"Klaas is political, likes trash television and knows about it, but has no idea about soccer." – These are three important pieces of information that 30-year-old Jan Horst needed for his job as a TV writer at Late Night Berlin must know. Because his job is "to make it as easy as possible for Klaas to deliver a great show." Instead, he thinks up suitable jokes for the show and for host Klaas Heufer-Umlauf, writes texts, works with trades and gives stage directions.
Jan Horst completed his bachelor’s degree in media studies at the University of Tubingen in 2016. However, it wasn’t clear to him from the start that he was right for the media industry. Coming to the University of Tubingen in 2011, at first he didn’t know at all what he wanted to do. Through his love of music – he played the guitar himself – it was clear to him that creativity was slumbering in him, but he did not know how to channel it. He then initially decided to study rhetoric, mainly because it "sounds kind of good" and there was no NC, he notes with a laugh. However, his lack of Latin, which is a prerequisite for studying rhetoric, became his undoing after a year: "I wasn’t lazy, but I put all my power into other things than Latin.". After this year, he changed to media science: "By chance and a lot of luck I slipped in there", because Jan Horst was first on the waiting list after his application: on place 230. He speaks in this context of "fate", through which he then still got a place at university. Only then, through his studies, did he find out what his strengths were. Through the many opportunities in college to try things out, like producing a broadcast, writing for commercials or television, and also through his internship at SWR Late Night and his cooperation with Cross-country, he realized that he could write and, above all, that in the profession of a writer for comedy formats, writing can be combined with humor.
So it was also clear to Jan Horst that he did not want to follow up with a master’s degree after his bachelor’s degree, because an academic career was and is not for him: he wants to work, be creative and go his own way. A master’s degree would only have "wasted his time".
"Kissed by Luck": Editor at ZDF
In February 2016, at the age of 26, Jan Horst had his bachelor’s degree in his hand and was initially at a loss as to what to do with it. However, he had an interview just two weeks later and had moved to Mainz four weeks after that.
At this point ARD and ZDF a new offer, namely RADIO, started: "That ZDF Was looking for someone who is comedyaffin and would like to work with a young production company for a sketch format ". For Jan Horst, it was clear that he really wanted to get this job. Although the normal application period was already over, he still managed to get an interview as a latecomer: "I felt like I was in court because so many people were there and I was the one who had to report". Jan Horst received an acceptance letter: "It was an incredible opportunity for me to be part of something like this, right from the start. But I just stumbled into it: well, then I am now a ZDF editor."
As editor, Jan Horst was responsible for the Sketch Channel Good Work Originals responsible. In the process, he checked the texts of the authors of the bildundtonfabrik on its content and whether it met the ZDF specifications. "In a way, I was always the seal of quality and had the responsibility to make sure that the content was good enough." It took self-confidence and courage to push through a good idea – as opposed to a slightly worse one. However, Jan Horst was not able to use his talent for creative and humorous writing in this job – and he lacked it.
"The creative streak in me is up to my neck and I’m desperate to write!" – Author at Late Night Berlin
Jan Horst changed sides: After a year and a half at the ZDF he went to Florida TV: "Because I believed in myself and just wanted to give it a try, I applied to Klaas". At that time there was a job advertisement for the new show Late Night Berlin given. "I already noticed that there was something bubbling, because Circus HalliGalli was half a year over and they said they wanted to do a follow-up show with Klaas". To get the job, Jan Horst started early to observe what was happening around the new show and thus knew early on that a job posting was coming and prepared for it accordingly, putting a lot of effort into his application. Contrary to what might have been assumed, Jan Horst was not offered the job through contacts he made through jobs and internships: "I floated along with the others, there was no one who said we would like to have you, you have talent. I had to join a line, like everyone else, and send in my documents."
In December 2017, Jan Horst applied for the job as a writer at Late Night Berlin and, after an interview, got a commitment. Three weeks later he moved from Mainz to Berlin. There he then had the opportunity to present his ideas to Klaas Heufer-Umlauf. Fascinated, he reports: "When I started out in this media world at the age of 26, I had really big eyes, and I still have big eyes for Joko and for Klaas!"
