COMM alumna realizes dream of producing late night television

Gina Sprehe ('97)
Gina Sprehe (’97)

Gina Sprehe’s introduction to late night television did not happen until her freshman year of college.  She was not allowed to watch TV on weeknights while growing up, but once she got a taste of David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, she was hooked.

At the time, Sprehe was studying music at Baylor University and driving her roommate crazy with her new obsession.

“My roommate hated me because I would stay up until 2 a.m., and she had 8 a.m. classes,” Sprehe said.   “It would drive her bananas.”

That obsession soon turned into a career choice when Sprehe’s roommate came across a flyer on Baylor’s campus promoting a major in television.  Immediately interested, Sprehe researched the best media production programs in the nation. She decided to transfer to Florida State University’s School of Communication and study media production.

“I wanted to go to a school that was known for their media production program,” Sprehe said.

When it came time to fill the internship requirement, faculty member Mark Zeigler encouraged her to chase her dreams of working in late night television.  Sprehe applied to “Late Night with David Letterman”, but did not get the position.

“The next best thing was ‘The Rosie O’Donnell Show’ that was in its first season and it was like a late night format in the daytime,” Sprehe said.

Sprehe said her coursework and experience at Florida State helped her land the internship at “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”.

“The classes FSU offered were real-life stuff,” Sprehe said.  “When I was interviewing with the Rosie O’Donnell, the hands-on training really gave me a leg up on the competition.  It was because of the classes I had taken.”

Sprehe and Oprah Winfrey on the set of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Sprehe and Oprah Winfrey on the set of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

In 1999, Sprehe nabbed a great gig as a producer for “The Oprah Show.” She stayed at Oprah for 10 years before getting an opportunity to work with Jerry Seinfeld on “The Marriage Ref”, a TV reality show in which a rotating group of celebrities decided winners of real-life marriage disputes.

“It was in the middle of Oprah’s second-to-last season, so I had to make a decision,” Sprehe said.  “Do I go to comedy which is what I really love and work with one of my heroes or do I stay to do Oprah’s last season? I decided to roll the dice and move to New York and work with Jerry Seinfeld.  That show didn’t do well, but I got to work with Jerry and he was amazing.”

After her stint at “The Marriage Ref”, Sprehe became an executive producer for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) creating and managing all aspects of long-term show planning.

But Sprehe missed producing comedy. A few short weeks ago, Sprehe got her chance to return to comedy and delve into the late night genre as a human interest producer for “The Jimmy Kimmel Show.”

“When I got this opportunity to work with Jimmy Kimmel, I couldn’t believe it,” Sprehe said.  They were looking for someone with my daytime background who booked regular people and regular stories.

“I’m super-excited.  It’s so much fun because Jimmy really loves regular people.  One of the segments I’m working on now is a prom-posal.  You can’t just ask someone to the prom now … it has to be an extravaganza.  He wants to connect with people who don’t normally see on TV but have an amazing story.  I’m going to have so much fun with this job.”

Are you interested in a job in television?  Florida State’s media production program is a limited-access, cutting-edge program designed to prepare students for the rapidly changing world of digital media.