Allison Silverman ’94, a comedy writer for the “Late Show with Conan O’Brien,” is living her dream.
“It’s like being God,” Silverman said. “It’s really something great to be in an audience, watch the people react to material I write, but be anonymous.”
Often inserting witty anecdotes, Silverman spoke about her life after Yale, her work as a comedy writer, and the challenges facing a woman in a predominately male workplace. The Yale Record co-sponsored the Master’s Tea in Pierson College Thursday. Silverman has won both an Emmy and a Peabody Award for the comedy writing she did on her former job, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
At Yale, Silverman was in Trumbull College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in humanities. She was also a member of the Exit Players, an improvisational comedy group.
After graduating from college, Silverman became a part of Chicago’s improvisational comedy community. However, she opted to work as a receptionist and a cashier at a plant shop while re-evaluating her interests. She said that at the end of one year, she realized she did not want to become an actress.
Instead, she became a puppeteer and then gradually moved back to improvisational comedy. She moved overseas to Amsterdam with BoomChicago, a theater organization focusing on slapstick comedy.
“It was the first time I was able to make a living and perform and write,” she said. “I lived by a leap of faith for a long time. It was tough to see my Yale friends making money and they seemed to know what they were doing.”
Silverman eventually returned to America and began to submit comedic writing samples to television shows while living in New York City. Her work aired on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and she eventually landed a job at “The Daily Show” after calling the show’s head writers.
Mollie Wilson ’03, editor in chief of The Yale Record, said she enjoyed listening to Silverman share her experiences.
“It was nice to hear from someone who is doing what it is I want to do,” Wilson said.
Silverman said many of the show’s staffers had done odd jobs for 10 years before doing what they wanted to do. As for her success, she said luck must have played a part.
“There must have been a planetary alignment,” Silverman said.
In talking about her experience with the Conan O’Brien show, Silverman shared anecdotes from the show, including one about rap star P. Diddy. During one rehearsal, P. Diddy squeezed himself and his 20-person entourage into a dressing room that was filled with champagne but was also “the size of a weenie bin in [Cross Campus Library],” Silverman said.
Jules Lipoff ’03, chairman of The Yale Record, said the organization invited Silverman to Yale because she would expose students to the industry.
“The Record tries to encourage and support comedy on campus,” Lipoff said. “We want the students to see what careers are available in comedy.”
Silverman said she enjoyed visiting her alma mater and remembering her college years.
“I look back fondly on my time at Yale,” Silverman said. “I had a hard time adjusting to graduating from college. I missed the college scene a lot.”