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Up late: New local TV program puts best of Vermont on stage

Tim Kavanaugh
photo by Jessica K. Kell

By Shay Totten | Vermont Guardian

posted September 22, 2006

Carson, Leno, Letterman, O’Brien — Kavanaugh?

Starting Saturday, late-night TV viewers will have a new personality to grace their screens, Tim Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh, a salesman at WCAX-TV and an actor and standup comic, will host Late Night Saturday, a weekly show that is being described as a cross between Saturday Night Live and the Tonight Show: part ensemble cast, which will act out skits, coupled with musical and other special guests.

The first show will feature Rusty Dewees, otherwise known as “The Logger,” and Jennifer Hartswick as a musical guest. On Sept. 30, guests will include former Survivor star Kathy O’Brien and the music of the Starline Rhythm Boys. On Oct. 7, author Joe Citro will be the guest and Abby Jenne the featured musician.

Kavanaugh has been working on this project for three years, and when the first episode airs it will include the help of more than 40 others, from fellow TV professionals at WCAX-TV to friends in local theater troupes and Champlain College students.

“I thought a show like this could succeed based on the fact that this is locally produced about local guests, musical guests, comedians,” said Kavanaugh. “Burlington has such a diverse population of people interested in the arts.”

It has taken time to get this first episode on the air. The pilot episode was to be shot in April 2005, but that didn’t happen until November. From there, Kavanaugh was able to make a pitch to his bosses at WCAX to air the show and begin to hunt for sponsors. There are now several key sponsors, including Champlain College.

And that makes sense. Aside from being a locally produced variety and late-night talk show that may help either launch or cement careers for budding artists, the program is also a learning laboratory for Champlain College students.

Nancy Kerr, the media communications program director at Champlain College, has a class that has taken on the show as a project as part of its video practicum. They will be running cameras, hanging lights, setting up the mike, and acting as floor manager.

Byran Agran, who works at WCAX and teaches at Champlain College in Kerr’s department, is the show’s technical director.

“For my kids, I love it,” said Kerr. “It’s a hands-on application of what we’re trying to do in our classes, so it’s a great résumé builder.”

The show tapes every other week, taping two shows at a time. On the off weeks the crew — students included — will critique the show from a production standpoint, Kerr said, not according to content.

The students will help with some post-production work, but Kerr said the crew will keep to Kavanaugh’s vision — which is a show that has little tampering and maintains as much of a “live” feel as it can.

“I perceive this show, from what I’ve seen so far, as being the SNL for people who are now over 30,” Kerr said.

Abram Corbett, a returning student who recently left the culinary arts to seek a degree in broadcasting, is one of the show’s crewmembers. He worked with Kavanaugh and others on the production of the pilot episode, and was asked to return to help with the live tapings.

He calls working on the show an incredible learning opportunity, something he didn’t expect so early in college.

“I have been involved in a wide range of tasks that have lent to great experience and learning. I worked on segment production of comedy skits, where I learned about proper field sound and lighting techniques. I have worked in the field shooting segment footage, where I have learned about proper industry format in writing electronic media scripts. I have worked alongside the floor manager, where I learned the importance of choreographed movement on the set during the shoot,” said Corbett.

There have been difficulties and a learning curve as well, Corbett said. He often finds a plethora of questions arising during a session, but the fast pace makes it so he doesn’t have time to get them out.

“Television production can be laborious physically and mentally. But like the tough work that kitchens dish out, it is similarly very gratifying to stand back and see your efforts being appreciated by the people,” said Corbett.

Kavanaugh is hoping that the show’s mix of talent, both on staff and from guests, will draw viewers from throughout Vermont and beyond.

“Outside of Burlington is very important to me, and you will see a number of guests representing areas from all over Vermont and beyond,” said Kavanaugh. “We will also bring folks in from Canada, as WCAX-TV is the official CBS affiliate for all of Quebec and parts of Ontario, including Ottawa.”

He has some help in that department: Nicole Fenton, who works for Harwood Moses Chambers, an advertising and public relations agency in Stowe, and Sarah Badger, who is the chief spokeswoman for Vermont Teddy Bear, are helping line up guests for the show.

Kavanaugh also will have a regular troupe of actors to call upon to help with the show’s skits.

“We have a number of performers for some of the regular skits as well, as I have called on and will continue to call on local theater groups to be a part of a skit,” said Kavanaugh.

The show will be taped before a live studio audience in Champlain College’s Alumni Auditorium, and the stage is set up so it can accommodate skits, musical acts, and seated guests.

“Half the stage is set up as the interview area with me behind a desk and guests on chairs. Like Carson, I will keep the guests out with me through the end of the show. The other half of the stage is the performing area for bands, theater groups, comedians, and live skits,” said Kavanaugh.

The show will open with a two-minute monologue delivered by Kavanaugh, then “on with the show.” With commercial breaks, that means a total of 22 minutes to fill.

“And 22 minutes goes by fast,” he said.

To find out more about upcoming guests and how to get tickets to be part of the live studio audience, visit

About Tim Kavanaugh

Kavanagh, who grew up in Newport, began his Burlington acting career with the Champlain College Theater Department while attending the school. He went on to perform in numerous theater productions with Lyric Theatre and also with other local theater companies.

Having hosted numerous live events, Kavanagh was acknowledged on Entertainment Tonight for serving as master of ceremonies for Jim Carrey at his wrap party for the feature film Me, Myself, and Irene.

Kavanagh’s comedy career continued when he joined forces with local comedy troupe Kamikaze Comedy in 2003. Most recently, he performed improv comedy at The House of Blues and The Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.

He lives in Burlington with his wife Sherry and three sons.