Tag Archives: Alisyn Camerota

Ten Minutes With Brian Kelsey

The history of late night TV talk show hosts is — well, pretty similar.

From Jack Paar and Johnny Carson through Jay Leno, David Letterman, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, guys* sit behind a desk. There’s a comfortable chair or sofa, an interesting backdrop, and (hopefully) interesting guests.

Zach Galifianakis broke the mold a bit. “Between Two Ferns” is a cult classic, available online.

If you liked his deliberately goofy approach — think early days of public access TV — you’ll love “Ten Minutes With.”

It too is on YouTube — not network TV. The set makes even the two ferns look lavish (guests sit in a lawn chair).

And it’s produced right here in Westport.

In Brian Kelsey’s garage.

Though he’s mined fellow Westporters as guests — CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and actress Stephanie Szostak — he also snagged singer Gino Vanelli (“I Just Wanna Stop”), en route from a show in Fairfield to the airport.

Stephanie Szostak and Brian Kelsey, on “Ten Minutes With.”

Sure, “Two Ferns” got President Obama. Just give “Ten Minutes” time.

Despite the home-grown nature of the show — Kelsey built the set himself, wrote and recorded the theme music, runs 7 cameras and adds all the sound effects — he is no Trevor Noah wannabe.

Kelsey has spent his career both in front of and behind cameras and mics. He’s done New York radio; has a thriving YouTube channel, focusing on do-it-yourself home renovations; hosted Martha Stewart’s Sirius show; did voice-overs, and works full-time as video senior editor/producer for a financial services firm.

He had the equipment. He had the background. He had the garage (and lawn chair). He built the set (a plain desk with a rotary phone; behind it, a generic city photo).

Brian Kelsey, on set. Yes, that’s his washing machine on the left.

All he needed was guests — and selling them on the idea.

This being Westport, he has contacts up the wazoo. And the format is perfect.

Guests drive over to his Cross Highway home. His assistant. Pete Scifo, lifts up the garage door. Kelsey offers a coffee (or beer). They chat for — literally — 10 minutes. Then Camerota is on to her next CNN spot, Szostak films her next movie, Vanelli does his next gig, whatever. It could not be simpler.

The banter is like most talk shows: some fluff, some substance. Kelsey probes into each guest’s work and life.

A regular feature: Kelsey reads rejection letters he’s gotten from potential guests (usually, their agents).

The garage door, leading to the “Ten Minutes With” set.

YouTube is driven by algorithms. So when a guest links to “Ten Minutes With” on their own social media, views spike — and YouTube recommends it to more people.

Next up: NBC news anchor (and Westporter) Craig Melvin.

Kelsey — who is also a drummer — has a soft spot for musicians. Among the guests he’d like to snag: Michael Bolton, Nile Rodgers and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads.

So if any of you guys are reading this: Call Brian Kelsey.

The lawn chair in his garage is waiting.

*Notice a gender pattern?

(Click here for the Ten Minutes With homepage.)

Alisyn Camerota Video Goes Viral

As Parkland High School students have spoken about gun violence — drawing the admiration and awe of much of the nation — there has been, predictably, a counter-narrative.

Some people don’t believe young people can be so passionate, articulate and motivated — even after watching as 17 of their classmates were gunned down.

Alisyn Camerota was having none of it.

The Westporter — co-anchor of CNN’s “New Day” — interviewed 2 former Republican congressmen on Tuesday. One was David Jolly of Florida. The other was Jack Kingston of Georgia.

Kingston began by disputing the notion that 17-year-olds can plan a nationwide rally. He believes they are being used by left-wing organizations, to further adults’ purposes.

Camerota pushed back. “I was down there. I talked to these kids before the body count,” she said.

“They had not been indoctrinated. They were motivated.”

Kingston continued to insist that the teenagers were being used. Camerota insisted they were not.

It’s a remarkable 9-minute interview (click below to see). Camerota manages Kingston and Jolly well.

The video has become a microcosm of many debates: about school shootings, gun legislation, and the power of teenagers to change the world.

And at the center of it all is Westport’s newest TV anchor.

 

Women’s Day Program Explores #MeToo

The #MeToo movement has brought much-needed attention to the issues of sexual harassment and assault, especially in the workplace.

There’s a lot of fire and fury surrounding those issues. To explore them during International Women’s Day next month, there’s a special event at Town Hall.

On Thursday, March 8 (12:30 p.m.), the UN Association of Southwestern Connecticut is sponsoring  “Women in the Workplace: What’s New and What’s Next for the #MeToo Movement.” It’s free, and features a facilitated discussion with audience participation.

