Up All Night
Meet Naki Franklin ’17, a senior at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and aspiring late-night comedy writer. After winning the internship of her dreams, Naki has lots to share about networking, social media, and how taking a risk might be the most rewarding choice a person can make.
1. First of all: You’re currently in the midst of an exciting internship. Tell us about that.
I work in the social media department at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. My job involves supporting the digital programmers who produce content for social media. I create GIFs from each night’s episode, write social media copy, track trends and press coverage, and maintain calendars. Recently, some GIFs that I made went viral, gaining more than 20,000 retweets.
2. You’ve said that your eventual goal is to write for late-night comedy shows and scripted comedy television programs. Has your internship given you a window into that world?
Yes! I’ve had a front-row seat, observing writers, showrunners, and producers. Before this internship, I had broad ideas of what people in these roles did, but actually watching them has given me a better understanding of their positions, television-show hierarchies, and potential career paths.
3. How did you go about getting your internship?
In February 2020, a large media and entertainment company emailed me to interview for an internship at another late-night television show. I had no connections or industry experience; I’d just submitted my resume and gotten lucky. Although I didn’t end up getting that internship, the fact that I had made it to the interview stage showed me that my goals were within reach.
During quarantine, I stepped up my networking game on LinkedIn by adding employees from my dream companies. I’d introduce myself, my goals, and how I’d found them, but I never asked for anything in return besides connecting on LinkedIn. People were so receptive! Some offered informational interviews, and I had great conversations with others. In July, one of the individuals I’d met virtually told me that her company, NBCUniversal, would soon be accepting applications for fall internships. Long story short, she ended up referring me. To this day, we’ve never met in person. I’ve found that virtual networking can be just as impactful as in-person networking.
4. When you started college, you intended to go into the computer science field. What encouraged you to take a chance on a less traditional career path?
I have always been ambitious. As a kid, I wanted to become an Olympic soccer player, orthopedic surgeon, author, astronaut, creative director, and more. When college came around, I decided to major in computer science because it offered job stability, a good salary, and a clear career path. Yet I’ve never been a math and science person – I’ve always been creative and enjoyed art and literature. I was miserable coding every day, so I chose happiness and decided to leave computer science for English and creative writing.
5. You discovered your love of late-night comedy through a college group. Talk about that experience.
When I changed my major, I didn’t really know where I was going. One of my trivia team friends suggested that I look into a campus organization called Aggie Night Live, a student-run variety show. I’ve always written short stories and dramas, but at ANL, I began to write sketch comedy. This experience led me to realize that late-night television is what I want to pursue. I had never considered writing comedy before joining ANL, and without it, I would never have gotten my internship at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
6. Have there been any challenges in the pursuit of your career that you didn’t expect? How have you dealt with them?
The biggest challenge has been adjusting to the entertainment industry culture. It can be normal to work unusual hours and say “yes” to assignments and requests before knowing what they entail. I deal with this by remembering my goals and my “why.”
7. Do you have any advice for others who might be looking to go into a similar field?
Like everyone, I’m learning as I go. But I cannot say enough about the value of networking. It’s important in every industry, but it’s vital in entertainment and media. I hear about the majority of job opportunities from other people in the industry, and many of them are not shared with the public. Networking can be as simple as introducing yourself to someone or sending them an article about something they’ve shown interest in. You’d be surprised how many people will remember you and be willing to help you move toward your goals.
Take a look at some of the GIFs Naki has made during her time with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon!