Baker McNamara spent much of his childhood watching late night shows like “Saturday Night Live” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” dreaming of the day he could walk into 30 Rockefeller Plaza and work among his favorite comedians.
After applying for internships at late night shows like Jimmy Fallon and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” for roughly four years, McNamara, a senior media studies and production major, received a phone call from an agent who offered him an internship for either Meyers or Fallon.
“I remember being like, ‘okay, one moment, please’ and literally muting the phone and screaming bloody murder,” McNamara said. “I knew on that phone call that I wanted to do the ‘Tonight Show’ because it’s the ‘Tonight Show,’ that’s like, the pillar of late night television.”
In January, McNamara started interning at “The Tonight Show,” commuting to Rockefeller Plaza in New York from Philadelphia by train every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He delivers mail, gets food and coffee for staff writers and helps writing assistants piece together their creative packets that consist of the skits, monologues and segments planned out for the show that day.
Sometimes, he “stands-in” as Fallon during show rehearsals, where he helps determine angles and lighting or read monologues off the teleprompter to figure out timing.
McNamara does not mind doing menial tasks because he is working at his dream job, interacting with staff members and learning about show business.
On March 29, however, these tasks became a gateway to something bigger when his boss asked him to send a producer headshots of all the male interns.
Fallon chose McNamara to be featured in one of their recurring skits, “Let Us Play With Your Look,” where a guest on the show plays with an audience member’s look, because Fallon “liked his face,” McNamara said.
He was placed in the back of the audience and selected by Jared Leto, an actor and musician and guest on the show that night, to enter the stage and sit on a white chair surrounded by plastic bags of blue gel as Fallon sang in the background.
Leto grabbed a bag of blue gel and rubbed it in McNamara’s hair then threw white powder at him.
Although McNamara’s hair and shirt were coated in gel after the skit, he loved every second of it, he said.
“It just all felt so surreal,” McNamara said. “That entire experience was so incredible.”
Immediately after leaving the stage, he washed up and returned to completing work for his internship, he said.
Sherri Hope Culver first met McNamara when he was a work study student for the Center for Media and Information Literacy, which aims to increase media literacy, in Fall 2020 and felt his attitude on stage was telling of McNamara as a person because he is always a good sport and does what he can to help people out, she said
“He’s like the student that you always want in your class,” said Culver, McNamara’s mentor and associate media studies and production professor. “He is a go-getter. He is willing to do whatever needs to be done to make the job excellent.”
Culver believes his perseverance and positive attitude helped McNamara secure his internship and feels these characteristics will benefit him in his future career, she said.
In addition to interning and attending classes, McNamara is a co-host at Temple Talk, Temple’s entertainment talk show, and was previously music director at WHIP, Temple’s student-run radio station.
While working at WHIP in Fall 2019, McNamara met AnnaMarie Otor, WHIP’s former web director, and the two instantly clicked. They began hanging out in and outside of work and are still close friends today.
She was excited to see McNamara on TV because she knows working at “The Tonight Show” has been a dream of his for many years, said Otor, a communication specialist at Philadelphia’s Public Health Department and 2021 public health alumna.
“He is definitely one of the most driven people that I know, and it’s no surprise to me that he has been so successful in just sort of building his career path so far,” Otor said.
Although McNamara’s internship will end in June, he feels his time and experiences on “The Tonight Show” will aid in securing him a job in the entertainment industry post-gradation and hopes to one day host his own TV show, he said.
“Working at ‘The Tonight Show’, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is like what I want to do for the rest of my life,’” McNamara said. “I’m just so fulfilled, I’m having so much fun, and also, like, I feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself.”