When Justine Cabulong was stationed in Afghanistan doing public affairs for the Marine Corps, she was constantly solving problems — like the time a magazine reporter was assigned to cover a particular village, but Cabulong received instructions at the last minute to send him somewhere else.
“I told [the reporter], ‘This is not going to be what you want, but I promise it’ll be really good,’ ” recalls Cabulong, 30. The other platoon ended up being even better for the reporter than the first location. “I was so proud of that moment — I needed to do something quick and tap into [my] resources to make it happen.”
She relies on that same skill set as audience supervisor at “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah,” where she hustles to find seats for last-minute VIPs, accommodates groups, ramps up logistics for shows on the road and ensures there’s always a full house.
“It’s about managing expectations,” says Cabulong. “Can I send [people I’m displacing] to ‘The Nightly Show’ or VIP them for a different day? Everyone’s happy, the full house happens in a ‘mission complete’ kind of way.”
Mission complete, indeed. The Battery Park City resident was hired by the popular comedy show in 2013 after finishing her active military role in 2011.
Cabulong briefly worked in public relations before switching to TV — her passion — and applying for the first Veterans Immersion Program, a seven-week internship program requested by former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart.
The program originated when American Corporate Partners, a mentoring nonprofit, reached out to Stewart to request that he take on one veteran as an intern. The comedian approached his supervising producer, Elise Terrell, and production manager, Camille Hebert, to launch an entire program.
“He didn’t want to mentor one vet,” recalls Hebert. “He wanted to give a learning experience to a larger group.”
To apply, veterans must explain why they’re interested in the internship before they’re granted an interview; 16 are accepted into the program each cycle. Over seven weeks, the vets are given a crash course in production and networking, with the opportunity to speak with professionals about the logistical, creative and technical aspects of TV. During the final week the interns attend a career fair, which has resulted in hires at Viacom, Disney/ABC and Time Inc., as well as Comedy Central.
“In addition to hopefully finding positions and making lifelong connections, [veterans] start to recognize their skills are applicable to an industry they’re very eager to work in,” says Terrell. “That’s encouraging — it’s not as much of a pipe dream as they might have thought it was.”
Several months after her program ended, Cabulong received an e-mail about the opening at “The Daily Show” and wound up getting the job.
“[The program is] a great way to introduce veterans to the world of television,” she notes.
Plus, it’s helped her form valuable relationships — one friend works for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and another was hired by Comedy Central. “It definitely ended up in job opportunities. And if it didn’t, it built your confidence in that area.”
Terrell agrees it’s the ultimate win-win. “They have skills that are valued by our organization. A lot of the skills are very translatable and desirable.”
Those skills include time management, the ability to execute a task, problem solving, teamwork and, of course, the ability to work well under pressure.
“TV is certainly not war by any means, but we’re always rushing around doing a million things to get the show on the air each night,” adds Hebert. “[So experience with] an occasional state of chaos is extremely helpful.”