From Fresh Air to Comedy Central
Ann Marie Baldonado ‘94 can trace her career success in radio and TV to the investigative work she did as an anthropology major at Haverford.
Ann Marie Baldonado left Haverford in 1994 with a degree in anthropology. Surprisingly, that’s helped her during her career in radio and TV.
As a producer at Fresh Air with Terry Gross for 20 years and now as talent producer for Comedy Central’s The Opposition With Jordan Klepper, Baldonado has focused on researching and recruiting newsmakers—actors, writers, politicians, and academics—for radio and TV appearances.
"Everything I’ve done has been people-watching," Baldonado says. "Interviewing, asking questions, seeking people’s thoughts on different topics and on themselves. In a way, it’s all connected to what I studied."
Baldonado began her career in public radio as an unpaid intern for Philadelphia’s WHYY. She moved to Fresh Air in 1998, booking guests—specializing in actors, comedians, and directors—and then editing their conversations with host Gross. Eventually, she began sitting in for Gross occasionally and interviewing guests herself. She talked to comedian Sasheer Zamata about joining Saturday Night Live, chatted with actor John Cho about being a first-generation American, and learned how life can influence one’s work from Catastrophe creator Sharon Horgan. “I loved my old job. I loved my co-workers,” Baldonado says. “I thought I was going to die at my desk, happy.”
Then Comedy Central called. It was a surprise—Baldonado didn’t even have a current resume—but she was intrigued. She’s a longtime fan of the network’s political programs, such as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show. (Klepper was a contributor to the latter for several years.) As she left her interview with Klepper and the executive producers, she thought, “Oh no. I think I might take that job."
She did, holding both jobs simultaneously for about two weeks in August. (A challenge, as the show is filmed in New York and Baldonado lives in Philadelphia with husband Rick Swedloff ’94 and their two daughters.) "I never thought I’d ever get so used to Amtrak," Baldonado says. "It’s a crazy transition. Television is a whole different thing. Comedy is a different thing. I’m learning a lot."
The Opposition is a character-based satire/talk show in the mode of The Colbert Report. Klepper’s character is part of the fringe right-wing media who sees conspiracies at every turn. The final act of each show features an interview with a newsmaker. Think writer Jane Mayer, FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver, director Rob Reiner, former Mexican president Vicente Fox, and Danica Roem, the first openly transgender candidate to be elected to a state legislature.
"It’s kind of like finding people of substance and figuring out how to make an interview with them funny," Baldonado says. "We had a guest who writes about the racism throughout American history. Making that accessible and funny and also thoughtful was a challenge."