May 30, 2024
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Sara Molinari produces late-night laughter

Are you going to have a busy week? Sara Molinari ’13, MS ’14, hears that often and frequently struggles for an answer. Each day has craziness that has to be lived to be appreciated.

Molinari is an associate producer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS. She communicates the supervising producer/ writer’s comedic vision to graphic designers so that what you see on the screen will scratch your itch for satire and make you laugh. Her team tapes a show Monday through Wednesday, and two shows Thursday (Friday is debriefing day).

“It’s hard to explain how busy we are, because it’s just constant and totally based on the news cycle,” Molinari says. “Sometimes news will break or President Trump tweets something, and we have to redo everything.”

She stepped into the role last fall after about 18 months as a graphics researcher, sourcing images for the show, and working with the legal team to ensure content had been properly vetted.

“Because we’re on a major network, rights and clearances are very important,” she says.

The Late Show has worked both sides of Molinari’s brain; she was an accounting major who, in 2012, had an internship in production accounting for The Colbert Report. About a year after she graduated, she left her job at McGladrey [now RSM] to go back to Colbert.

“I did accounting for Colbert for about a year and a half, and when I became interested in production, they put me up for a graphics job,” Molinari says.

Not all the jokes go over as planned, and that’s part of the game, she says. The Late Show — and probably every news operation in the country — has a graphic in its morgue saying “Hillary Wins!” Molinari laughs when recalling a sketch about Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who worked for a company shut down for schemes including time travel, Sasquatch and a masculine toilet.

“We did a parody commercial that combined the three with Sasquatch on a time-traveling toilet. The staff loved it in rehearsal but during taping the audience didn’t laugh. During a break, Stephen ran over to my boss and said, ‘Well, whatever, I liked it.’ The audience didn’t like it, but Stephen did, so that’s still a win!”​

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