Behind the Camera: UMTV’s ‘Off the Wire’

Interviewing the cast and crew of Off the Wire, an original program on University of Miami Television, is like being in one of their episodes. Everything, including the sex life of host Brad Gage, is a joke.

“After I became host, I got laid a lot more,” says Gage, a senior. “I guess after they see you on the big screen, they know you’re big.”

Gage is standing in front of the lights and cameras in Studio A at the School of Communication. The red-haired, Conan O’Brien semi-lookalike is just minutes away before the run-through of Off the Wire‘s 50th episode, shooting Thursday at 8:30 p.m.

Mixing a host monologue with comedy sketches and interviews, the Off The Wire format is in many ways the college-aged offspring of Saturday Night Live and Late Night.

But make no mistake – some of the content is edgier and more controversial than anything you’d find on NBC’s late night programming. Take, for instance, “Racist Interview,” a sketch by Carly Rhodes, a senior and the head writer for the show. In the segment, Carly depicts herself as an ignorant and sheltered white girl who makes ridiculous assumptions about the black man she is interviewing, played by Will Johnson, a senior.

“It really struck a chord with people,” Rhodes said. “I’m getting some interesting feedback on YouTube now.”

Indeed, one comment says Rhodes is “an ignorant bitch” while another says “the interview was fake to prove a point,” the latter of which Rhodes says was more of her intention.

“I kind of like that people don’t know if I’m kidding or not. I think that’s part of what makes it funny,” she says.

But while some of the sketches touch on controversial subjects, most are light and goofy, much like how Gage describes the people who write them.

“They’re seeking the greatest high – the high of creating laughter,” says Gage. “A lot of them have a sillier view of the world than, say, business students. They don’t take things too seriously.”

But Brett Smith, a junior and an executive producer of the show, says the one thing the crew does take seriously is the production value of the program.

“All of the people involved are very passionate about comedy and are willing to devote their time when they’re not studying to work on the show,” says Smith. “The actors are fantastic. The directors and the producers are great. When you’re watching the show, you can actually see the time and effort people put in.”

For Smith, being a regular in the UMTV studios comes at the cost of his performance in class.

“The only thing keeping me in school is UMTV’s 2.5 GPA requirement,” Smith said. “That’s the only reason I go to class, so I can work at UMTV at the end of the day.”

Gage, now in his second season as host, says the experience he and others have gotten from UMTV is not only priceless, but perhaps more valuable than the time spent in his motion pictures classes.

“Everything I learned on Off the Wire, just shooting and being on camera and working with cameras and other people, you don’t learn in the classrooms,” he says. “No matter how much they tell you, you don’t learn unless you’re shown, unless you’re involved.”

The hard work is appreciated by fans like Allie Sheffield, a junior. She recommends that people throw a few drinks back before the show, but says that “the sketches are really funny” even when she’s sober.

“It’s a good way to get together with a group of friends,” Sheffield said. “You can go to the Rat and then the show.”

The university community may be a part of Off the Wire‘s live studio audience during the taping of the show’s 50th episode Thursday night at the School of Communication. Studio doors open at 8:30 p.m. Seating is first come, first served.