Spencer Weinkle, executive producer and host of Off the Wire, UMTV’s late-night comedy program, will be hosting his final show in December.
Weinkle founded the show as a freshman, and has been its only host – “For better or for worse,” he said – since its inception. The show, which has been notorious among School of Communication faculty for its hotly contested content, will be sent to uncharted territory with Weinkle’s imminent graduation.
Weinkle, who had written for a comedy show produced at his high school in Los Angeles, teamed with some of the people he met working on other UMTV shows and wrote the pilot for Off the Wire. At the time, UMTV was producing six shows, but Weinkle noticed a lack of any true comedy shows.
“The pilot was approved, we got to shoot the pilot and it became a series my freshman year,” Weinkle said.
Since then, Weinkle and the show’s student crew have focused on continually improving their product.
“What really makes the show special for me is looking at where it was three and a half years ago and seeing where it is now,” Weinkle said. “It’s come so many leaps and bounds it’s unbelievable.”
Off the Wire has hosted guests such as Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry and Miami Heat announcer Michael Baiamonte, plus aired pre-recorded interviews with celebrities like Bob Saget and Oscar winners Three Six Mafia.
And while Weinkle is clearly a large part of the show – in addition to producing and hosting, he also writes some of the show’s segments – he credits a lot of the improvements to the crew.
“The people that do work on this show are unbelievable and they get better every year,” Weinkle said. “They know that there’s a commitment level and although it’s a comedy show we take it very seriously.”
Off The Wire has been known for some of its memorable sketches including one about Arnie Wilson (“the kinda-not-really-with-it weatherman”) and the fake commercial for Flaccido, the opposite of Viagra (“for men with random, repetitive erections”).
“There’s this fine line between doing things tastefully but still appealing to the college humor; which is actually a very welcome challenge,” Weinkle said. “We’re a show geared towards college audiences but we’re on a government access channel.”
But as Weinkle prepares to graduate, the show has begun training a new host and focusing its efforts on its junior crew members.
“The biggest thing I can suggest to any producer is to look to two years from now. Who’s going to be running the show? Who’s going to be your potential associate producers? Who’s going to be writing?” he said. “It’s always best to find the talent in the freshman and sophomore classes and invest in them.”
After Weinkle’s last show in December, he will continue to produce until he graduates and act as an advisor, while sophomore Steve Interrante takes over hosting duties.
“I think the show will change – not much – but the show revolves around the host so it’s going to be about Steve and his style of humor,” said Brad Gage, a technical director, writer, editor and cast member.
As for Weinkle himself, he’ll be pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. “Preferably I would like to be running a network and being a late-night host,” Weinkle said. “I know it’s not probably possible but hopefully one or the other would be great.”
Off the Wire and other UMTV broadcasts can be seen on channel 96 in the Coral Gables area, or viewed online at http://umtv.miami.edu or through Apple’s iTunes service.
Nate Harris may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.