Formula and routine are what drive the entertainment industry. While there’s plenty of room for innovation it’s rare to see new concepts, because innovative ideas are unproven by definition and investors loathe to gamble their money away on projects with uncertain ROIs. The film industry is a perfect example of this phenomenon, with its constant remakes and sequels to 20-year-old films. While formula and routine are sometimes necessities, it can also lead to boring sameness and sterility. Late night talk shows do not escape this pitfall and sometimes the only meaningful difference between respective shows is the host. Fortunately, Late Night Republic and its dynamic and oddball front man, Jake Sasseville, are shaking things up with a hybrid sketch comedy talk show. Sasseville was happy to entertain a few questions from Working Author regarding the past, present and future of the show and how interested readers can help bring Late Night Republic to their local stations.
Late Night Republic derives its name from “Late Night” – the time of day the show airs – and from “Republic” – a supreme power that lies in a body of citizens. “That is to say, it is late night television with the people in mind. First and foremost,” Sasseville clarifies. A few months ago he and his business partner and executive producer, Travis Granfar, were discussing the format for a new show and Sasseville said, “…it would be one where we have a central NYC staff and we listen to and pay and use the ideas of everyday Americans who, just like me, have dreams, are a work in progress, want to do good things for good people.” Thus, the seeds of democracy and late night entertainment were sewn together and Late Night Republic is the fruit of that labor.
According to Sasseville, “Late Night Republic is [the] #1 underdog TV show in late night. It’s [a] late night chat show and comedy series featuring celebrities, comedy segments, great new music featured at the end of the show, and what hopefully amounts to commentary on our society from Gen Y’s point of view. It’s the only show nationally syndicated on Fox, CW and MyNetworkTV that is hosted by a 24-year-old.” What he leaves out, however, is that the Late Night Republic talent is fresh, the guests are truly unique and the segments are funnier than what you can find in other late night television shows. Unlike other talk shows, Late Night Republic isn’t just packed with celebrities selling their latest projects. Viewers will also be treated to interviews with a beatboxer who teaches children how to read or the owner of a company that takes care of Christian’s pets should the rapture come and leave these animals without masters. Unlike a straight sketch comedy, Late Night Republic is more coherent and crafts a narrative for each episode rather than have random vignettes with no relation to each other. One episode has Late Night Republic writers creating ridiculous public service announcements for Sasseville to read off cue cards, which he does so, completely oblivious to what he’s saying. Finally, it’s worth noting that while other programs will go to the streets to find people to humiliate on national television, Late Night Republic never seems to make fun of other people, but rather make fun with other people.
The man-on-the-street segments are actually some of the more refreshing aspects of the show. “You see what comes out good,” Sasseville comments. “Sometimes I go too far. I get on a stream of consciousness thing and literally don’t realize what comes out – just go for it. I’m learning to navigate that a bit. The most intimidating part of the job is going up to random people. No producer clears them before I approach them. Some look like they are going to punch me before I get a word in. It’s fun. I love people. It’s fascinating to see where people come from, and then to guide them in a place where they can shine. That’s the magic. There’s never any magic in making fun of people.”
At 24, Jake Sasseville is young, but more importantly he’s youthful. He has the drive, determination and imagination to make his unique vision of late night entertainment a reality and he is constantly striving to make sure that Late Night Republic reaches the widest audience possible. “If executives at the highest levels of the companies don’t take my calls, I send them shoes in the mail with the note [that reads] ‘Now that I have one foot in the door, call me so I can get the other one in too.’” He adds, “A Bing.com executive took a meeting with me immediately following that. We’ve become good friends and he has my $200 Nike shoe up on his window in his office still! I will go to headquarters of companies if they don’t take my call with a camera crew and work my way in and get them to say ‘Yes’. I’m pretty abrasive. Remember, I’m the kid with the dream and who New York Magazine says ‘will get a TV Network contract even if it kills him.’ And that mantra is true.” As an example of his outrageous behavior, Sasseville went to the headquarters of burger restaurant chain Wendy’s and broke a world record by having the most women named Wendy show up for lunch at the Wendy’s in front of the offices. “The real Wendy (daughter of Dave Thomas) showed up and whispered ‘My father would have just loved you!’”
Watching Sasseville on Late Night Republic it would be easy to describe him as having an unabashed curiosity of the world and people around him. From the opening moments of each episode Sasseville is shown staring off with childlike wonder at the bright lights of the big city. His trademark facial expression also seems to be one of constant amazement – eyes wide and mouth agape – but betraying nothing of what’s really on his mind. As such, he is aggressively unpredictable. “I’m not funny scripted,” he admits. “I’m best unscripted, where I can roam, learn, interact, engage, figure things out and take the audience with me.” So when he’s asked a non-serious question about his wild hair, it’s surprising when he replies with something very sober. “It was falling out. So I invested in it and found a great stylist….” It’s also difficult to know if he’s being frank when he says that “love” is his ultimate goal or if he’s just kidding.
Nevertheless, it’s this dynamism and unscripted feel that keeps Jake Sasseville and Late Night Republic eminently watchable night after night. “I don’t rehearse. I can’t. It frustrates most of my producers. I retain information like my left foot retains water on a trans-Atlantic flight though. So I’m able to get a ton of information fairly quickly, be told where I need to get it, and magically, somehow, get there. Sometimes it’s a rough ride, but it’s real fun!”
Sasseville is hyper-aware that he has a unique and exciting product. When asked why people should watch his show instead of other late night shows, he alters the question to why should people get involved. “Late Night has been programmed by white haired executives in Burbank and NYC since it started in the 50s,” he continues. “And yet, we’re at a point where crowd sourcing is really working. What we’re doing is deconstructing the late night model – guests, music, wardrobe, set design, publicity, behind the scenes – everything – and we’re re-building it, piece by piece, using [and] employing members of the generation all over the country as part of the ‘Republic’ to produce it hand-in-hand with us.”
In 2007 through 2008, Sasseville launched a digital campaign titled “I Want My Jake After Jimmy on ABC” on a music tour with top acts, such as Kanye West, One Republic and more. The campaign rallied 100,000 people and flooded station managers with requests for Jake After Jimmy, earning Sasseville lawsuit threats from Disney for spam, but also a meeting with ABC. Now Jake Sasseville and Late Night Republic are going straight to the people once again to get the show on air in more markets. “We are going on the LNR RoadTrip2010 which is backed by FRS Healthy Energy. Really great idea to engage people on a local level. We air in 75 markets, picked 45 and are traveling to them this Fall. We’re holding massive scale fun events in each city to drive awareness and engagement with our local audiences. We win by winning locally. We get it. And so we’re making it happen locally.”
Jake Sasseville seems to be made for late night talk shows. While other hosts typically come from other career paths, like acting and stand-up comedy or are using hosting as a stepping stone to other career paths, Sasseville appears to have started his career in a place he won’t want to leave. When asked why he chose to be a talk show host as his career path, he narrows his answer down to four thoughts. “I’m a great talker. I listen like no one else out there. I have an ability to connect with nearly anyone, in any situation, at anytime, no matter what. I love it.”