STL Up Late host Eric Christensen interviews a guest.
In March 2015, local late-night talk show STL Up Late recorded yet another episode in front of a live studio audience. The cast and crew assembled much as they have since the show’s debut on October 12, 2013, but with one major difference: This taping would not be split into bite-sized chunks for YouTube. Instead, the night would stay intact as a pilot episode, boosting STL Up Late from a live studio show to a full-blown TV production on local CBS affiliate KMOV (Channel 4), which officially offered the program a slot on its schedule beginning in November.
“They’re giving us a shot but waiting to see if we can pull it off,” says Eric Christensen, host and co-founder of STL Up Late.
STL Up Late needs $35,000 to make the jump to television.
Christensen grew up in Murray, Kentucky, and started pursuing comedy as a high schooler. In 2006, he moved to Chicago where he studied and performed at ComedySportz, CiC Theater, iO Theater and Second City. Despite being deeply involved with the improv and standup scenes there, he relocated to St. Louis in 2012.
“For a brief period, I was a stay-at-home dad with my daughter,” Christensen says. “For some reason, I started watching late-night talk shows. It just kind of hit me that this would be a great way to show off the city of St. Louis and continue doing comedy. I just had a baby, but I wasn’t able to get out. It seemed like a win-win.”
He met with friend and local filmmaker Josh McNew to pitch the idea, and the two developed STL Up Late with a small but dedicated writing staff. Performers were sourced from local comedians and improvisers, and soon the crew assembled for its first show at the Satori Theatre.
“It was busting at the seams the first night. I had butterflies in my stomach and felt like I was going to vomit,” Christensen says. “That felt amazing. I know the show wasn’t great by today’s standards, but it was such an amazing night.” He adds that the shows have gotten progressively better, and that the whole production is ready to take on the new challenge of TV.
“There’s a point when you’ve been doing a certain kind of show for a long time, you get in the habit and get comfortable. We’re kind of a machine now. We know how to do this, but we can push ourselves to do something more,” he says.
In July, the production moved from its home at the Satori Theatre to the Marcelle, a new space located in Grand Center. The facility, funded by the Kranzberg family, offers more options for studio lighting and sound — essential for live production.
Last month, the crew took to Kickstarter with a goal of $35,000 — the bare minimum needed to purchase the equipment necessary for tapings. At press time, the campaign is shy by nearly ten grand, and there’s just four days left. With Kickstarter, programs must meet their goal in order to receive funding. Being even $1 short would mean that STL Up Late would not receive a single penny.
But if funded, STL Up Late will debut on KMOV in early November. Although the show is hyper-local, the crew plans on bringing in guests who are only tangentially connected to St. Louis, such as actors filming in town or bands passing through on tour.
“The station will get whatever the show is in TV form, and any digital rights we’ll have,” Christensen says. “The online show will probably be longer than what you see on broadcast.”
Past episodes, split into shorter clips of live music, interviews and sketches, can be found on YouTube or at www.stluplate.com. Christensen says the cast still plans on offering content online while working through social media to promote full episodes.
“We want to keep pushing ourselves to be better and do things on a grander scale with this show,” he explains. “That’s what motivates us. Let’s struggle again; let’s bring those butterflies back. We’ll get great again, and get better at making a TV show.”