Jake Sasseville: a new type of talk show host

Jake Sasseville has the world by the balls. He’s a 22-year-old talk show host and activist whose new program, “The Edge with Jake Sasseville,” is scheduled to premier on ABC on Jan. 3. You might already know him from the Guster concert he MC’d last month. The Cynic got a chance to speak with this up-and-coming star about his show, his non-profit group, the Xander Foundation and the trials of balancing work and college.Vermont Cynic: As a child, did you like to perform in front of others? Did you host your own “talk shows”?Jake Sasseville: Yeah, it was really funny. I really wanted to be a priest, so I used to hold prayers in my basement. And then I used to pretend to do newscasts. I would set three cameras and I would have my brother be the meteorologist. I would request scripts from local news organizations and they would send them to me and I would pretend to be a newscaster.VC: Were your parents in the entertainment business? Are any members of your family in the business?JS: No, I got to where I am right now just sort of by hustling and talking to people. My mom is a teacher and works with mentally retarded children and my dad is a part-time shrink. VC: You were a magician as a teenager? Did that help you grab the attention of “The Tonight Show”?JS: I was scouted by “The Tonight Show” in 2001, but I never got on. So I did magic before I got into the entertainment business. I was doing shows all over the country when I was 13 and 14 years old and I loved performing. I still do a little magic every now and then.VC: What was your first TV show like when you created it in 2001?JS: I started it in 2000 and 2001 on local access in Maine. It was absolutely horrible. I can’t even believe that some people looked at what they saw and actually allowed me to move it forward. It was repulsive, stupid segments and poorly produced. But I think what really got me to where we’re headed is the passion. It’s all about the passion. If you were to see some of our videos, you’d be like, “What did anybody see in this?” But it’s what they didn’t see off camera, the passion that I had for creating a TV show for our generation, that I think really caught people by [the] eye. VC: Tell me about your TV talk and variety series, “The Edge with Jake Sasseville.” JS: It’s a talk show within a talk show. It’s a late night show that’s going to be on after Jimmy Kimmel in January. It’s a show about a 21-year-old who wants his own show, as the show is in progress. So it’s a behind the scenes look at how it all comes together, as it’s coming together. We’re doing a couple of different celebrity segments. VC: What makes your talk show different from others? JS: We’re not in the studio at all. We’re going to go speed dating with the cast this Saturday. We’re interacting with people of our generation throughout the country through our various college stores and bringing the show on location. It’s just really a show that embodies what it means to be part of this generation, going anywhere, doing anything and talking to anyone at anytime. VC: How did you get in contact with Adam Barr (the co-executive producer of “Will and Grace”) in 2004? How was your interview with the cast?JS: Yeah, that was sort of my big break, so to speak. That was fantastic. “Will and Grace” was huge in 2003 and 2004. The executive producer found out about my show and called me and said, “I really like what you’re doing and I want to help you out, how can I help you?” And I said, “Well you could start by letting me have the cast on the show.” I was joking, but he said yes and that’s how things started rolling and then we ended up on Fox. It was very nerve racking, but everyone was really nice. It was a great experience. VC: What personality traits do you have that make you different from other talk show hosts? JS: I really hope that there’s a certain realness. I think since a lot of talk show hosts are constrained by a studio, it doesn’t really get the job done as much as I would like to. That’s why we’re not limiting ourselves to a studio. VC: You are the CEO and president of Foot in Mouth, Inc. What can you tell me about this company?JS: I formed the company when I was on Fox. It’s a multimedia entertainment company that for right now is producing “The Edge” and some other smaller projects. We produced a series of short shows in Africa last year and the year before that we were executive producing a documentary in Kenya. VC: What was your trip to Africa like? JS: We’re building a school next year in Malawi for my non-profit foundation. I feel very passionate about education and using whatever theme I can muster in this country to really help Africa and really be there and be very present. I went there last year and it was really hard to see a lot of the things that I saw. I think it’s so important that whether you have fame or success or whatever it is that you have, to really give it and pay it forward. My motto is “if you’re giving, you’re making more room to receive more.” VC: You’re a student at Marymount Manhattan College. Is it hard to balance your time between being a student and a talk show host?JS: I was supposed to graduate this year, but I just sat down with my advisor and because I’m juggling so much and because I have a full-time show now, I’m not going to graduate for another year. I’m a part-time student and I’m trying really hard but it’s just hard to juggle it all. It’s a challenge, but I feel very strongly that an education is important. And luckily even though my professors are getting a little annoyed, they are also extremely supportive. VC: What has it been like working with such successful producers and other members of your team?JS: I really pinch myself every day. I can’t even believe I’m working with some of the people I’m working with. There are people who have been in the entertainment industry for longer than I’ve been alive and people who have won Emmys. My head writer used to work for “The Chappelle Show.” He worked directly with Dave Chappelle during his three most successful seasons of the show on Comedy Central.VC: You are a motivational speaker and have spoken at many high schools and camps. What do you talk about and why is this important to you? JS: I talk about really living your dream. I think so many people get stuck and they feel themselves getting stuck and they don’t know what to do about it. What they have to do is go deep inside and find what makes them passionate. So many people allow external things to build their life for them, such as their parents telling them to be a doctor and they don’t really want to be a doctor, they want to be an artist. Because I’m so young and I’m living my passion and people are funding me and people are working with me, it gives me an opportunity to share some of my experiences. I’ve been very fortunate and lucky. VC: What can you tell me about the Xander Foundation?JS: The Xander Foundation was created in memory of my brother Alex who passed away from cancer when he was 13 and I was 17. After he passed away, I knew I wanted to make a foundation that would help children and their families in life-threatening situations. So the Xander Foundation has become a global coalition of youth helping young people and their families in Sub-Saharan Africa. VC: You recently MC’d at the University of Vermont as part of the Crocs Next Step Campus tour. What was it like being part of the tour and did you enjoy it?JS: I really enjoyed it and they’re having me back in 2008 and we’re filming the show again on location.