IVC grad tweets way to ‘Late Night’ comedy writing gig

Danielle Hatch GateHouse Media Illinois
IVC Class of 1992 graduate Bryan Donaldson not only is writing comedy for the Late Night Show with Seth Meyers but he also has appeared three times on the show.

More than 200 million people use Twitter as an outlet for the random thoughts that pop into their heads. Bryan Donaldson’s random thoughts got him noticed by producers of a late-night talk show, and then got him a job as a comedy writer for that late-night talk show.

Donaldson was living in East Peoria with his wife and daughter, and had a job as an IT specialist at Country Financial in Bloomington. While the corporate world suited his financial needs, he needed an outlet for his humor, which wasn’t always water-cooler appropriate.  

In the fall of 2010 he started posting a few “dumb jokes” a day to Twitter, the social networking site that allows only posts of 140 characters or less. Because of his corporate job, he posted under the anonymous Twitter handle @TheNardvark.

“I didn’t want anything I was writing to be tied back to me at that point,” said Donaldson, 40.

Tweets included things like, “I’m not sure who’s in charge of stocking condiments in my office, but it sounds like we’re about out of mustard in the men’s room,” and “When you’re cutting wrapping paper and your scissors start to glide is what I imagine heroin feels like.”

To a growing number of Twitter users, he was funny. His following snowballed and eventually included Alex Baze, head writer and producer for “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” who invited him to New York City for an interview last October.

It was a short meeting — only 15 minutes.

“After it was over, I assumed it was their polite way of passing,” Donaldson said. But they called him back a week and a half later and offered him a job — not a freelance-from-East Peoria kind of job, but a move-to-New-York-City-and-write-at-30-Rockefeller-Plaza kind of job.

Donaldson, a graduate of Illinois Valley Central High School who later studied computer science at the University of Illinois, said he’s always enjoyed small-town life. But how do you pass up this kind of an opportunity?

He moved to an apartment in Secaucus, N.J., in December to start the job, and his wife and 4-year-old daughter recently joined him. The home in East Peoria is up for sale.

As for work, it’s going great. He spends most of his time writing jokes for Meyers’ monologue with two other writers.

“It’s a pretty loose atmosphere. I thought it would be a lot more cutthroat, with a lot more egos,” he said. “But everyone’s really nice. It’s hard work, but there’s definitely a lot of laughing during the day.”

Donaldson has even appeared three times on the show — “twice where I didn’t have any lines, just looked like a creep with my eyes bugging out” and one skit where he played the part of an audience member unhappy with his seat.

His Twitter account — which now has his real name attached to it — has more than 44,000 followers. And how does his new job as a comedy writer compare to his old job, supporting Linux and UNIX systems?

“It doesn’t compare at all,” he said. “It’s probably about as different a job as you could imagine.”