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Ten Questions: Sebastian DiNatale
Sebastian DiNatale lands his dream job in a most unusual way
By Terri Akman

These are tough times for college grads to find meaningful jobs, and tough times require tough measures. Just ask Voorhees’ Sebastian DiNatale, 24, who believes it’s what you know, not who you know, when it comes to starting a career. His creativity and tenacity landed him in his dream job – working on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

 

You got your job with the Jon Stewart show in a unique way. What started it all? 

When I was a senior at Gettysburg College, two of my friends went to see “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Before each show, Jon warms up the crowd by taking questions. My friends asked him a question, and Jon wanted to know what college they were from. They said Gettysburg, and he started riffing on them and that got it started. When they actually taped the show, Jon made a joke comparing colleges, and said that Gettysburg is a s**thole. Everyone laughed. It was an inside joke, because no one outside of the audience knew why he made that comment.

 

As a Gettysburg student, how did you react?

I was the head of the campus television station at the time, and my good friend who worked with me said we should make a response video. We put together a script and were able to shoot it, edit it and put it live on YouTube by the next day, which was an ambitious endeavor. The whole point was that we wanted to get it out at the same time so it was relevant. We wanted to make the video in the vein of a Daily Show segment.

 

What was the reaction?

The next day we got an email from the lead executive producer for “The Daily Show.” It was weird, because we hadn’t sent the video to them. They had just stumbled upon it on YouTube. He said it was really funny, and if we ever wanted to come up to see how they taped the show, they’d love to show us. That was really neat for us, and an extremely kind and generous offer. We went up a month later, got a tour of the studio and got to meet Jon, the correspondents and writers.

 

How did you come to work for the show?

At the end of our tour, they said if we needed a job after college they would look out for us if there was anything available. Once I graduated, I had mostly a lot of informational interviews with the show. But no one was getting promoted, being fired or quitting, so every month or two I’d send a follow-up email. During that time I was technically a freelance production assistant, though I never got to work on any major projects. With a few, I got to go up to New York to help out with some shoots or edits, but nothing legitimate. It took a good eight months after college, but something finally opened, and I snagged the job.

 

What is your job?

I’m a production assistant and coordinator for thedailyshow.com. I develop original content and provide day-to-day maintenance of the website and help create exclusive digital features, such as “Ask a Correspondent,” where we get to work with the correspondents and produce an exclusive web video, versus something that goes on-air. I do a lot of back-end stuff, such as sponsorships with the website, and I devise social media strategies. I also write the newsletters that go out to subscribers.

 

How are you enjoying it?

It’s very hard to put into words exactly how happy I am. It’s such a wonderful job because I’m in a place with extremely creative, funny, funny people, working for a project that I really support. Especially for people my age who are just out of college and faced with today’s job market, I consider it extremely fortunate to be doing something I absolutely love. On weekends, I get bored, because I’m not at work. That’s really dorky, but I love coming to work every day. Of all of the possible avenues of politics or humor, I was lucky enough to land a job that fuses both of those together.

 

What would you like to do next professionally?

I could do the job I have now for another two or three years and be totally fine, but I’m a bit of an ambitious person. I definitely want to pursue comedy in the short term. And I definitely want to go back to graduate school because I still have a whole lot more to learn, whether it be in public policy or journalism or even science – I’m starting to get fascinated with physics. I’m all over the place! Most practically, my short-term goal would be to have a significant role in the writers’ room of a comedy show, more specifically “The Daily Show.” Eventually, once I get the comedy bug out of me, I’ll start learning again and then make an actual difference in society, rather than just making fun of it.

 

Political satire is your true passion. What makes it so much fun?

I view almost every aspect of everything in the world, whether it’s society, culture, media or politics, through a humorous lens. A lot of people think that means I don’t take it seriously, but what it actually means is I think comedy can play a tremendous role in accurately receiving information as unbiased in its purest form. When you watch something like “The Daily Show,” or you’re engaging in political satire or political humor, there needs to be a basic understanding of politics first to set up the punch line, and then the joke is made. The joke itself isn’t biased – that’s what’s driving the humor. We use facts and reality to create jokes. When you look at politics in its purest form, it’s one of the funniest things that exists.

 

Tell us about your family’s foundation, The Alicia Rose “Victorious” Foundation, created after your sister passed away from cancer in 2002. 

Our mission statement is to provide comfort and care for teenagers facing life-threatening illnesses. More specifically, we provide a place for teenagers in children’s hospitals to feel comfortable when they are going through what is considered by many to be the toughest part of their lives. And that’s not even referring to dealing with a severe disease – it’s just dealing with being a teenager.

Teens have to go to children’s hospitals, where often they only have amenities for children. Teens are obviously not children and certainly not adults, so we found there was a void in providing specific, pointed care for teenagers with life threatening illnesses. After Alicia died, we figured the best way to give back and to cope was to make the lives of her friends who were currently in the hospital a little easier. I’m super proud of all the things we’ve accomplished over the years.

 

What do you most look forward to when you come home?

My nonna’s and my mom’s cooking. As much Italian food as there is in New York, it’s not the same as their chicken cutlets and gnocchi. I also miss trees and nature. Every time I go back I take a walk in the woods or around the lake. There’s a stillness and slowness that, compared to the city, is a relief. I appreciate that.

August 2012
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