He Didn’t Want to Be a ‘Millionaire’

‘Daily Show’ producer Rory Albanese made a tough career choice


Rory Albanese reserves his political jokes for his day job at “The Daily Show.”

When Rory Albanese graduated from Boston University in 1999, he was faced with the hardest choice he’d ever had to make: While a production assistant at “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” he got offered the same job at “The Daily Show.”

“I thought this was going to be the decision of my life,” Albanese says. He decided to take the job at “The Daily Show,” which had just relaunched six months earlier with Jon Stewart as host, because he wanted to pursue comedy.

Two months later, “Millionaire” premiered and became an instant pop culture sensation. Albanese thought to himself, “I made the wrong choice.”

Thirteen years later, however, Albanese feels differently. “In hindsight, when you think about the things that stress you out … it’s all relative,” he says. “I’m glad I made that decision. I didn’t know at 22 that I’d be there for 13 years and become the executive producer.”

Today, Albanese manages the day-to-day production of “The Daily Show,” which can be anything from working with Stewart on script rewrites to making sure rehearsal runs smoothly.

In his spare time, Albanese performs stand-up. His “Comedy Central Presents” special premiered in 2010, and he’s also been featured on “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show.” Albanese tries to keep his day job separate from his side gig, so, when he performs at the Riot Act on Friday, he’s more likely to talk about his dog than the upcoming election.

“The political jokes I write, I give to the show,” he says. “There’s something weird about writing a really good joke about Obama and then doing it onstage.”

Even though Albanese is a comedian, he’s never appeared on “The Daily Show” and has no interest in joining Wyatt Cenac, Jason Jones and Samantha Bee as a correspondent.

“I definitely don’t think I could hang with that caliber of performer,” he says. “These guys have to fly to random remote places in the country, set up cameras and talk to people. To their face!

“I also think it’s a weird thing to have the job I have and say, ‘You know who would be good on the show? Me.’”

Riot Act Comedy Theater, 801 E St. NW, Fri., 8 p.m., $22 & 10:30 p.m., $20; 202-697-4900. (Gallery Place)

 

Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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