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Window on Wake Forest

On the spot

Regular watchers of the “Late Show with David Letterman” have probably seen Stephanie Birkitt (’97) on the air, and they have undoubtedly heard her voice.

s an assistant to the CBS talk-show guru and resident Polster, Stephanie Birkitt has achieved her own celebrity status through frequent on-air phone conversations with the host as well as commentary during the Salt Lake City Olympics. But “Steph” fans probably know her best for her Manhattan street polls, where she puts complete strangers on the spot.

Q. What is your job, and how did you land it?

A. I am an assistant to David Letterman. I got this job following a college internship in the writers’ department at the show. I did my internship in the spring of 1996, returned to school for one more year, and graduated in 1997. Following graduation I moved to New York and worked at CBS News “48 Hours” then eventually ended up at the “Late Show” again. I never lost my interest in the show and was consequently thrilled at the opportunity to work there.

I would say that the reason I enjoy my work is two-fold. For one thing the people I work with make the environment very familial. We all get along great and everyone really enjoys each other. The other thing which makes work ever-exciting is the fact that no two days are ever alike. You come to work each morning really never knowing what will happen next. Some days we all go to the movies, other days I find myself dressed in costumes or making reports on snowfall up on the roof. Things are never monotonous. I truly have a wonderfully crazy job.

Q. Do you write your own material?

I do not come up with the questions for my Polster interviews. The writers come up with all of those. For the longer reports like the Olympics, I work with a writer to kind of combine my personality with possible questions or ideas. I am given a great deal of freedom to come up with ideas and have a lot of fun during remote segments. My on-air calls with Dave however, are unrehearsed and just natural conversation between the two of us.

Q. What is the strangest question you’ve ever asked anyone?

I asked Tom Cruise if he was planning on making any more movies where he would dance around in his underpants.

Q. We’ve got a photo of you with George Clooney. Does hanging out with celebrities make you feel pretty famous?

Well, I really don’t consider myself much of a celebrity at all. I do have a great deal of fun with all of the opportunities and experiences this job affords me. Working for Dave is great though. Aside from being incredibly funny and personable he is generous, kind, and is great fun to play catch with. I really couldn’t ask for a more fun work environment. Dave is truly the greatest boss I could ever have.

Q. Was there anyone at Wake Forest who influenced the direction of your career?

Well, I wouldn’t say there was anyone in particular who steered me into this career path. However, I will forever be in debt to Professor Wayne King who single-handedly enabled me to do this internship. He allowed me to work out a system by which I could get credit for my semester in New York. I will never forget his kindness. I must say that Wake Forest in itself was a wonderful experience and James Barefield and Simone Caron were always particularly supportive and helpful in my drive to get a history degree whilst pursuing my interests in television.

Q. Any fond memories of Wake Forest?

My fondest memories of Wake Forest are mostly just sitting in classes with my friends and racing desperately to the Pit for Subway and pudding afterward. My not-so-fond memories all involve final exams and morning-before-exam exhaustion and sickness. I also hated math classes of all and any kind. If I had it my way, math would be eliminated from the curriculum. One time I got a 54 percent on a calculus test. I’m pretty sure the questions were unfair.

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