‘It’s showtime:’ Pitt Tonight premieres its eighth season with a new host

For Nick Cassano, the thrilling showtime atmosphere of Pitt TonightPitt’s campus late-night comedy show, drew him in during his first time on set.

“Without really having seen how a show goes, you don’t really have that visceral sense of ‘Oh, it’s showtime,'” Cassano, a sophomore psychology and computer science major, said. “A lot of people could say, ‘It’s a student production, what does it really have compared to all of the other entertainment I could consume?’ … It showed me, that first show, that we can do this 一 we can make a show that’s as good or better than a lot of the main shows out there.”

Cassano, who spent last year as one of Pitt Tonight’s writers, is now taking the helm as the show’s new host. A team of Pitt students write and produce hour-long episodes each month full of jokes, games and interviews in various locations around campus.

Pitt Tonight kicked off its eighth season on Friday evening from a stage on the patio of Posvar Hall before an audience of more than 80 people. It was the first outdoor episode in the show’s history. The premiere was livestreamed on YouTube.

The show began with Cassano satirizing Pittsburgh local news in his opening monologue, then a skit involving auditions for Pitt Tonight’s co-host from characters including Ebeneezer Scrooge, Cassano’s test tube clone and a Make-a-Wish kid. In-house band Allies of the Boulevard jammed during the breaks between segments.

Cassano then hosted a game in which one of the show’s writers, Tori Beck, compared to individual audience members’ Pitt tuitions to the value of Rolex watches or the weekly salary of football coach Pat Narduzzi. Local band Wild Blue Yonder closed out the episode with a performance.

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Days before the premiere, Cassano said he was excited for his first time hosting the show, but understood the gravity of his new responsibilities.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” Cassano said. “I have to perform in front of all these people, but at the end of the day, I’m just a conduit. It’s not the Nick Cassano Show, it’s Pitt Tonight. I’m responsible not just for my performance, but for really doing justice for all the sketches and jokes our writers have written.”

Ben Asciutto, a senior film and business major and the executive producer of Pitt Tonight, said the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges that forced the team to get creative in their format.

“We basically made it a full YouTube show,” Asciutto said. “Each of our segments that we usually have 一 like a monologue, desk piece, even the musical guest, too, and the interviews 一 were all conducted on Zoom and in people’s houses where they were in safe environments.”

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

These changes ultimately helped the show evolve. Production executive Jack Hatajik, a senior ecology and evolution and film and media studies major, said the team began producing “tertiary content” that has stuck with the show after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We started making skits, sort of like Saturday Night Live,” Hatajik said. “We really built our YouTube presence over the pandemic and we created a lot more creative outlets for the show, and it’s something we’ve continued doing. We still have a segment called ‘Skit Tonight,’ in which we try and release a new skit every month.”

It’s been a year since Pitt Tonight returned to in-person shows. Cassano said the new season will help them continue to bounce back, capturing viewers’ attention in a saturated media environment.

“This year we’re really going to have the opportunity to reignite some fervor in Pitt Tonight,” Cassano said. “The media landscape is so competitive 一 there’s so many screens competing for your attention, so many books, so many songs 一 and the fact that Pitt Tonight has withstood all the changes in the entertainment landscape is really a testament to the quality and commitment of our entire staff.”

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Asciutto said Pitt Tonight has come to feel less like an extracurricular and more like a family during his time on set.

“I’ve been in it since the very beginning of my time at Pitt. I joined [the] second week I got here,” Asciutto said. “People are in it the same reason I’m in it 一 because they just love what they’re doing, and that’s really all those matters, and everyone gets along that way, because obviously nobody’s getting paid for it.”

Pitt Tonight has featured three prior hosts since its inception. Cassano said he has “immense” shoes to fill.

“The legacy of the previous hosts is something that I wish to honor,” Cassano said. “People come and they go, but Pitt Tonight remains… As the host, my only goal is to ensure that Pitt Tonight continues to survive, continues to draw audiences and be a cornerstone of Pitt’s culture, the best we can make it 一 besides partying and football, at least.”

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