(Host) The set is straight out of David Letterman.
There’s a vintage microphone resting on the host’s desk.
There’s a pair of cushy chairs for the guests.
The backdrop is a view of the city at night.
Except the city is Burlington, not New York – and the show is Vermont’s first-ever late night talk show, called Late Night Saturday.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports:
(Director) “Pick it up and bring it right out here “
(Zind) It’s 6 o’clock Thursday evening on the set of Late Night Saturday. There’s only an hour left before the first program is taped in front of a live audience – and there are still about a thousand details to be tended to.
Cue cards have to be written.
(Director) “This is number thirty, so there will be twenty-nine on the back of the card “
(Zind) And they have to be read.
(Host) ” But first, it’s time to head up to the studio audience to see if we can give away some more prizes “
(Staff member) “I’m gonna freak out!
(Host) “What’s the matter?”
(Zind) The stress level inches upward as the minutes tick by.
(Director) 9 Ok. Good, good, good, good, good, good, good. Ok.”
(Zind) A planned rehearsal has to be scrapped.
(Staff member) “It’ll help if you fold your ticket first…”
(Zind) It’s time to bring in the audience and get the show underway.
(Announcer) “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Late Night Saturday with Tim Kavanagh, let’s give it up for Tim!”
(Zind) Tim Kavanagh is the host, and the creator of Late Night Saturday. The show has been his dream for three years. In real life, Kavanagh is an account executive at WCAX-TV, which will air the program every Saturday night at 11:30.
Kavanagh has recruited coworkers from WCAX to put in extra hours on the program. He’s tapped friends to help him write and produce the show, and he’s forged a collaboration with his alma mater, Champlain College, whose students will work on the program for credit.
(Kavanagh) “No one is getting paid. There are no paychecks.”
(Zind) That’s Kavanagh. He’s done stand up comedy and performed in front of audiences before. But for him, and everyone else involved, this is a new experience. As far as anyone can recall Vermont has never had a locally produced, late night television show. The program, says Kavanagh
(Kavanagh) ” is a combination between Letterman and Saturday Night Live. We’ve got a beautiful opening with scenes from around the area and it segues into a monologue which I deliver, a couple quick jokes.”
(Kavanagh to audience) “My wife loves it when the leaves all change color, but she got kind of upset with me when I bought her a ring that did the same thing.”
(Zind) With tapping underway, the half hour program rushes right along. Following the familiar late night talk show formula, there’s live music and a guest.
(Kavanagh) “Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Rusty DeWees!”
(Zind) There are some delays and a few missed cues and slip ups, but everything seems to be going pretty well for the very first program.
(DeWees) “Who’s that guy that owns the station, CAX?”
(Cavenaugh) “That would be Peter Martin.”
(DeeWees) “Old Man Martin! Tell him good job getting this on here.”
(Zind) Peter Martin is the vice president and general manager of WCAX.
(Martin) “It seemed like an intriguing possibility on a number of levels.”
(Zind) Martin says the fact that Late Night Saturday is a volunteer effort is what makes the program possible.
(Martin) “The economics of local program production are such that at least in television it rarely happens.”
(Zind) Martin says Kavanagh’s idea for the program appealed to him because it was a chance to showcase local talent and an opportunity to collaborate with Champlain College.
WCAX has committed to airing 32 installments of Late Night Saturday, until next May. Beyond that the program’s future will ride on audience response and the continued enthusiasm of the all-volunteer crew.
(Kavanaugh) “We’ll see you next time on Late Night Saturday!”
(Zind) For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.