I went to see The Tonight Show when I was 14 years old,” recalls Victoria (Tori) Rissolo, “and instead of watching the performers onstage, I spent the whole time watching what everybody else was doing on the set. The energy of live television looked like so much fun that I left wanting to work on The Tonight Show some day.”
Talk about a dream come true. Decades later, Rissolo became a stage manager for the same show she fantasized working for as a teenager. “My first job out of college was in finance at NBC,” she continues. “When I heard Johnny Carson was retiring, I sent over a resumé and got a job assisting the executive producer. Six years later, I got into the DGA as a stage manager, so I’ve been with Jay Leno 17 years, and with NBC my entire career.” Working outside the live studio set, Rissolo juggles up to five comedy sketches a day shot on a different stage on the Burbank lot, as well as location shoots.
“Someone else secures the location, and I’m the contact once we’re there,” Rissolo explains. “I make sure the props, sets, and actors are all ready to go before we shoot the bit.”
Because the new primetime Jay Leno Show is so topical, and the writers are changing skits almost up until broadcast, every day is different. For a recent location segment, Mikey Day’s faux paparazzi “JMZ Reports” went to the The Twilight Saga: New Moon premiere and accosted the stars.
Before Jay went primetime, Rissolo got out of Burbank more. One such occasion involved traveling to Atlanta, Ga., to do a segment featuring guest correspondent Alexandra Wentworth driving a $7 clunker across the country.“We were at the car dealership and our executive producer thought the car looked too clean,” Rissolo recalls. “She asked us to mess it up to look more in character, so we did, but then she thought it was too messy so we had to clean it up again. Moments before Alexandra arrived, it started pouring rain and none of it mattered.”
And how has Leno’s much talked about move to primetime changed her life? “There’s just a lot more for me to do,” Rissolo says, “because we have double the amount of comedy and half as many studio guests.” She describes the show as a tight-knit group, which has a certain comfort factor. “Being in uncharted territory has been a little scary,” she admits. “But it’s also been a whole lot of fun.”