We know you’ve been anxiously awaiting the resolution to that cliffhanger we left you with last week. If you think you liked hearing Carter Bays ’97 wax poetic about Joss Whedon ’87, just wait until you hear him wax poetic about Wesleyan (fight, fight, fight, fight, fight).
Argus: So were you [and Craig Thomas’97] film majors here at Wesleyan?
Carter Bays: No. We were both English majors. My first year, I was really interested in theater, but then I got more into writing fiction, which seemed like the least amount of work out of all the majors. And Craig was also really into writing short stories. His thesis was a collection of short stories. And it was really terrific. I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever read. Before TV even entered our heads, it was this creeping fear [that] we’re getting English degrees, and that was our idea of preparation for life after college. And, luckily, TV happened and that was our life raft.
A: Yeah, how did that happen? Going from having a degree in English to working in television?
CB: There was a flyer up at the Career Center, and it was for an internship in New York for MTV. I grew up in Cleveland, so I was really excited about the idea of living in New York for a summer. Craig and I knew each
other, but sort of not really. I mean we were in a band together, called the Testostertones—and I’m sure it’s still talked about on the Wesleyan campus to this day—
A: Well we found out that you were in a band, and we found something that said you played in Alpha Delt, but we couldn’t find anything else about it.
CB: Really? Oh, wow. Yeah, we played a lot there. My girlfriend at the time was a member so we were kind of the house band. We were a nine-piece soul band, like the Commitments, kind of, and we all wore suits. We did James Brown, Sammy Kaye, Otis Redding. We were an outlet for some of the college—I’m sure Wesleyan is still like this, but you know, the Greek life wasn’t really that present at Wesleyan…and students weren’t getting that “Animal House” experience that they wanted. So we saw that niche and we filled it. We showed up and were like, “Have your toga party, ’cause we’re gonna come play ‘Shout.’” Craig was the drummer and I was the singer, and we played a show every couple of months. But because we were a nine-piece band, we didn’t really know each other that well, even after being a band together for a year. Then he saw the same flier that I did for the MTV internship and the day that I went in for an interview in New York City, he was there. I was surprised—“Oh! Here’s the drummer from my band.” And over the course of that summer, between junior and senior year, we became friends. It was then that we realized that we could collaborate with each other. Over the course of that summer, we wrote a couple scripts, and we got major attraction. So they were looking to write a sitcom with Jenny McCarthy, back before “The Hills,” when MTV still played music, but still had those other off-reality shows. And they wanted to explore written TV, beyond “The Real World.” So we wrote this pilot script for Jenny McCarthy, where she played a talk show host, although I can’t remember what it was about. That kind of got some attention, but didn’t really go anywhere. But we made friends with our boss, Jeremiah Bosgang, and he had a friend who was an agent who lived in Los Angeles. We had started that summer just to live in New York City, thinking it might be fun to be able to meet MTV DJ’s. We didn’t think really beyond that. But this was a career move. He told us to write another script, send it to this agent, and put my name on the cover letter—he might read it. So over the course of senior year, while everyone else was doing the things they were supposed to do, like going to job fairs, we were writing a pilot. That was also the year that Conan O’Brien started really getting good—it was the fourth year into his run, and they introduced Triumph. And Craig and I were really into the show. So we started just writing up a packet of skits for Conan O’Brien, and we sent it out to the agent, and we ended up hearing back a few weeks later from this junior agent from this smaller agency named Matt Rice and [he] thought it was pretty good, so he called us up. And Rice is still our agent to this day. It was a match made in heaven. In August, after we graduated, two writers quit David Letterman at the same time. It was kind of our moment to strike. So our agent contacted this manager and he got us an interview for that Monday. So we spent a whole year working on our Conan O’Brien packets and we had 48 hours to write a David Letterman packet. So we had to write these three top ten lists, and all these skits and stuff. We stayed up an entire weekend. We wrote the packet and got an interview and then started working at David Letterman.
A: That’s so awesome! Another question we have is if you have any favorite memories, hang-outs, or traditions that you remember from your time here.
CB: Well, the band was most definitely the most exciting thing. It was the highlight of my time at Wesleyan. It was a lot of fun doing that. We played at WestCo a couple of years in a row. I remember Pete Punk played at Spring Fling one year, and they played this nine hour set. It was pretty amazing. And MoCon—MoCon is gone right?
A: They’re going to demolish it this summer . But fortunately we have Usdan, which is a nicer dining facility. But it’s not round.
CB: Yeah, is it YOUsdan or OOOsdan? I’m not really sure how they pronounce it. Did anyone write up an “in defense of saving MoCon?”
A: So many people. There’s a Facebook group.
CB: Well I’m just going to put my vote firmly in the against column, because I think MoCon has got to go. Usdan is much better. MoCon is an eye-sore. There’re a ton of buildings at Wesleyan. You know living in LA has made me appreciate the beautiful architecture of Middletown, and MoCon is not one of them in the least. So, yeah, it has to go.
A: Thank you so much! It’s been a yearlong experience and I think we finally achieved our goal.
CB: Congratulations. Now it’s on to Joss Whedon.