Steve Clark, Writer & Improv Actor, on Interning for Conan, Going Viral, & the Value in Creating Content for New Media.

September 30, 2015

I’m originally from Tampa, Florida, but have been moving from city to city since I turned 18. I’ve spent time in Tallahassee, Chicago and I currently live in Los Angeles.


I’ve worked for television shows, television networks, new media networks, and advertising agencies in my young but eclectic career.

I’m also an improviser and have been performing in different cities for the past 4 years.





First Job in Entertainment


My first paid entertainment job was on “Family Feud.” 


I had been doing an unpaid internship at a local production company on weekends when I applied for a casting assistant position on Family Feud during the Chicago auditions.


I remember being shocked that I was expected to work 12-hour days (a normality in most TV production jobs) and so incredibly excited when I brought home my first television paycheck at the end of the week.







As an improviser, my peers in the community inspire me. I have the good fortune of being able to perform with some of the funniest people in Los Angeles on a weekly basis.


Living in Los Angeles also allows me to see some of the best improv in the world whenever I want to.


Cook County Social Club, an improv group originally from Chicago, is a constant source of inspiration for me. They consistently do incredible work, and are the reason that I started taking long form improvisation seriously.





Jobs Held in Entertainment


I’ve held a number of different positions in Entertainment spanning from Production Assistant to Writer.


The position that most people start off in is Production Assistant, and I’ve done that on multiple TV shows.


You’re essentially there to do anything, and I mean anything, that the crew and producers need. It’s a fun way to learn the different roles on a show, and you make great connections doing it.


I’ve Paged for CBS and 1iota, which means I handled audiences for live shows and events.


I would highly recommend doing audience coordinator work if you like interacting with people and enjoy live shows.


I’ve been a writer and an editor, but those are both pretty self-explanatory.


If you want to be an editor, make sure you know how to use Adobe Creative Suite.


Don’t listen to what they tell you in school, Premiere and After Effects are what people in Los Angeles are using.







During my last year of college, I was fortunate enough to intern at Conan, Comedy Central, and BBC Worldwide Productions.


Each of these were valuable in allowing me to figure out what I want to do in this industry.


Interning at Conan showed me that I wanted to work on a live show, and it got me ready to be a Production Assistant for later shows.



Working at BBC Worldwide and Comedy Central showed me that I don’t really like working at a desk all day.


You don’t get the same thrill of working on a show as you do working for a network, and that was something that was very important for me to learn early in my career.





Technology's Impact


The entertainment field has changed dramatically with the improvements in technology.


A perfect example of this is that I was able to make a living writing and editing for a YouTube channel when I graduated from college.


That may sound absurd, but there are hundreds of jobs for new media popping up everywhere.


With the growth of online content creation, websites are getting huge (look at Buzzfeed, Funny or Die etc.) and you no longer have to focus on getting a job in television or film, but you can now find work in the growing world of new media.







The best advice I could give to anybody who is looking to get into writing, producing, or whatever it is that you want to do, is to do it yourself.


The best thing you can have at this point is a portfolio full of samples of what you’re capable of.


Make your own content, and use that stuff to show companies and shows that you are capable of doing what they need.


Most jobs I get require a reel or writing samples, both things I have been building up for years.


Your resume will only get you so far, make sure you can impress people with your work.





Creative Process


My creative process is very simple: do as much as I can.


I typically have 5-8 improv shows a week, and on those nights when I am not performing, I make sure to get some writing done.


I try to do something creative every day, because if I don’t, I feel guilty about it later.








I’m still figuring this stuff out myself. I think the key is to be focused on yourself.


It’s very easy to get wrapped up in what other people are doing and get jealous of the success of others, but if you just focus on what it is you’re doing, then things will work out.





Specialist or Jack-of-all-trades


This very much depends on what you are planning on going into.


For new media, I’ve found that it is extremely helpful to be a jack-of-all-trades.


You will often have to write, shoot and edit something if you’re in a small start-up company, opposed to advertising or TV, where you typically have a focus that you need to excel.





Top 5 Moments in Entertainment 


1. Making my first Harold team at iO West

2. Working on The Voice and winning the Emmy for Outstanding Reality Competition Program

3. Having several videos go viral. One of the coolest and most validating feelings you can get.


Fake Oscar Prank (Wrote & Shot) - Covered on Good Morning America


4. Getting my first paid writing gig.

5. Getting to teach and perform improv with some of my best friends in so many different cities.





Something About Your Career You Wish People Knew


If you’re getting into this industry for the money, you’re going to be very disappointed for the first 10 years of your career.


Sure there are exceptions, but this is an industry where you have to pay your dues for quite a while.


Also, if you just want a nice, cushy, 40-hour a week job, you’re not likely going to find it. That’s just the nature of the beast.


Always stay in contact with people, because you never know who can get you your next gig.





Career Preparation


I got my bachelors in Television Writing and Producing from Columbia College Chicago.


I made some very good connections there, and during my senior year was able to intern at a few places that got my foot in the door.


While doing all of this, I was doing improv and meeting people that way as well. I have completed classes at iO, Second City, and UCB.


You can never have too many connections.







I met Brian Stack in Chicago when I was working on Improv Nerd with Jimmy Carrane.


Brian was a guest on the podcast, and was nice enough to exchange information with me after speaking with me briefly.


For those of you who don’t know, Brian Stack is a genius writer who used to write for Conan and now writes for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.


He got me my internship at Conan while I was in college, because he’s genuinely the nicest person on the planet.


Every month or so we’ll chat via email, mostly consisting of me asking him a ton of questions about my career and what to do next.


He is always patient and kindly answers any questions I have for him, and I don’t think he realizes how much it means to me to have somebody I admire so much as a mentor and a friend.


So, shout-out to Brian Stack, the nicest and funniest guy in show business.





Current Projects


I’ve recently taken up improv coaching, and I absolutely love it. I coach 3 teams and I get so much out of it.


I’m fairly confident that I want to open an improv theater when I’m a bit older and more experienced.





Anything Else You Would Like To Share?


If you’re young, and you’re thinking about which city you want to live in, pick Chicago.


It’s the best city on earth, and it has the best improv on earth. Also, take improv classes if they’re available to you, no matter where you are.


I went from being a depressed college kid to a person with creative confidence after taking my first improv class. It’s the best way to meet interesting people and to be creative.






Where Can People Go To Learn More?


You can find me on twitter @steveclark217, though I very rarely post, and when I do, it’s the worst.


If you live in Los Angeles, you can come see me do improv Friday nights at 10 at The Improv Space, Saturday nights at 10 at iO West, and every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month at 10 at The Clubhouse.


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