Latrobe native shapes MTV programs
The MTV exec who gave members of the Class of 2002 exotic places to party during years of spring breaks will be the commencement speaker Saturday at his alma mater, Clarion University.
Bob Kusbit, senior vice president of production and the man who put "Total Request Live" host Carson Daly on the air, directs more than 75 percent of MTV's programs, including "Spring Break," which features college students partying in hot spots like Cancun.
The Latrobe native graduated from Clarion in 1983. His advice to graduates• Think outside the box.
"The bottom line for me is, no matter where you come from, it's all about the idea and the passion to take that idea what I call 'one louder'."
"In (the movie) ‘This is Spinal Tap,' they follow a fake rock band, and the guitarist has an amplifier that goes to 11. Normal amplifiers go only go to 10, but his has to be better.
"My point is that, in MTV and everything else, everyone else is going to try and crank it to 10; we have to crank it to 11."
Kusbit, who lives in Riverside, Conn., with his wife, Beth, and children Cooper, 7, and Gracie, 2, credits his small-town upbringing for guiding some of his decisions at MTV.
"We can't just think about a New York audience. We are successful because we have things that can relate to everybody in the country," he said from his office in Times Square.
"When we talk about new ideas, in the back of my mind, I am thinking about that viewer in Latrobe." His parents, Walter and Judy Kusbit, still live there.
Kusbit graduated from Clarion with a communications degree, but he didn't always want to work in television.
"First, I was an accounting major. I thought I would play golf and do people's taxes in the winter," he said, laughing.
He changed his mind because many of his friends were communication majors, and he thought what they were doing looked exciting. He said he didn't foresee where his career would lead him.
"Everybody told me there were no jobs, but I lucked into an interview in Altoona and got a job as a cameraman."
His father said it was difficult watching Kusbit pursue a career in a competitive field.
"We always looked forward to hearing his stories about how it was going for him," said Walter Kusbit.
"With each step he took, it was gratifying, but there was always that apprehension. As a parent, you want your kids to succeed."
"When he got a job as a photographer in Altoona, he would stay around and watch the producer. And then he liked producing."
He left Altoona for production jobs in Columbus, Ohio, and then at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh. Next, he became a freelance producer, making pilots for Disney and Fox, including one for the syndicated "Gordon Elliot Show." From 1993-96, he worked for Maury Povich's company, MoPo Productions. In 1996, he accepted MTV's offer to have him reinvent programs such as "Unplugged" and "Spring Break."
Kusbit's mom, Judy, said her son's charisma has made him successful.
"It's the way he is. He's pleasant and easygoing; he attracts people to him."
Kusbit said a laid-back atmosphere is key to his success as well as MTV's.
"My office is like a dorm room. There's a Dan Marino jersey on the wall and spring break posters — the whole environment is why we're successful.
He said he hopes to stay at MTV.
"MTV is in my blood, it will always be. Everyone here is my child."