When six Prosper High School seniors came together underneath the guidance of broadcast teacher Brian Kennedy to create and operate a new comedy show, they were simply trying to break away from the constraints of traditional broadcast media. What they didn’t expect was an invitation from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Executive Producer Chris Licht to fly out to New York City to attend meetings with the writing and production teams and the show’s rehearsal.
The student’s comedy show, “The Mid-Morning After 10, But Still Just Before Lunch Show,” aired six episodes from September to December. Kennedy reached out to several national comedy shows about the school’s production.
“The executive producer said that the thing that caught his eye is were just a small public school in Texas and not just any other private school,” Technical Director Abner Murillo said.
Hosting a group of students is a first for the show, Licht said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. Kennedy said what set Prosper High School’s production apart from others is the level of quality the students maintain with the same level or fewer resources.
“We’re not a magnet, were not a (Gifted and Talented) center for actors or television producers, so we’re offering an opportunity to kids in public schools to do something they can dream about, and hopefully that’s something that Prosper, Texas, becomes known for is those opportunities,” Kennedy said.
The students write, produce and act out their own show. Before the creation of The Mid-Morning Show, broadcast content created by the students had to follow a more traditional media model, tying the script back to newsworthy events with less creative freedom. This group of boys wanted to pursue a less conventional pathway for broadcast. Music Director Ty Bowman wants to be an actor. Show Host Brady Powers always gravitated toward making people laugh, and Comedian Cutter Nielsen comes up with a lot of the show’s content. Kennedy thought they were the perfect team to pull off comedy.
“The main reason we wanted to do it is we have a four year program here for broadcast and television, and a lot of the kids go through the news cycle by the time they’re juniors, and there’s a lot of them that have a different interest in television, and we wanted to provide an opportunity — one because teenagers like to do comedy, so we have a place dedicated for that, and two to give them a different experience from just live news,” Kennedy said.
The boys, accompanied by Kennedy, got to sit in on closed meetings with the production and writing teams, listening in on the evolution of the show’s jokes and discussions of setting up the various backdrops and sets. They also got to hang out with Colbert, shadowing him and his team for a day. Powers said the experience helped confirm that he was on the right path with comedy.
“I think when we went to “The Late Show with Colbert” and we got to see the writers meetings and all of the behind the scenes stuff, and I think just seeing every person walk in just happy as can be walking to work (helped validate that I’m on the right track),” Powers said. “They get to write jokes for a living, or Stephen Colbert gets to tell jokes for a living or be a producer of a comedy show. I didn’t see one unhappy person there, and seeing everybody happy going to their job every single day … I want to do that. I absolutely want to do that.”
All six of the boys are graduating in May, leaving a comedy show-sized hole for Kennedy to fill. Kennedy said there are about 80 students in the program this year, and now he has 100 students wanting to be in the program next year. The students undergo an intensive three-day audition before being placed in their respective broadcast roles.
“In the early stages of the program, everybody does everything, and they all learn all the aspects of broadcast or television,” Kennedy said. “But as they specialize, this is their practicum year, we want to give them an opportunity to say, ‘OK, what do you want to do?’ So there’s some student choice there … ‘What do you want to learn before you go out in the world? Well, let’s do it. You dream, I’ll figure it out.’ And that’s kind of where we’re at.”