Kip Kroeger ’04 celebrates his dream career in television with an Emmy win for his work on Ted Lasso.
It didn’t matter to Kip Kroeger ’04 that his first job after college required him to work long hours and fetch coffee, lunch and whatever else his co-workers or supervisors requested. He was in Los Angeles, Calif., a long way from his childhood home in Kinston, N.C., and felt like his dreams were already becoming a reality. He remembers taking advantage of the three-hour time difference to periodically call his parents on his way home after a late night at work that spilled into the early morning.
“This is the best job ever,” Kroeger told them. “I was in the editing room last night while they were editing the show and watching all these tricks that they were pulling off to make things work, and it’s just so cool.”
Their son was working in television, on a popular NBC sitcom called Scrubs. Granted, Kroeger was a low-level production assistant, essentially a glorified term for gopher. That also meant, though, that he was seeing how a television show was put together and hanging out with people who, despite their big titles, were often willing to share a bit of television magic with this kid who had just graduated from NC State with a degree in biology (medical school was the fallback option).
That was nearly 18 years ago. Today Kroeger, 39, has an Emmy sitting on a table in his bedroom — an award that came from his work as a producer on Ted Lasso, a comedy on Apple TV that has become something of a cultural phenomenon. Fans anxiously await the release of new episodes, and celebrities ranging from U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney to television and radio host Ryan Seacrest have dressed up as the show’s characters for Halloween. The show was recognized with seven Emmy awards, including one for outstanding comedy series. Kroeger’s came from his work as the show’s supervising producer in charge of post-production (think editing, sound, music, visual effects, etc.).
“It’s super cool when there’s recognition and people are like, ‘We’re validating what we’ve seen, and we dig it,’” he says. “And so it’s all surreal.”
The show, which is now filming its third season, uses an improbable scenario — an American college football coach hired to manage a professional English soccer team — to explore what it’s like to be a fish out of water. Critics have raved about the show’s intelligence and heart, and fans have taken to social media to preach the gospel of Ted Lasso, the show’s title character played by Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis, and a sparkling cast of characters that range from the glamorous team owner to a foul-mouthed aging soccer star. Oh, and it’s funny, too.
The show’s over-the-top success has been a bit of a surprise for Kroeger and others on the crew. In a world where producers, editors, camera operators and other production crew members bounce from show to show, it’s not uncommon to feel like you have a potential hit on your hands only to see the show dropped after a season. And while Kroeger liked what he saw as they made the first season of Ted Lasso, he has learned not to get his hopes up.
“There’s a lot of warm and fuzzy in the show,” he says. “The successful shows, the ones getting the most attention up to that point, were edgy and dark. But I think we all were kind of looking for a little bit of that warmth and lack of edge. The show ended up being able to deliver it at kind of a perfect moment.”
Bill Lawrence, one of the executive producers of Ted Lasso, was one of Kroeger’s first bosses in the business. Working on the set of Scrubs, Kroeger appreciated the environment that Lawrence had created. “The world that Bill would build on his shows was one of people genuinely being nice,” Kroeger says. (Ring a bell, Ted Lasso fans?). “They had a ‘no asshole’ policy. If you were a jerk, you didn’t survive. But if you were good, they were loyal and they kept you around.”
Randall Winston was also a producer on Scrubs, and took Kroeger under his wing. “I met an eager kid who was smart and very willing to jump in and take risks,” Winston says. “He was always volunteering to go the extra mile.”
Winston advised Kroeger that he had to embrace the chaos that comes from working in an industry fueled by a strange mix of creativity, ego, money and competitiveness. “Kip is somebody who has the temperament to put the puzzle back together every day,” says Winston, who has produced shows such as American Housewife, Roseanne and Grace and Frankie. “That kind of mindset and discipline is required.”
Kip is somebody who has the temperament to put the puzzle back together every day. That kind of mindset and discipline is required.
— Randall Winston, producer
As Kroeger has moved up the ladder, working on shows such as The Conners, Home Economics and Roseanne, he’s had to juggle managerial responsibilities with increasing opportunities to have creative input on shows. As the supervising producer for post-production on Ted Lasso, Kroeger does most of his work in Los Angeles (where he lives with his wife and two daughters) even though the show is filmed in London. He supervises a team of eight people and works with vendors who handle things such as visual effects.
To gain an appreciation for the impact Kroeger and his team have on the show, think about the soccer games on the show that are played in a London stadium full of screaming fans. In reality, there was no stadium and there were no screaming fans — the actors played football on a practice field ringed by giant green screens, with sound and visual effects specialists adding the rest in post-production.
Melissa McCoy, an editor on Ted Lasso, has worked with Kroeger on a handful of shows over the last half dozen years. She echoes Winston’s sentiment that Kroeger knows how to get control of the chaos. “I call him my voice of reason,” says McCoy, who was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Ted Lasso. “There are so many times when you think the world is crashing on your episode, and he’s such a steady hand. He keeps you calm. We call it being Kipped.”
Kroeger admits that he sees something of himself in Lasso, the amiable coach who cares deeply about the people around him. “I tend to see myself as a bit of an optimist,” he says. “I like helping people find the best parts of themselves. I like giving people the room to flex their creative muscles. We’re all in this together. I love that vibe.”
I call him my voice of reason. There are so many times when you think the world is crashing on your episode, and he’s such a steady hand. He keeps you calm. We call it being Kipped.
— Melissa McCoy, editor
For now, Kroeger is savoring the experience of working on such a popular show with a team that he considers nothing short of amazing — from the writers and the actors to the people on his post-production crew. But he knows that it will end, and as an independent contractor he is always on the lookout for the next job. While working on Ted Lasso, Kroeger has also been producing a reboot of the 1980s sitcom called Head of the Class.
“I’ve always had this mentality of you’ve got to be hustling, you’ve got to be looking for your next gig,” he says. “And you’ve got to be doing everything you can to build relationships and find people you really love to work with.”
Which brings us back to those early-morning calls that Kroeger made to his parents in North Carolina when he was still new to the business. He recalls telling his parents that he was having a blast, stunned that he was getting paid to do what he had dreamed of for years.
“We’re making TV,” he told them.