What a producer on ‘The Tonight Show’ does in a workday

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Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from Sarah Connell, a supervising producer for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” who recorded a workday in June.

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Job title: Supervising producer/head of segment producing department for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”

Previous jobs: I’ve had the truly unique experience of working my entire career in late-night television. From 2002 to 2014, I worked at “Late Show With David Letterman.” I started as an intern in fall 2002 and left the show in fall 2014 as a producer. I have been working in late night for nearly 20 years!

What led me to my current role: Ever since I was 14, I have wanted to work in 30 Rock. I was obsessed with “Saturday Night Live” and late-night TV and dreamed of working in New York City. After studying film and TV production at Fitchburg State College, I interned in the talent booking department at “Late Show With David Letterman.” Shortly after my internship ended, I was offered a job answering phones, which eventually led to being a talent assistant, talent coordinator, talent booker and ultimately a segment producer. In 2014, I was offered a position as a segment producer at “The Tonight Show” (finally made it to 30 Rock!) and in February 2020, I was promoted to supervising producer to run the segment producing department.

How I spend the majority of my workday: I am a mom of two boys — who are 8 and 5 — so the day starts early. My mornings are spent getting ready, making breakfast, prepping the kids’ lunches, answering Slacks and emails, and bringing the kids to summer camp before catching the train.

The majority of my time is spent working on guest interview segments. We have anywhere from 10 to 13 guests on the show per week, and I am in charge of overseeing all of them. I have an incredible team of segment producers, and we each produce two to three guests a week.

The prep for each guest starts a week or so out from their appearance. When producing a guest, I watch the project they’re promoting, brainstorm fun things for them to do with Jimmy, pitch ideas, read through a comprehensive research packet that has been put together by our incredible research team, and compile topics that could lead to a fun and interesting conversation with Jimmy.

Before their appearance, I have a pre-interview phone call with the guest. From that conversation, I narrow down the topics that could be fun for Jimmy to dive into during the interview. When I’m not working on the guest that I’m personally producing, I’m checking in with the other producers to discuss their segments. We are a very collaborative department and are constantly talking and bouncing ideas off each other throughout the day.

5:40 a.m.: Alarm goes off at 5:40 a.m. because I think today is the day I’m going to want to work out before my kids get up. Turns out, it’s not that day, and I snooze until 6:23 a.m. Once I get out of bed, I start getting ready and answer any early emails and Slacks about that day’s show.

7:30 a.m.: My boys usually wake up anytime between 6 and 7 a.m., but we had a big weekend, so they sleep in. I make them breakfast and we chat while I pack up their lunches. It’s their first day of summer camp and they are excited.

8:55 a.m.: Head out and catch the train. I usually work throughout my train ride to and from work. I have a guest on today’s show — Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. I write up a segment outline that goes to our showrunner, and work on the segment notes for the interview, which will go to Jimmy later today. The drafts for these notes go to our amazing research team who meticulously proofread and fact-check everything.

10:30 a.m.: Daily Zoom production meeting where we go over the details of what’s happening in that day’s show and then look ahead to upcoming shows for the rest of this week and next.

11 a.m.: I work on finalizing my segment notes and go over segment notes for the other guests appearing on that day’s show and give any notes or feedback.

1:30 p.m.: Take my covid test and grab a salad from Sweetgreen downstairs.

3:45 p.m.: Go backstage to the prop department to double-check the props, photos and any other elements being used in the guest segments today.

4:30 p.m.: Michaela Jaé Rodriguez arrives. I go to her dressing room to greet her and go over the segment with her. This is her very first time on the show and she’s so excited to be here.

4:50 p.m.: Jimmy stops by Michaela Jaé’s dressing room to welcome her.

5 p.m.: Show taping begins.

5:35 p.m.: In the commercial break before Michaela Jaé’s segment, I give Jimmy desk notes for the interview and update him with timing for the segment.

6:15 p.m.: Pre-interview phone call with Steve Carell, my guest on tomorrow’s show.

8:15 p.m.: Arrive home just in time for bedtime. The boys tell me about their first day of summer camp. They loved it!

9 p.m.: Boys are in bed (a little later than we planned). The workday continues. There are still a couple of segment edits to sign-off on. After wrapping up edits, my husband and I (and our dog Millie) sit on the couch with bowls of pasta and debrief about the day. Then, we watch a little TV. We’re re-watching “Veep” right now.

10:45 p.m.: Time for bed. I set the alarm for 5:40 a.m. juuust in case tomorrow is the day I work out.

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