Speakers include Westporter Alisyn Camerota, CNN”s award-winning anchor and author of “Amanda Wakes Up,” about life in the TV news trenches, as well as Dr. Marsha Ershaghi Hames, who advises organizations on ethics and compliance matters.

“The silver lining of #MeToo is that it has created a national conversation around our low levels of trust in organizations, and how best to build and maintain a respectful workplace,” organizers of the event say.

“At the same time, an extraordinary outburst of transparency about inequities and abuse of power in the workplace has sparked a worldwide movement for change.”

For more information on the March 8th Women’s Day program, email aa@aya.yale.edu.

Alisyn Camerota: CNN Anchor, Debut Novelist, Westporter

Three years ago — after 16 years with Fox, including co-hosting “Fox & Friends Weekend” — Alisyn Camerota left the network.

She joined CNN. She co-anchors the “New Day” morning show. She reports on breaking international stories. She’s one of their top journalists.

It’s not easy. Camerota leaves Westport — where she has lived since 2012 — at 3:30 every morning. On the plus side: With very little traffic, her commute is just an hour.

If she was still at Fox, Camerota would be one of President Trump’s favorite TV personalities.

At CNN, she — and the entire network — are in his crosshairs.

That’s fine.

“With some regularity, we report a story in the morning, and a tweet comes out directly correlated to something we or a guest said,” Camerota notes.

“We know the president is watching. And we know he sometimes objects to a question or angle we take.

“It comes with the territory. We’re not there to curry favor. But I don’t see us as the ‘opposition,’ or an ‘enemy of the people.’ Our job is to hold people accountable for what they say and do.”

That’s not to say working at CNN is easy.

“If it’s been a particularly rough day — if we got called out at a press briefing — we’ll remark on it,” Camerota admits.

“But it hasn’t changed how we do our job. I don’t sense any chilling effect. In some way, it’s invigorated us. It’s helped us define our role, and sharpened our purpose.”

Alisyn Camerota

In fact, Camerota says, wherever she is, people thank her for doing what she does.

In Westport, some are friends. Others are strangers.

Earlier this year, she moderated a panel with diehard Trump supporters. One was convinced that 3 to 5 million people had voted illegally. As Camerota pressed her — and the woman’s answers grew “increasingly illogical” — the journalist involuntarily slapped her forehead. A video of the moment went viral.

The next day, while shopping in a local store, a woman approached Camerota, and slapped her own head. Neither said a word.

Camerota’s days are full. But with the publication yesterday of her 1st novel — Amanda Wakes Up — her life is about to get even busier.

The book was 6 years in the making. In 2011 — as the ’12 presidential campaign was getting underway — Camerota was intrigued by the cast of candidates. They included colorful folks like Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry.

“There was no dearth of stories to cover,” the journalist says. She began taking notes.

She did not know her vignettes would become a book. But — because she was a weekend anchor and “could actually have a hobby” — she began writing.

Amanda follows an ambitious young reporter who lands a plum gig at a big-time cable news station — and quickly learns her “dream” job may be a nightmare.

Samantha Bee calls it “a hilarious, eye-opening glimpse into the TV news trenches, from one who’s had to navigate them backwards and in heels.”

Booklist adds, “Camerota’s timely send-up will engross readers from both sides of the political spectrum.”

“It was fun to assign my own ethical dilemmas to a fictional character,” the author says. “I let her figure stuff out.”

So how much of Amanda is Alisyn?

“All of it,” she answers quickly. “But the difference is, she figures everything out in 1 1/2 years. It took me 25 years.” That includes pre-Fox stints with ABC and NBC.

Amanda, it turns out, “is not me. She’s a distant cousin of mine.”

Tomorrow (Thursday, July 27, 7 p.m.), Camerota hosts a book signing at the Westport Barnes & Noble.

As for the rest of the summer, Camerota jokes: “I’m going to take a long nap.”

But, she continues, “My ‘day job’ has a breathless pace. I’m writing furiously during a 2-minute commercial break, trying to update a story or introduce the next guest.

“There’s something therapeutic and relaxing about sitting with my keyboard, trying to figure things out while writing a novel. I’m not sure — but I may have more stories to tell.”

Of course, she will also take time to appreciate summer in Westport.

“It’s stunningly beautiful,” Camerota says. “It’s so green. The flowers are in bloom. I love the beach, and Saugatuck Sweets. This is a glorious time to be here.”

So true. That’s definitely not Fake News.