Mike Henneberger describes his 20s as “Starting over, and over, and over…” (read the full story here). Following the break up of a burgeoning pop punk band he started with classmates–What he calls the hardest break up of his life–Henneberger found himself in Corpus Christie, Texas with little direction. After packing up his van to make it in LA, a stint as a La Quinta security guard, and a year in the US military, Henneberger had gone through transformation after transformation.
In his interview, Henneberger talks about the importance of reinventing yourself in your 20s and staying patient through it.
Mike Henneberger, a production coordinator at Comedy Central, won an Emmy in 2013 for Outstanding Interactive Program for Night of Too Many Stars. He also heads the digital media department for Tosh.0 and Workaholics.
Hailing from Kingsville, Texas, Mike originally attended Texas A&M University at Kingsville with the intention of becoming a history teacher. Henneberger, however, dropped out after his sophomore year to pursue a writing career in Los Angeles. Amongst few odd jobs, Mike worked as a security guard on the set of Desperate Housewives.
After a stint in the army, Mike decided to finish college at Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. After graduation, he got an internship at Comedy Central as a digital media intern at The Colbert Report.
Henneberger, testament to the benefits of internships, managed to secure a position in the digital media department at Comedy Central.
Mike recently founded a non-profit, Zero Platoon, which helps make the adjustment into military life a little easier with the help of touring musicians and other entertainers.
I’m Mike Henneberger, and I’m a digital production coordinator at Comedy Central, where I work for Workaholics, Tosh.0, and Night of Too Many Stars, for which I won an Emmy in 2013.
I mean I was a skater punk in high school who just didn’t care what anybody thought. And that’s how all my friends were too. We started this band together, we were like brothers. Our first tour was two and a half months, We’re just on the road in this dark, nothing Texas road and everybody is sitting at the front of this old school bus that we built bunk beds in, to travel in and nobody’s talking and I remember thinking ‘ I can really do anything I want if I just work hard enough to do it”. When we got home, the guys all decided they wanted to break up. And so it was like a huge, one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life because these guys were my best friends.
I talked to my dad about it, and he gave me this advice that I was only 20 and I had plenty of time to start over 10 more times. It made a little bit of sense to me then, but I was still thinking, “yea I can start over 10 more times, but I’m going back to college right now to be a history teacher, that’s not as cool as going on tour. So I can start over 10 more times but will those 10 more times be as cool to me as what I just did?”. But I decided I was too young to do something for the rest of my life, to do the same thing for the rest of my life.
And I loaded up everything I owned into the van. The day my van was full I thought: New York or LA? And that’s how stupid spontaneous I was, cause I was 22 you know? And I decided on LA and I started driving and 45 minutes later my van broke down. And I had $3000 I was moving to LA with. So I found a place called Last Hope Garage. And it was $800 to rebuild by engine, which was the cheapest place, obviously because it’s called ‘Last Hope’. So I got back on the road and then 2 hours outside of LA it broke down again. Another thing that would have cost hundreds of dollars to fix and I didn’t have that. So I, signed my van over to a junk yard, gave them my van, got a uhaul, threw all my crap in the uhaul and finished the trip and made it to LA.
I started working at the NBC universal lot and I was a security guard where most of my job was guarding Wisteria Lane for Desperate Housewives shoots, you know. So I was a security guard but I’m watching productions being made, you know, I’m watching TV and Film being made right in front of me. I love that city but, I was just at that time, I needed a break from it.
I decided to move back to Texas just to kind of get back on my feet. So I’m in Corpus Christi Texas and I don’t have a great job, so I was like Guarding a La Quinta Inn, you know. So I have this crappy job and I’m living with a friend from high school and his wife. And so I was just like beating myself up because I wasn’t doing anything with my life. And at this point I’m you know, 25, and I feel like I’m such a loser. And so I just felt directionless and hopeless and I didn’t know what to do, and I thought I would join the army.
I joined when I was 25, I got out when I was 26. But while I was there I just saw all these like 18-year-old kids who joined and it’s the first time that they’re away from home. And away from anyone, anybody who cares about them. And a lot of them don’t know how to deal with it. I mean I probably handled it a little bit better because I wasn’t 18, but I didn’t handle it that much better. So that taught me to think out my decisions a little more. And I knew for sure in those 6 years that I wanted to work in media. I was going to work in TV and Film, I wanted to write.
When I was 27 I got an internship at Comedy Central Digital. Every 2 years Comedy Central puts on this autism benefit called Night of Too Many Stars and John Stewart hosts it. My boss and I, we were the digital team for it. We got nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Interactive Program. We raised like over 4 million dollars for these autism charities. I mean before there were any nominations for this thing, it was already one of the most fulfilling things I’d ever done. You know it’s so weird because like I would love to have some closure. I don’t feel like I’m ever done, you know? It’s like that happened and I immediately thought, “well great, now what do I do to top that?” Success is a curse and a blessing because It’s a curse that I keep on wanting to do better but it’s also that blessing because it makes me keep trying to do better.
Cinematography: Alex Bowie, Danielle Calodney
Edited by: Alex Bowie
Interviewed: by Laura Lehmann
Produced by: Pangée Productions