Ten Minutes with Laura Mack
A TV stage manager for “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” an associate director for "Today" and a mom
Laura Mack’s cool factor is through the roof. As an associate director for NBC News (she currently works on Saturday morning’s “Today” show) and stage manager of “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee,” Mack has a front-row seat to the most compelling moments and people of our time. But husband Ken, a producer at CBS Sports, and their two kids, Ava and Ryan, come first.
How did you get started in television?
I studied business at Penn State, then after graduation I got an offer in network television sales at CBS. I was about to get another from Smith Barney that was three times the salary, but I went running in the other direction.
How did you transition into the production side of the business?
About a year and a half into my sales job, I was really bored. One day I printed my résumé and shoved copies under office doors. The only call back I got was from the archives, and I was hired as assistant manager of the video library. I got on the elevator and jumped up and down so much it shook. I was part of the Olympics team in Lillehammer, so I went to Norway for about a month. I worked the overnight shift and spent the days going to see every event possible. I couldn’t believe that people got paid to do this.
How did you end up directing?
From CBS, I went to NBC Sports and freelanced at HBO. Before I had kids, I would drop everything to get to the job. But now I’m part of a small crew that works out of broadcast center. I miss being on site sometimes, but this lets me come home at night.
So, why sports—were you an athlete growing up?
I was a diver and played softball, but I wasn’t a competitive athlete. I loved the Olympics. And then my passion became live television. I’m fascinated by the mechanics of putting stories on the air so they are told efficiently, effectively, and successfully.
Your husband is also a producer for CBS Sports, and he is on the road a lot. How do you make it work?
It’s helpful that we work in the same industry because there has to be a level of understanding. I know he loves what he does. My role is different in that I walk in the building, work like crazy, and then leave work at work. And I purposefully chose that arm of my industry because I wanted to be home.
This is quite a time to be working in political satire. What has it been like on the set of Samantha Bee?
Well, first, Samantha is the most amazing human being. She uses her voice to open up people’s eyes. Our country is so polarized, but our set every day is like a breath of fresh air. We have the collective good in mind.
Ok what’s with the zillions of Emmy Awards lining your bookshelves?
Yes [sighs modestly], I actually don’t know how many we have. They mean a lot to me, because it’s recognition from my colleagues.
Are your kids “wowed” by your work?
Well, they now have this thing about getting really good seats [laughs]. Seriously, they’ve been afforded some wonderful opportunities. Not every kid has been on the field for batting practice.