Late-night TV Devotee

Alisha Zafar, KLN ’16, has always loved entertainment. Thanks to her time at Temple, she was able to gain experience and skills needed for breaking into the television industry.

Alisha N. Zafar sits on a bench in Charles library.
Photo credit: Joseph V. Labolito

Living the dream

Zafar has always loved entertainment. As a girl, she tormented her younger siblings by dressing them in costumes, making them memorize lines and perform scenes on video, and then screaming at them if they didn’t live up to her directorial standards.

After graduating, her childhood dream came true: a job at the heart of the entertainment world. Zafar is an associate producer at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS. She works in the digital and social media department, the unit responsible for making the show accessible online by creating and sharing segments, memes and GIFs on its website, YouTube channel and social media platforms.

“It doesn’t feel real sometimes,” Zafar said. “It feels like this dream job that someone crafted in my brain that combines my skills—I love talking to people, recording things, editing things and telling a story.”

Alisha at a glance

Practice makes perfect

Zafar earned the job the hard way, by accruing experience through a series of competitive gigs that began for her as a junior at Temple when a friend asked her to audition for Temple SMASH, the student-produced comedy show on TUTV.

“I remember showing up for that first rehearsal, seeing the sets being built, people getting the lights together and the directors planning out their vision. The second I stepped into that big studio soundstage, I thought, ‘I don’t want to leave this room,’” said Zafar, who honed her writing, production, acting and improv skills with SMASH over the next two years.

Expedition to late-night

After her junior year, Zafar participated in Temple’s Los Angeles Study Away program and interned in CBS Entertainment’s diversity and casting department. As a senior, Zafar interned at NBC10 in Philadelphia. A supervisor at the station encouraged Zafar to apply for the NBC Page Program, a fellowship created to produce young professionals who understand every facet of television. The application process was grueling, including four rounds of interviews culminating in a presentation—no notes permitted—on a subject that wasn’t revealed until 48 hours prior.

“Temple SMASH prepared me,” said Zafar. “Being able to think quickly under pressure is such a useful skill ... It was crazy. It was rigorous. But it was honestly really fun.”

She got the fellowship, and with it an immersion into the production, business, and audience-engagement sides of the industry. With the NBC Page Program under her belt, she landed her “Late Show” gig.

“The job isn’t perfect,” she admits. “The hours are long, and television has earned its reputation for putting obstacles in front of young women. But I love the people that surround and support me.”

—By Hillel Hoffmann and Kierstyn Smith