Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

July 18, 2007:

Jeff Ingold ’90

Jeff Ingold ’90 has worked on “The Office” and “Scrubs.” (courtesy Jeff Ingold ’90)

PROFILE--Jeff Ingold ’90
Working for laughs

If you think being a television executive means watching TV all day, you’re partly right. While other people are fighting their morning commutes, Jeff Ingold ’90, senior vice president for comedy development at NBC, is watching a rough cut of a new show while he takes a spin on the treadmill.

As the person responsible for finding new comedies for NBC, Ingold also spends his days reading scripts and working with teams to develop pilots, the test episodes used to demonstrate a new show’s viability. There’s no formula for success, Ingold says, but one of the keys is finding great characters and even better actors to play them. “If you love the characters, you’ll be willing to watch them week after week,” Ingold says — characters like Michael Scott, the cringe-inducing boss played by Steve Carell on The Office. In 2006, Carell won a Golden Globe for the role, and the show won the Emmy for best comedy.

A history major at Princeton and captain of the squash team, Ingold joined NBC after getting his M.B.A. at the University of Southern California. He worked his way up through the ranks, supervising day-to-day production of shows like Just Shoot Me and Will and Grace, before moving into development. In his new position, he has worked on popular sitcoms including The Office and Scrubs.

With the explosion of new digital devices, drawing viewers to the TV has become tougher, says Ingold, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. “We’re forced to come up with things that are more attention-grabbing, because the viewer is sitting there with one hand on the cell phone and one eye on the computer.” Paradoxically, the Internet also has made his job more interesting. Ingold and his team scour Web sites for budding comedians. Last year, the strategy paid off. Ingold snapped up three performers his executives discovered online, including two recent college graduates whose endearing slapstick sketch on YouTube about a pair of brothers trying to shoot a Mother’s Day photo has been viewed almost 3 million times. The two actors are now working on a pilot for NBC. Ingold is developing that show and eight others, a handful of which might make it into the fall lineup. P

By E.B. Boyd ’89

E.B. Boyd ’89 is a freelance writer in San Francisco.