I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog’s “Better Know A Staffer” series this break. Today we end the series with an EXCLUSIVE interview with Mark Malkoff.
Many of you who have gone to live tapings of ‘The Colbert Report’ have had a chance to meet Mark, as he’s the first live person most audience members meet as the audience coordinator of the show. Mark grew up in Hershey, PA and attended New York University before beginning his varied and intersting career in television. In addition to his career in television, however, Malkoff has starred in a solo comedy stage show called “Maybe I Can Get Laid In Jail” which featured his obsessions with early 90s SNL, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and The World Wrestling Federation. He’s also directed and starred in multiple humorous short films, including “Ferris Wheel” (where he attempts to talk broadway stars into riding a ferris wheel with him) and “Prom” (where he attempts to create his own prom in the streets of Manhattan, with the help of some cooperative bystanders). He’s recently worked as a correspondent for Nick at Night’s road crew and penned a pilot for Fox for a late night television show.
Ok, let’s start with some basics to get people familiar with you and what you do for the show. What is your formal work title, and what are some of your standard duties for ‘The Colbert Report’?
My title is audience coordinator. Basically, I handle all aspects of the audience department. This includes ticket requests, checking the audience in, and loading them in and out of the studio. I should also mention I have an assistant audience coordinator and two audience pages that assist me.
I don’t know many kids who say “When I grow up, I want to be Audience Coordinator!” What were some of your dreams as a child for what you’d be when you grow up? Were you a fireman kind of kid, or more like an astronaut dreamer?
I really just wanted to work in TV in some capacity. I was heavily into TV ever since I was a little kid. I’m especially attached to TV shows from my early childhood even to this day. I talked my way onto the set of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” four days before Fred Rogers announced his retirement in November 2000. They were shooting the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and I got to hang out for the shoot. In 2004 I also was a writer on an updated episode of the Nickelodeon TV show “You Can’t Do That on Television”. It was one of my all time favorite shows as a kid, so I got a huge thrill going to the old set in Canada and working on the episode. I even got green slime dumped on me. I’ve also been on the “Sesame Street” set multiple times. Mr. Snuffleupagus hangs from the ceiling which is a bit creepy, but I always do get emotional when I drop by to visit.
Time passes (insert music clip of “Dream Weaver” here) … Now, onto your adult life. How exactly did you get into working with television shows and becoming the expert in fan relations? Did you have a flash of dumb luck, right place at the right time, or were you groomed for this kind of work?
I did an insane number of internships in college. My break came working on the Michael J. Fox sitcom “Spin City”. After my internship the audience coordinator hired me as an audience page for the Friday night tapings. From there, someone at “Spin City” put me in touch with another sitcom. That didn’t work out, but they recommended me for a job at Letterman. So I was booking audience at Letterman Monday through Friday. Friday afternoon at 4pm I’d head to Chelsea Piers where we taped “Spin City” to work the audience there. From that point I worked consistently with audiences on TV shows.
I know you have multiple short films on your web site, MarkMalkoff.com. Do you see these films as simply fun side projects, or do you have aspirations to direct, or write? Or act? Or stand-up? Or improv? Or something really random?
I really like doing my comedy. I’ve done it for a long time. The video stuff seems to be going well. My dream of dreams would be doing a late-night style talk show for kids. Also, I’d like to do my own show featuring my video shorts. Recently, I wrote for a pilot for Fox. We’ll see what happens.
If you could give advice for people coming into the show, what would be 2 or 3 things you would either highly recommend and/or strongly discourage?
My first piece of advice is to arrive by 4pm if you want to sit in the first two rows. While we can’t guarantee it, normally these audience members get the closest seats to the stage. Secondly, be prepared to wait. Bring a book or an activity to make waiting more bearable. My final advice is, if you’re going to ask Stephen a question during the pre-show Q and A, try to make the question original. He gets a lot of the same questions every night. And it’s refreshing to hear something new.
Do your looks often get you compared to Stephen while at the show, or does this happen away from the set as well? And how do you feel about this comparison?
Almost every taping someone asks if I’m related to Stephen. I personally think it’s because of my glasses, but I’m not sure. I’m totally cool with it. It’s funny because almost nobody at the show has ever got the correlation that I look like Stephen. It took eight months before one of the writers and a field producer said to me, “Do you know who you kind of look like?” I’ve mentioned it to a few other staff members and they always say they don’t see it.
Random trivia from Mark Malkoff:
- The studio has 109 seats.
- Stephen sincerely appreciates their [the fans'] enthusiasm. We honestly wouldn’t have a show if it weren’t for the fans. I try my best to say hello to as many audience members as possible to thank them for coming out.
- There are absolutely people on our staff that periodically check out the message boards on Colbert Nation.
- The worst gig I had was working as an intern for Sally Jessy Raphael. I had to sign her autographs and send them out in the mail. I was required to sign her name in red ink because of her famous red glasses. I also had to draw a heart over the letter “a” in Sally. I felt gross at the end of the day.
Mark on the web:
- MarkMalkoff.com – Mark’s home page
- Li’l GN’R
- Little GN’R – Children’s “Guns N’ Roses” Cover Band
- Welcome to the Jungle Gym – Spin.com: “”I thought we rocked the house,” Li’l Axl declares, adjusting the black leather cap perched atop her red bandanna. “But when we can afford a new manager,” Li’l Izzy confides, “we’re going to get rid of Mark.”"
- Interview with L’il GN’R – Part 1 – Sp1at.com: “Gnr is my favorite group from when I was a kid. Music of today makes me want to gag and it was infuriating when I went out on the streets of Manhattan and a majority teenagers had never heard of Guns N’Roses. I decided it would be my mission to bring GNr back to a whole new generation. Since then, we’ve had toddlers and elementary school kids to our shows and they absolutely love the music.”
- Mark Malkoff’s MySpace page
- Mark Malkoff Fan Club – MySpace fan club group