Take 5 with Chase Mitchell, Sketch Writer for 'The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon'
School of Communication and Journalism alumnus
College of Liberal Arts
Chase Mitchell writes jokes that can be heard by a few million people on any given night. A sketch writer for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Mitchell got his start in writing while a student at Auburn. The Atlanta, Georgia, native came to the Plains with the intention of studying either art or writing, but eventually settled on writing. Now more than 10 years post-graduation, the writing skills he learned at Auburn have propelled him to a big stage, having been nominated for an Emmy Award and a Writer's Guild of America Award.
1. What is your position with The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon?
I'm a sketch writer at the show. The sketch writers write and produce longer bits like "Thank You Notes," "Do Not Read," "Hashtags," etc., as well as some guest bits, like "Truth Or Truth" and "Explain This Photo." We also write most things in the monologue that aren't straight-to-camera jokes, such as graphics pieces, short videos and bits involving The Roots. I started at the show in October 2013, at the very end of when the show was still "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."
2. How did you land a job with The Tonight Show?
It's kind of a crazy story, actually. After a couple years of submitting things to CollegeHumor, I was hired full time to write at a site called Someecards. At the same time, I had also started a Twitter account, and was using it to tweet jokes. Amy Schumer came through Atlanta doing a comedy show, and I tweeted about it afterwards. She happened to read it, and then read my jokes, and asked to meet up with me for coffee to discuss it. She said she wanted to help me find a job, and she was extremely helpful in doing so. She went back to New York and told several showrunners about me. I was asked to submit packets for Fallon and for Saturday Night Live Weekend Update. I was still really new to writing jokes, so I got what was called "short-listed" at Fallon, which is basically "close but you're not ready yet." I wrote freelance for SNL Weekend Update for one season, and got a joke on my first week. Then Amy told her friend Nikki Glaser about me, and I was hired to write for a show called "Nikki & Sara Live" on MTV in 2013. That show lasted two seasons, and by then, people from Fallon came back around and asked me to submit again, and that time, I got it. I've been at the show for two and a half years now.
3. What's your favorite piece you've ever written for the show?
My first month at the show, I wrote a sketch where Jimmy and Paul McCartney bump into each other in a hallway and magically swap accents for a few minutes. I was brand new to the show and it was a huge deal to have gotten something like that on so quickly, and to be working with a legendary musician. Seeing him try to do an American accent was hilarious.
4. What made you choose journalism at Auburn, and when did you decide to use your talents for comedy writing instead of traditional journalism?
When I first came to Auburn, I was still deciding between pursuing writing and art, and I chose writing, because it seemed like a more practical career. I had heard about The Plainsman, and its reputation as a respected college newspaper, and I sought that out. Ironically, I was working so hard at the Plainsman that I nearly failed a Radio, Television and Film "Intro to TV Writing" class, which, in hindsight, would have come in handy. It wasn't until after college that I started contributing pieces to CollegeHumor, and realized how much I liked making people laugh.
5. How did your degree at Auburn prepare you for this opportunity?
Journalism taught me how to be a writer, and while it's a different kind of writing than what I'm doing now, I still learned a lot of basic skills at Auburn. Economy of words is an important one in comedy, because timing is everything. So using as few words as possible to get to the punchline is key. Also, since we're a topical show, I have to follow the news a lot. And it helps to have seen the news from both sides.
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