"Well I own my own cue card company"
It's very awkward to explain to people what I do for a living. They'll tell me what their occupation is (teacher, stock broker, salesman) and then they'll politely inquire about my profession, usually expecting me to say that I work a normal 9 to 5 job, I don't. I say, "Well, I own my own cue card company (New York City Q-Cards, Inc.) And I do cue cards for television shows. They usually respond a bit confused, saying something like, "cue cards? So, you hold up pieces of card board for a living?" I'll continue to tell them that I handle all the cue card work on "Saturday Night Live" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" plus many other award shows, live specials, commercials, infomercials, pilots, and sometimes even sitcoms and movies. Now, I've captured their interest, and we usually spend the better part of the evening discussing my job. But, I've gotten ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
Hi, My name is Wally Feresten,
I graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor's degree in Writing for TV, Radio and Film from the prestigious Newhouse Communications School. After graduation in 1987, I spent three years in Los Angeles trying to make it as a writer. The only writing offer I got in those three years was to write scripts for adult films. I passed, and in 1990 I moved to New York City to try my luck there. Soon after moving to NYC, my brother, Spike Feresten, who happened to work at "Saturday Night Live" as a receptionist and who was 3 months away from starting a writing job on "Late Night with David Letterman", told me of a job opportunity in the cue card department at "SNL". When he heard about the job, he didn't recommend me because he knew I had very bad penmanship (not my fault, it was hereditary, my grandfather was a doctor). I convinced him to let me at least go and meet with the cue card guys and see what happens. He set it up.
He didn't remember me because he thought I had bad penmanship
I met with Kevin Kay, who's uncle owned the company, and who had been doing cue cards on the show since it's inception in 1975. A side note: Soon after my starting in 1990, Kevin worked his way up through Nickelodeon and into Spike TV and is now the President of Spike TV. I also met with Tony Mendez who really ran the show, and you might know him as David Letterman's personal cue card guy for the last 13 years or so. They gave me a few tips about printing cards and then set me down to print some sample cue cards. My cards were awful, but they were kind and said they'd seen worse. They hired me for 10 bucks an hour and 15 for overtime hours. I now had my first job in the entertainment field. I was a cue card guy for "Saturday Night Live". I was 25 years old.
I didn't go to Syracuse University to be a cue card guy, but I saw it as an opportunity to make connections and get my foot in the door, and that's exactly what I did. Now, being a cue card guy may not sound so glamorous, but I get to work with and become friends with some of the major comedy talent working today, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Kevin Nealon, David Spade and so many more cast members past and present. I also get to work one on one with everybody who hosts "SNL". Over 17 years I have worked with most of the major movie and TV stars working today, Sports superstars and major politicians including, George Bush, George Bush jr, Al Gore, Steve Forbes, Barak Obama, Rudy Guliani, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg just to name a few.