Co-Executive Producer Of The Daily Show Puts Family First
Meet the co-executive producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart—and a mother of two—who has somehow managed to get the work/life balance right.
SHE’S ALL THAT: Kahane Cooperman (I finally changed my last name for my 10th wedding anniversary).
MOVED TO MONTCLAIR: May 2002 from Manhattan, East 22nd Street.
KIDS: 10 year old son in 4th grade at Hillside and an almost-5-year old daughter at the Montclair Community Pre-K.
WHY SHE’S ALL THAT: Kahane works fulltime in NYC. At the same time, she’s a very involved parent to her two children, and is one of those hardworking, happy few who seem to actually have the work/life balance really in balance. While leading a busy and fulfilling professional life, her kids and family are still her first priority and Kahane somehow seems to always be wherever she’s needed most.
Read on to find out how she gets home-cooked meals on the table during the work week, and more.
WORK: I’m Co-Executive Producer of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I’ve been there for almost 15 years, since Day One of the show in 1996, and I work fulltime, Monday-Friday. My background is in documentary film making, so I segued from documentaries to early stage reality TV to The Daily Show.
VOLUNTEER: When my son was at Nishuane, I was in charge of the ARTWEAR fundraiser; that was a huge, huge undertaking. I’m thrilled that I did it but I learned from it that instead of being involved on huge school wide things, maybe it’s better for me to be in the classroom. As the kids get older, there’s less opportunity to be in the classroom so I take advantage of the opportunities I can. At the Pre-K I’m co-class mom. For my son, who is in 4th grade now, I chaperone Drums of Thunder, and am working on fundraising/brainstorming ideas for Drums of Thunder, and I also organize their costumes—all the accessories, suspenders, bow ties, etc.
I’m on the Honorary Board of the Montclair International Film Festival. There are a bunch of us trying to start it with our sights set on May 2012, with some pretty exciting things along the way.
And whenever possible I like for my kids to participate in Montclair Kids in Action. We’ve done the walk after Katrina, another walk that raised money for Habitat For Humanity, we’ve donated toys and made cards for kids in Haiti.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE: The thing that’s been most unusual in this industry is that my job has been flexible as I’ve gotten married and had children. I know I’m really lucky. I was able to say to my boss that my family is my priority and it’s been respected. I get to have evening time with my kids because I’m able to leave work at 5:45 and get home at 6:40. I also have a 10 a.m. arrival and my husband works at the Colbert Report so he also gets to go in later. Because we’re Nishuane/Hillside people, we’re able to have family time in the morning, then drive our kids to school and go to work.
While I do have amazing flexibility at work, I had to sacrifice for that—on a professional level. I’ve had to let go of things. Formerly, I was first in and last out, but my priority is so clear to me that it’s my family over my job. There is the teeny part of me that misses being 150% fully involved in my work and my job but it’s worth it.
I’m very close with my kids and the minute I feel like someone is not thriving I’ll change something.
THE SCHLEPPING: My son is in Drums of Thunder at Hillside—a renowned elementary school synchronized group that travels the mid-Atlantic and plays at halftime at the Knicks, Giants, and also in Washington DC, and Boston. It’s really exciting. I chaperone those trips. He’s also involved in School of Rock in their performance group so that’s three hours of rehearsal every week and also lessons. For Drums of Thunder, they rehearse every day and they perform maybe 16-20 times over the school year. My daughter does dance at Sharron Miller, ice skating on Saturdays, and Saturday art museum classes.
WHAT GIVES: Totally the house. Organizing photos. I have boxes of them. If I could solve that. . .
EXERCISE: I really don’t. What gives—in addition to the house, it’s me, specifically with exercise. It has to change.
BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: After 10 years of marriage I finally did our wedding album. It felt really good. For 10 years that’s been on my to-do list.
PET PEEVE: Inconsiderate and rude drivers.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: There’s two—making time for myself. I put myself last. I don’t want to, nor do I think it’s a good example for my kids. Also I wish I had a little more time to be involved in the schools. I enjoy it and wish I did more.
BIGGEST HELPERS: Definitely my husband. Helper isn’t even the right word—he’s really a partner. He makes the kids’ lunches every day and does so much more.
KIDS’ LUNCH IDEAS: It’s a challenge every day. We’re pro-hot lunch—on our own, not the school hot lunch—we do thermoses with pasta, mac-n-cheese, left over lasagna. And my daughter loves ketchup sandwiches. So we put in containers of cheese, carrots, etc. in there too. We deconstruct the sandwich for her—she gets everything but it doesn’t seem like a ‘real’ sandwich.
HOW YOU GET DINNER ON THE TABLE: One thing that I try to do is to make at least one big dish on Sunday that gives a homemade option for our nanny to bring out during the week—maybe a lasagna with boca beef, or a large pot of lentil soup or split pea soup. Sometimes my son cooks with me; it’s awesome. My kids are big salad eaters, so she’ll make big salads or maybe a taquito with beans, cheese, rice, and be able to easily reheat what I’ve cooked on the weekend.
We try to make sure we have family dinners on the weekends—my husband is the true chef of the family. We do pasta, make your own pizza, tacos—my son and I don’t eat meat so we explore a lot of vegetarian options.
ADVICE FOR BUSY PARENTS: I make it work by staying as organized as possible. I’m a big list maker. It’s helps me to visualize and see things in front of me. If you’re lucky enough to work in a family friendly workplace, it will make all the difference. I don’t have any family near me in Montclair which is a heartache for me. When the chips are down I count on my friends. That’s helpful.
Also making the one big meal on Sunday like a giant pot of soup or something to bring out for dinner during the week—that’s two nights guaranteed of homemade goodness and that really works well for us.
BEST RESTAURANT TO ORDER IN FROM: Tinga, TS Ma, and Villa Victoria.
KIDS’ FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Tinga, TS Ma, The Charbroil, Star Tavern.
FAVORITE NIGHT OUT W/ ADULTS: A small dinner party at someone’s house where you can actually have a chance to talk to people.
FAMILY VACATION IDEAS: We’ve been going to LBI and we took last year off and we really missed it. Our vacations are tied to our jobs; we can only take vacations when our shows are dark. We’ve also had a few great trips to Maine.
BEST PLACE TO PICK UP KIDS’ BDAY GIFT: I’m a Just Kidding Around gal.
FAVORITE MTC CLOTHING STORE FOR YOU: Mostly the Anthropologie sale racks. I try to get my shoes at Tory Janes.
FAVORITE MTC ACTIVITY/DESTINATION: We love sledding at Nishuane Park. We also like bike riding and going to the top of Eagle Rock for family hikes on the trails through the woods. And we go to the Iris Gardens a few times a year. It’s magical for kids to run around there.
WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT MONTCLAIR: I love that so many of the people are so interesting. That the houses are old and not cookie cutter and there are lots of trees. I also love Grove Pharmacy. The employees and pharmacists always go out if their way to be helpful, inform you about what your insurance is covering and what it isn’t—and are always happy to offer advice. And they deliver! And you can order prescription refills over the phone. My kids love the candy in the barrels. It’s a great place for teacher gifts. And when the time comes, my daughter will definitely be getting her ears pierced there. It’s a classic and a great alternative to the chains.