The star of a rap video that immortalized Shenendehowa High School online is taking his talents to late-night television.
Jack Carpenter, 20, will be testing his rap skills tonight against a handful of other amateur performers during a segment on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” The segment is a variation on a musical challenge previously done on the show, where performers are provided a topic and then a brief period backstage to prepare before performing on television.
Last week Carpenter went to a taping of Fallon’s show with the hope of appearing in the musical challenge, even though he doesn’t play an instrument. Skilled in writing song parodies, though, he felt comfortable with the idea of rapping his song. To his delight, show staff informed him that they were taking the segment in a new direction: rap.
“It couldn’t have lined up any better,” he said.
The next day, staff from “Late Night” contacted Carpenter with his audition challenge. He had an hour to write a rap about lobsters and send in a video of himself performing the rap. The rap, which is told from the vantage point of the lobster, includes the line, “When you eat a lobster, you take one of us down. But when [New Jersey Gov.] Chris Christie eats a lobster, we lose a whole town.”
The audition tape was a success and he made it on to the show, which will tape early this evening.
“The exposure is going to be big,” said Carpenter, who has dreams of being a late-night host. He is currently working with a local television station in Vermont, where he attends Champlain College, to host his own late-night show that would air once a week.
To further his dream of a career in late-night television, he interned this summer at CBS 6, where he has done a hodgepodge of tasks. “I wanted to intern at a late-night show,” he said, “so I did this to get it on my résumé and to get a good broadcast experience.”
Capital Region residents might already know Carpenter from a video he made in 2011 about Shenendehowa High School, when he was a senior there. The underground video, which was filmed on campus without the district’s permission and quickly pulled off of YouTube, featured Carpenter rapping about the school’s culture and included many of his classmates. “It blew up,” he remembers, and he credits district officials with having a good sense of humor about it, even though they asked for the video to come down.
Stemming from the video, Carpenter said, “I became known as the ‘Shen Rap Kid’ by people.”
In preparation for the show, he has been studying the show’s recent topics, like Anthony Weiner and Christie, to incorporate current jokes into his raps. “I think that will give me the edge and put me in the audience’s favor,” he said.
The regular stand-up comedy performer said he doesn’t get nervous during a performance, but he finds the anticipation before a show to be nerve-wracking. Last week’s visit to the show, which showed how small and laid-back the studio is, made him feel more comfortable in advance of today.
He will be in New York City for the taping with his sister, who lives in the Capital Region, and brother, who is coming up from Virginia.
“Late Night” goes on the air at 12:35 a.m. on NBC, Channel 13.