Interview with alumnus and BuzzFeed video producer Keith Habersberger
Keith Habersberger graduated from Illinois State University in 2008 with an acting degree from the School of Theatre and Dance.
After graduation, Habersberger moved to Chicago and quickly joined Mission Improvable (M.I), a touring improv company. For the next four years Habersberger toured with M.I., did hundreds of shows in Chicago with Octavarius (an improv group mostly formed out of ISU Improv Mafia alumni and friends), produced the College Improv Tournament with Chicago Improv Festival Productions, started learning video production to help create I Made America (a webseries made by Octavarius about the Founding Fathers coming to the year 2012 and experiencing America), and did some babysitting to fill in the gaps of his finances.
Habersberger is now a BuzzFeed Motion Pictures development partner. He visited Illinois State twice this year, once for the Theatre of Ted 25th anniversary in the fall, and again to shoot a video for Admissions and participate in a colloquium with the School of Theatre and Dance.
How has the move to LA affected Octavarius?
When Octavarius moved to Los Angeles, the company downsized to four members, and has since downsized to three. The spirit of the group has stayed the same, but the type of show we do has evolved to feel a little more like a standup-improv hybrid. We’re all still good friends with our former Octavarians in Chicago.
Was it hard to leave some members and best friends back in Chicago?
It’s always hard to move. Starting a new life is intimidating. Those of us that moved felt we needed to move to continue our career. I miss doing the shows that we used to do, but I am very happy with my decision to further my career.
Has your popularity on the internet increased the number of people who come out and see shows?
Not a ton, actually. My popularity on the internet is global, so a majority of my fans are not in Los Angeles. They’re also mostly teenagers, so they can’t always come to a Tuesday night improv show in Hollywood.
What is your job title at BuzzFeed?
BuzzFeed Motion Pictures development partner.
What did you have to do to get that title?
Worked hard to execute viral videos that align with and expand BuzzFeed’s brand while also developing sub-brands within the company (Try Guys and a few others).
What has been the most fun thing you have done at BuzzFeed?
I’ve worked here for only 2.5 years, but it does feel like longer since I’ve worked in four offices since starting. The most fun thing is always Try Guys shoots. We’re the directors on set as well as the cast, and for an unscripted show it’s just the best.
What are some of the things you have learned at BuzzFeed?
I know how the internet works. I know what types of videos do better on different platforms. That said, the internet is varying, so it always keeps you guessing.
Where do you see this job taking you in your life?
I like hosting and producing. I went to college for acting, but I really just love performing. As long as I am performing in some capacity, I’m happy. I figure I’ll be here for a few more years at least.
What was it like coming back to Theatre of Ted?
Theatre of Ted was vital to my growth as a performer and host. I’m happy to see it continuing, and it’s always astonishing to see how many people have come out of it. I can’t see a future at Illinois State University without Theatre of Ted.
When you came back in the spring, what part did you enjoy the most?
I had a lot of fun at the Q&A, but I typically enjoy connecting with old friends the most. I went to the wine bar with Pete Guither and Mitch Conti ’12 (who I bribed to come down to ISU with me), and it was great to hear about what they had been up to in the last year or so. I’m also constantly impressed with how Uptown Normal has shaped itself into such a nice little town square of sorts.
I also ate DP Dough. That might have been the best. I love DP Dough.