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Kicking with Conan

You might say that UIndy junior Will Schnabel of Indianapolis has had some pretty good opportunities so far in his college career. A communication major and theatre minor, Will managed a heavy course load last year while working as a manager for the University’s TV station and holding responsibilities as a resident assistant, or RA.

Last February, when the Super Bowl came to Indy, organizers looked to University of Indianapolis students to serve as the talent escorts for VIPs attending the “NFL Honors” gala, an awards show on NBC recognizing star NFL players on the night before the big game. Will was assigned to former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and NFL Hall-of-Famer Troy Aikman. At semester’s end in May, Will didn’t stop to take a break. Instead, he spent two weeks traveling in Japan during UIndy’s Spring Term.

‘Networking’ takes on new meaning

Then things got really interesting. Will returned to the States only to move to Los Angeles to spend the summer as an intern for Conan O’Brien’s TV show, “Conan,” on TBS. Will had networked with some LA professionals to help guide him to his internship. He first made contact with a talent coordinator named Denise, who in turn introduced him to Jackie, the “Conan” stage manager. Jackie connected him to the department that handles internships. Will applied, and the next thing he knew, he had a phone interview.

“One thing really led to another,” Will explained. “I was pretty stoked to get a phone interview. I honestly wasn’t nervous about it, because I really didn’t think I had much of a shot at being offered a position. I’m extremely fortunate that I was able to talk about my TV experience, work ethic, and ability to balance a schedule in the interview itself.”

A few weeks later, Will found out that he would be joining Team Coco for the summer.

Welcome to ‘Team Coco’

Will was one of three interns placed on the monologue team; the position required him to take a quiz to land the job. Every morning, he looked at current events to see what might lead to jokes.

“I didn’t realize how cool being selected as a monologue intern was until I got out there. It was a pretty cool feeling being able to write words that aired on the show. I was pretty lucky to acquire the position,” Will says, “and I made the most of it. It afforded me a chance to meet the writers, which was fantastic. That’s where I learned the most—watching the writers.”

Will continued learning by attending Conan’s rehearsals. By watching the host at work, he was able to get a behind-the-scenes perspective on how a show is put together.

“Conan is definitely someone I look up to,” Will says. “His work ethic, dedication, and tenacity really show when you see him behind the scenes. Beyond that, he’s a genuine person—very funny, very kind. It’s always a cool feeling to see that people you admire are good people.”

Will also traveled to Chicago for “Conan.” These shows had a different vibe; the Chicago Theater seats 3,300 while the Burbank studio seats only 260. Few interns went to the shows taped in Chicago, so Will was able to experience all components of the production of the show.

Special assignments

Besides working for Conan, Will continued to work as a talent escort for Jackie, the stage manager, for award shows such as the ESPYs and the Teen Choice Awards.

“As a huge sports fan, I relished the chance to mingle with big-name stars at the ESPYs,” Will said. “Working with Big Sean and Justin Bieber at the Teen Choice Awards was incredible, too. It was an awesome experience being able to meet and work with celebrities away from cameras. Working award shows is a mix of adrenaline, stress, and excitement,” he added. “I loved every second.”

Will is now back at UIndy for his first semester as a junior and his second year as an RA.

He may look like an average college student. But one look at his résumé tells you he is far from ordinary.

—Jenn Meadows ’14