Over a period of almost two years, Jan Horst moved first from Tubingen to Mainz and then again from Mainz to Berlin: "For me, a change of location is simply part and parcel of a media profession. It was clear that I would have to move to one of the big media cities as a full-time TV writer. And of course Berlin was always a great option. I actually did not hesitate for a second. I was 28 and the chance to be part of such a great show – gigantic! But I would also have moved to Hamburg or Cologne."
It didn’t matter at all how long he had been working in this industry: Every idea is listened to, whether it comes from interns or long-time employees. Jan Horst emphasizes that he always feels like he is an important part of the company.
However, it turned out to be a challenge that the show was going to be different than Jan Horst had first imagined: because in contrast to Circus HalliGalli The new late-night show had to meet higher demands in terms of topics, especially more political topics were to be addressed and the "nonsense moments" were to be cut back. Jan Horst tells us that he now first had to get to grips with his ideas for the show. Another challenge was that Klaas Heufer-Umlauf wanted to break away from Joko Winterscheidt with his new show: "I had to learn how to tell Klaas’s story in a new way, but without scaring away the old fans."
A working week at Late Night Berlin
The show Late Night Berlin can be divided into two areas, for which different teams, or rather, different groups of people, are responsible. authors are responsible: The studio show, in which, among other things, guests are invited and games are played, and the interludes. Jan Horst is part of the studio team: In the morning, when he goes to the newsroom, there is usually a news meeting where they talk about news: Jan Horst mentions, for example, that the newly released FIFA game is being discussed and that a studio game is to be constructed to go with it. The aim is to combine current events with pop culture and to create show content from this. Then the tasks are distributed and worked on in teams of 2: Usually an author first writes a first version, which is then read by the colleague and supplemented. Once the pieces are written, Jan Horst forwards them to the supervisor, who checks the texts and – in consultation with Klaas Heufer-Umlauf – has to approve them. When asked whether there is also internal competition and whether each author wants to push through his or her ideas, Jan Horst laughingly waves it off: "It’s a huge children’s birthday party, I begrudge everyone an idea and everyone begrudges me an idea. There is so much patting each other on the back, everyone has so much fun working as a team."
In the next step, Jan Horst explains, he works with the graphics department, since the texts in the show are not only read aloud, but also have to be designed visually.
At the end of the week, there is a scheduling meeting to discuss the content of the show. Then the moderation book is written – often Jan Horst takes over this task on Friday evening. In concrete terms, this means that he writes a flow text that the presenter Klaas Heufer-Umlauf can use as a guide; the main thing here is to construct the transitions: in other words, how to transition from one gag to the next. The following Monday, the show is produced: Jan Horst goes to the studio to be present during the preparations and also during the shoot itself. He is not only the author, but also the interface to the trades that take care of the sound, props and costumes for the recordings, for example. Sometimes he also takes over the directing: "It’s much more than just writing a joke, it’s much more a very big part, which also involves a lot of communication: working together with the trades, with the costumes, the props, the lighting, the sound and also with Klaas, who is actually a trade in his own right." Jan Horst remarks with a smile. Above all, it must be remembered that "as an author, you are always a service provider," which means that Jan Horst, as an author, must always try to match Klaas Heufer-Umlauf’s language and humor with his texts. Klaas then picks out the jokes, the passages that suit him, but rarely speaks them exactly as they were written for the show.
Another of Jan Horst’s tasks is to communicate with the celebrity studio guests, such as Emilia Schule or Felix Lobrecht, and to inform them about the show and the planned games. Often he also writes an expose, which is sent in advance to the management of the respective guest.
"Think as big as you can!" – tips from Jan Horst to students
"If you know what is expected of you for a job, then try to do everything you can to be perceived that way: as someone who can do the job. And not just in the interview, but also online. If you are funny, show it on Twitter, if you want to write, create a blog, if you want to film, do it on Instagram, show your humor on TikTok, if you want to become a comedian or actor. Always putting yourself out there and making it easy for people to find you and find you well is what helped me and what helps anyone else who wants to get into media."
"Just apply, even if you’re not ready yet, even a one-timer like on Duel around the world to shoot, no matter, I couldn’t do that at the beginning either. A company like Florida TV will always give people the opportunity to develop. It’s like a training club, where you sit together with great and great writers and editors and are never left alone."
Good to know
- A total of 10 ‘fixed’ authors write the content for Late Night Berlin. But in addition, there are outside writers who submit stand-up jokes for the show, which creates a pool of gags that can be drawn on for the show.