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Work and play in Pittsburgh

Alexis Wilkinson ’15, a resident of Leverett House concentrating in Economics with a secondary concentration in Psychology, was awarded an Office for the Arts/Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Artist Development Fellowship to support an internship with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette while researching and writing a television pilot and screenplay. Wilkinson is president of The Harvard Lampoon and a former staff writer/columnist for Manifesta magazine. Her written work has been published in New York Magazine, and she served as a research intern for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” during the summer of 2013. After college, she hopes to pursue a career as a comedy writer.

Alexis Wilkinson

Alexis Wilkinson (photo by Mark Olson)

“What are you doing in Pittsburgh?”

Since I arrived here a little less than a month ago, some version of that question has been posed to me at least 50 times. Every time I explain where I go to school (Harvard, not UPitt or CMU), what I study (Economics and Psychology, not English or Journalism), what I want to do (write for TV or film, not necessarily for newspapers), and where I’m originally from (Wisconsin, not anywhere in Pennsylvania and I’ve never been to Pittsburgh before), I’m met with the same wide-eyed confusion about what exactly brought me to Steel City for the summer.

How I ended up here is a serious of lucky coincidences. I had a great summer last year working at “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and happened to simultaneously land a gig through the Institute of Politics to work for journalists Mark Halperin ’87 and John Heilemann KSG ’90. In both jobs, I was doing more researching than writing, which made me determined to spend my next summer not looking up figures or transcribing, but putting pen to paper, for what or where I couldn’t be sure. In the fall, I happened to meet David Shribman, the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette who told me about their amazing internship program. And now here I am, in the City of Champions, living in a sublet with a cat named Lennox and trying to figure out the ‘Burgh’s unique brand of slang when I still haven’t mastered Boston’s.

My first Pirate's game and my first alcohol, honest.

My first Pirate’s game and my first alcohol, honest.

My day to day life is an odd hybrid of various creative pursuits. I work 9 am-6 pm downtown at the Post-Gazette building. I have my own desk and everything. When I’m there, I interview people, write feature stories, and spend too much time at the water cooler. I recently had a piece on the front page of the “Magazine” section which focused on Jesse Andrews, who happens to be a Harvard grad, class of ’04. He’s shooting a movie in Pittsburgh. I’ve also interviewed Bill Maher, LeVar Burton, and Judah Friedlander. My editors do a really great job of throwing assignments my way that involve my interests and are also pretty fun.

When I get “home,” a sleepy three-bedroom sublet tucked in the West End of town, I usually try to spend at least another two hours writing, sometimes Lampoon-related pieces, sometimes tweets, sometimes freelance stories for other magazines and websites. I also work on my screenplay and TV pilot.

On weekends, I like to explore the city. After being introduced to the local comedy scene, I’ve gotten to be a guest on the radio and even did stand-up for the first time in over a year as part of comedian John McIntire’s “Dangerously Live Comedy Show.” I also saw the Pirates play in one of the most picturesque stadiums I’ve ever seen.

So, what am I doing in Pittsburgh? I don’t exactly know, but I’m definitely having a good time.

Me with the other guests on stage at John McIntire's "Dangerously Live Comedy Show."

Me with the other guests on stage at John McIntire’s “Dangerously Live Comedy Show.”

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