By Megan Bowers; Senior Staff Writer
Rick Ludwin was the Executive Vice President of Late Night and Primetime Series Programming at NBC, was instrumental to the development of “Seinfeld” and worked with all six hosts of “The Tonight Show” and yet he has still returned to Miami University every year for the past 34 years to give a presentation about the media industry.
“He is a great role model, not only in the success he has but how he wears it,” said Dr. Howard Kleiman, Assistant Department Chair for the department of Media, Journalism and Film. “If we have students get half of what he has got, but if they can be all of what he has been, in terms of a gentleman and someone who has never been too big for the people at his college, that would be great.”
Ludwin started his career with NBC in 1980 and stayed there for 32 years.
“NBC had the kind of programs I loved, which were the 5 day a week shows,” said Ludwin. “It just seemed to be a cool place to work and I was thrilled to be hired to come and work there.”
His job was to represent the network and be the liaison between the writers, producers, talent and everyone in between.
“As programmers, we challenge the producers to do their best work,” said Ludwin. “That hopefully doesn’t mean getting in the way or it doesn’t mean that we should dictate what they should do. They have to do it, they have to produce the show, but we give advice and help them do the best show that they can do.”
Ludwin came through in a big way on this front, suggesting and helping develop the successful television series, “Seinfeld.”
“We knew we had a good show on our hands but it was this big hit that everybody watched and I oversaw the show for its entire nine year run on the air,” said Ludwin. “If you’re lucky enough to get even one of those, you’re ahead of the curve.”
On top of that, he was also busy aiding in the production of “The Tonight Show.”
“As far as I know, I am the only person who has worked with all six hosts on ‘The Tonight Show,’” said Ludwin. “There is an immediacy to it that I love and you’re working with creative, funny people and you know you are going to laugh. It’s not a bad way to go through the day.”
Despite working in the industry for so long, he hasn’t quite gotten over the thrill of being in Hollywood.
“There’s something really exciting about being around creative people and I love it,” said Ludwin. “I hope I never lose my excitement over being a part of that.”
Ludwin has found several ways to share his enthusiasm for the field, one of them being the Inside Hollywood program.
The program gives Miami students who are passionate about media the chance to go to Los Angeles for three weeks to learn about the different facets of the entertainment industry.
“He is this huge legend figure in late night television and he is just a great guy in general,” said senior Strategic Communication major, Carly McKay. “He was literally with us the entire time. We wouldn’t have met Conan or gone to the Conan O’Brien show without him. He was really open and he has given us so many resources. He is an idol for sure.”
McKay is not alone in these opinions — many students who have participated in the program also look up to him.
“He is the reason the program exists,” said junior Julia Carter. “He is just super humble and so knowledgeable about comedy and late night television.”
Along with helping in the creation of this program, Ludwin also returns to campus every year to lecture on a relevant media subject.
“I come to talk to students about what’s new in the media,” said Ludwin. “I want to hear about what they like and what they don’t like.”
His secret for being so successful? Passion.
“I found over the years that the people I work with all have a passion for television,” said Ludwin. “Find your passion, that’s something of a cliché I guess but it is absolutely true.”
Ludwin’s lecture is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15 in the Williams Hall TV Studio.