The list spanning across the whiteboard looked like the setup to an unsavory joke. The kind where someone elbows a friend — maybe after a beer or three — and goes: “Hey, hey. So what do Jeb Bush, sororities and rape all have in common?”
It’s a punchline the team on “The Nightcap with Jordan Miller” has been trying to reach ever since it started writing the first episode of its comedy news show.
Recently, six members of the production were at a roundtable in Jespersen Hall. They had sprawled out, finally able to relax a little, after deciding the order for the March 5 episode, to be filmed live in the Business Silo.
Creator of “The Nightcap,” environmental management and protection junior Jordan Miller, settled in the middle of the table, hugging his knee to his chest. A few members were mimicking his posture from their chairs — knees drawn up and toes peeking over the bottom edges of their seats. Still others were passing around a half-empty container of grocery store chocolate cupcakes. They’re gluten-free, just for Miller.
The group has a fast, natural dialogue that feels as though they’ve been writing together for years, not weeks.
“Basically, we want to indoctrinate as many people as possible to think exactly like we do,” economics junior Ian Howard joked about the show’s overall goal.
“Wait,” mechanical engineering junior Bri Rodebaugh cut in. “What does ‘indoctrinate’ mean?”
Howard answered quickly: “Indoctrinate? To make a doctor.”
“Haha. No. What does it mean?” Rodebaugh pauses to open a new tab on her computer. “I should know better. I’m just going to look it up.”
In reality, the group wants to use the medium as a way to start productive conversation about sensitive topics — such as sexual violence and race — in the style of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” according to Miller.
Miller, who has prior experience as a public speaker, explained that becoming an entertainer had been a dream of his for a long time, and using comedy to bring bigger issues to the table was something that he saw as missing from the Cal Poly community.
“We’re so depoliticized on campus,” he said. “No one talks about anything. And even if we have some sort of conversation, it’ll be just this explosion of things, and then nothing. It’s an explosion of all these emotions … all in one 48-hour period — it’s a shit show, for lack of a better term — and then nothing.
“If we can holistically talk about these issues as a campus week-by-week — well, this show won’t be week-by-week it’ll be month-by-month — then we’ll be able to deal with some of these issues almost as a community rather than separate people behind their keyboards.”
Because the show will be aired on CPTV and KSBY, “The Nightcap” crew intends on the show reaching a wide audience, mostly in their 20s.
Miller added that he sees a hole in common news that doesn’t seek out people in their 20s or their opinions on important news issues, and he intends to address that with “The Nightcap.”
“Not a lot of people are going to 20-somethings and going: ‘What’s going on? What’s your opinion?’” he said. “So it’ll be a great way to create a voice for people. And there will be Facebook wars.”
“We hope,” Rodebaugh added.
The project wasn’t originally expected to gain a lot of traction, according to Miller. In fact, he thought the turnout would have been sparse, at best.
“I posted flyers like two days before the (initial meeting), and I made an event on Facebook and shared it around. I honestly, honestly thought I was going to get about two people,” he said. “So I told myself, ‘OK, Jordan. No one’s going to want to do this. So if you get five people, you’re going to have to move ahead with this.’”
But Miller found himself with approximately 30 students on the first day, all willing to help — most of whom are still connected with the project’s production teams.
“The Nightcap” hones in on the talents of students who mostly aren’t liberal arts majors. In fact, three of the six at the meeting were engineers. But Miller emphasized that each had creative talents to utilize, using architectural engineering junior Tim Gachot as an example.
“I posted the ad and got Tim, who isn’t in the graphic design program, but who saw the ad and is now making killer logos, pictures, anything that we ask for, in addition to writing for us,” he said. “So that’s like the perfect example of someone who came out of left field.”
Weeks later, the group has its first episode in order.
“It’s mostly light stuff,” Howard started. “You know, rape, racial profiling, kid stuff — just your general, run-of-the-mill, light topics.”
The show is set to include skits, a live anchor segment and interviews, all of which lead up to the main topic of the episode — rape culture, according to Rodebaugh.
“Super fun topic,” Howard joked.
“Super, super funny. Probably the funniest thing I’ve ever written,” Rodebaugh added. “But seriously, it’s so important … We don’t just make fun of rape, we bring the tough topics to the extreme to exploit the absurdities.”
However, “The Nightcap” crew emphasized that they don’t want anyone thinking that they’re trying to preach down to the public. The group just wants to start conversations about what it thinks are important topics, all while having a good time.
“I don’t want to ever come off — really, this is super sincere — as saying our ideas are better than yours,” Howard said. “Because that’s a huge issue. I cringe at the thought of going, like, even though I think my ideas are right, that you should think this way, too.”
“To indoctrinate,” Rodebaugh said.