
“Maybe it was a mix of both,” Carroll added, grinning.
With his first show in the books, Carroll began pursuing stand-up opportunities in the Hamden area. He later took an internship during his sophomore year at Laughing Buddha Comedy, a comedy school in Manhattan.
“We started getting showcases in Hamden, like at Side Street,” DePrima said. “A show a month, every couple weeks that we did with some other comics.”
Local acts and an internship at a comedy school were under his belt. So it was only appropriate his next venture would combine the two, and push Carroll’s creativity to its fullest potential.
* * *
“Late Night with Kevin Carroll” started as a dream, figuratively and literally.
Rebecca Castagna, co-executive producer of “Late Night,” fell asleep on an early-morning train ride to New York City last August. When she woke up, she realized she dreamt about Carroll hosting a late-night show for Q30 Television.
Castagna, who hadn’t spoken with Carroll in a few months, texted him about the idea, of which he approved.
“Good morning. I just had a crazy, cool dream you hosted a late-night show for Q30. You were great, people loved it. You should do it in real life,” Castagna texted him.
“This was nice to wake up to. That might actually have to happen,” Carroll responded.
Castagna then messaged Q30 General Manager Jon Alba and Q30 Vice President Sarah Violette, also getting positive reactions.
“I had no idea who Kevin Carroll was at the time,” Alba said. “She told me, ‘He’s hysterical. I want to do this. What are the odds of it?’ I said, ‘You have to figure out the logistics, figure out the sound, figure out how you’re going to get the video, etc. And more importantly, it has to be funny.’”
Carroll and Castagna first met at orientation 2013, both serving as orientation leaders(OLs). They got to know each other when the OLs had free time during registration.
“I just decided to drill him with a ‘bazillion’ questions,” Castagna said. “That’s when I found out all this cool stuff about him. I just saw from the way he was. He was just so talented. He would be a fantastic host for a show.”
With Castagna, Alba and Violette on board, the last obstacle in the way was physical approval by Q30.
“That was the big hurdle for us to get over,” Carroll said. “They’ve never really done anything like this.”
At the beginning of the fall 2013 semester, Castagna once again approached Alba with her idea. Alba requested that Castagna find another executive producer, Sommer Rusinski, and also write a proposal.
Alba approved the show, although he was still somewhat skeptical. After the first show, Alba was still unsure about its ability to grow.
“I liked what I saw, but I wasn’t sure how much better it could get,” Alba said. “This is not something you’re going to find anywhere else in the country, as far as I understand. I don’t think even that crew, at that time, understood how much time needs to be put in for a show like this.”
Carroll too, believed the first show was “madness.”
“We were kind of winging it,” Carroll said.
After the second episode, things changed. The piazza, where the show is filmed, began to fill with people during taping. As the head count shot up, so did the view count on YouTube. The first episode of “Late Night” currently has 1,169 views, as of Feb. 25.
“The views for the first couple episodes were off the charts,” Alba said.
The “Late Night” staff has a set schedule for preparation and filming of the show. As a biweekly program, the show is taped on Thursday’s, and is posted to the Q30TV YouTube account on Sundays. The staff also holds meetings every Tuesday.
In a typical two-week schedule, the staff spends the first Tuesday meeting discussing which ideas will be incorporated into monologues, segments and interviews. Segments are assigned and written as necessary.
For the next Tuesday meeting, segments are filmed, edited and ready to go. That night, the monologue and transitions are written, to be finished by Wednesday.
By Thursday at 6:30 p.m., set-up for the show begins. Cameras are arranged and white balanced, while crew positions are assigned. The 30-minute show goes live at 9:30 p.m. Editing is typically completed by Sunday night.
* * *
It’s approximately 8:30 p.m. inside the media center. An hour before showtime, Carroll rehearses his monologue with sidekick Tom Valerio.
Minutes later, the band (which doesn’t have a name) begins its sound check. Carroll, who was previously dressed in his street clothes, now struts out of the media center in a suit while bobbing his head and snapping his fingers to the jam.
“Sounding good!” he shouts.
Castagna, hustling about, is making sure everything is in order. Schedule blocks are posted to camera tripods, while staff members prepare for taping.
A little after 9 p.m. the crowd begins to file in. Carroll, whose parents and two sisters surprised him in attending, hugs his mother and father. The clock strikes 9:30 p.m. and Carroll greets the audience to much applause. “Late Night” has a live band for the second time this year, and in order for the show to be produced correctly, it will perform first.
The band cycles through Sublime’s “What I Got” and a tune that wasn’t given a name. With time needed to break down the drums and set, members of the “Late Night” staff play music to pass the time. The guest, Angelique Fiske, co-chair of QThon, dances to Pharrell’s “Happy” while Carroll sets up his lavalier microphone.
Finally, it’s show time. Carroll runs down the stairs before taking the floor.
“What’s up everybody? How you all been?” Carroll says to the crowd.
It’s been awhile since Carroll has last performed live at Quinnipiac. He was absent in the Feb. 7 edition of “Late Night,” spending time in Los Angeles to film a web series.
Carroll opens with his traditional monologue, tackling pop culture subjects with Valerio.
“I really feed off of what Kevin gives. We’re a fun duo,” Valerio said. “It seems like [it was] the first time me and Kevin really went back and forth with the banter.”
“Late Night” then moves on to a pair of pre-recorded segments. This week, “Hot Lunch” and the “Quinnipiac Olympics” are featured.
After segments, Fiske is brought in as the guest interview, and Carroll throws out a pun.
“They told me I was interviewing the morale chair. You’re more of a human than a chair,” Carroll said, as the audience members go wild with laughter.
Valerio, so red in the face from laughing, fans himself.
Near the end of the interview, Fiske teaches Carroll and Valerio a dance. Following a series of foot stomps, claps and left-to-right shifts, Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” bursts out of the sound system. The trio continue its dance, though Carroll ends up winded.
“I can’t count to eight,” Carroll says. “Someone call Shakira, cause my hips don’t lie.”
The show closes, as Carroll shakes hands with audience members. He hugs Castagna, and proceeds to take photos with fans. He later spots his family, before sharing another hug.
“That was a surprise, a little nerve-wracking,” Carroll said on his family attending. “I did not have any time to prepare for them being here. It was a nice surprise.”
Carroll’s father, Mark, meanwhile, could not have been happier with his son’s performance.
“It’s seems like yesterday he was a freshman here,” he said. “He’s very quick, he’s witty, he’s got good material. I’m just so proud of him.”
After the show, the Late Night staff will gather and the media center to share final thoughts. When the crew is done wrapping up, Carroll heads home to relax, hang out, watch TV and make himself a nice meal.
He won’t rest for too long though. Because next Tuesday, it all begins again.