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NBC Page From North Wildwood Makes SNL Debut With Aubrey Plaza

Micah Rucci, Talya Ozbelli and Aubrey Plaza on the Saturday, Jan. 21 "Saturday Night Live" episode.
Micah Rucci, Talya Ozbelli and Aubrey Plaza on the Saturday, Jan. 21 "Saturday Night Live" episode. Photo Credit: NBC Universal

Starting his dream job in the NBC Page program two days after graduating from University of Virginia would've been plenty for Micah Rucci.

But last Saturday, Jan. 21, the 23-year-old North Wildwood native's dream job got even cooler, as he made his "Saturday Night Live" debut with host Aubrey Plaza.

Rucci and the other pages joked they'd be written into the script, as Plaza was famously in the same program when she was around their age. So when Rucci saw his name next to Plaza's, Amy Poheler's, and his coworker Talya Ozbelli's on the call sheet, he was in disbelief.

"I thought, 'There's no way they're going to have us in this,'" Rucci said in a phone call with Daily Voice from his New York City apartment. "'They're totally going to hire extras.' Anything can get cut at the last minute. Nothing is real until it happens."

Well, it happened, alright. Rucci and Ozbelli helped Plaza into her NBC Page jacket for the scene in her monologue, and then it went to air.

When Rucci returned to the NBC Page desk, he was met by Amy Poehler. 

"She grabbed my hand and said, 'Did you call your parents? You're going to be on TV.'"

Only then did Rucci know his wildest dreams had just become a reality.

Rucci grew up in the small beach town of North Wildwood, and attended Wildwood Catholic High School. He went on to pursue media studies at the University of Virginia, Tina Fey's alma mater. 

Because Rucci pursued a distinguished majors program (media studies and Spanish with a concentration in literature and culture), he was required to write a thesis paper. And it could be about anything. Literally, anything.

He chose SNL. Particularly, LGBTQ+ representation in American sketch comedy.

"There’s been this sort of arc in queer comedy about how LGBTQ people used to be the butt of the joke, now they’re the ones making the jokes about themselves," Rucci explained. "There’s this reclamation and autonomy in the joke-telling, which from an academic standpoint, is a completely different sort of representation in sketch comedy.

"Is [the joke] funny or is it funny because we know the actor is a heterosexual, and there’s this perverse hilarity that comes out of it? The  juxtaposition of a straight person doing something stereotypically queer.

"There is such a strong LGTBQ representation in the SNL cast and the people they choose to host."

Rucci spent two years digging into the SNL archives, reliving the moments he'd spent as a teen in his friend's garages long after their parents had gone to bed, and analyzing all of the sketches with queer representation.

During his last semester, Rucci landed his dream internship with NBC, on the scripted publicity and strategic communications team.

"I felt so valued as an intern, I thought to myself, 'Anywhere I move up in this company, I'm going to feel equally if not more valued as a person, as a thinker and as a worker.'"

At the suggestions from his teachers and mentors, Rucci applied to the network's highly sought-after Page Program. Founded in 1933, the one-year fellowship is regarded as one of the best early career programs in the media and entertainment industry.

Regis Philbin, Michael Eisner, Ted Koppel, Trevor Moore and Aubrey Plaza are just some of the stars who got their starts at 30 Rock, in the Page Program.

Rucci wondered, could he, too?

"I tired not to get too excited about it, because the program has a 1.5% acceptance rate and is super competitive," Rucci said.

He figured he'd get rejected, since NBC was hiring for the May cohort — which was when he was graduating. He figured he'd go home to Wildwood for the summer and return to his seasonal position at Duffer's Restaurant.

He figured he'd apply to the Page Program again in the fall, and move to NYC with money in his pocket.

So, when Rucci heard he'd been accepted to the program for the May cohort, he was shocked. And, they wanted him to start two days after graduation.

"It was super exciting, but there was no time to get cold feet," he recalled. "I graduated May 21, 2022, notoriously this horribly hot day. Then, the next day I had to pack up my entire life in a couple suitcases and get on an Amtrak train to move to NYC without an apartment or a place to live."

And then, he'd go to work at 30 Rock.

Rucci spent the summer couch surfing and having the greatest time in the Page Program. In the fall, he found an apartment and was accepted into what may be the most coveted position in the Page Program: SNL.

"I grew up with a profound appreciation for comedy and late-night comedy," Rucci said. "SNL means so much to me because it makes jokes about things we're afraid to make jokes about. It allows us to find humor in some really dark situations or sad times.

"If there's one thing people or communities can agree on, it's laughter. Finding a way to laugh about things things. It helps us get through terrible times and that's why I think the show has gone so long. Comedy isn't something that's going anywhere."

And Rucci was about to be a part of it.

"I remember getting called into the Page office and they told me I landed the position," he said. "I'd spend October through February in my absolute dream job, and that's what I've been doing the past couple months."

Rucci and the few other SNL pages are the eyes and ears of the studio. They work with the cast, the hosts and producers to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Things came full circle for Rucci last weekend, when he played himself in Plaza's monologue about her experience in the Page Program.

"The whole thing just felt so surreal... and I can imagine it did for Aubrey as well," Rucci said. "She came up to introduce herself to us and said, 'As a former Page, I see you, and I appreciate you.'"

Rucci isn't sure what the future holds for him beyond this year. All he knows right now is that he's absolutely loving the NBC ride.

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