Producer by Day, Superhero by Night Jeff Sutphen

by | Mar 19, 2020 | Closeup

Jeff Sutphen was destined to be a studio producer. The New Jersey native got his first taste of television production as a teen, broadcasting at-home-movie concepts with friends on a public access station — fast-forward to now, being the Co-Executive producer and showrunner for popular Nickelodeon show, Ryan’s Mystery Playdate; Sutphen has surely fostered an “unconventional career.” Producing will always be his first love, but when a role on children’s television requiring a cape and matching leotard rang his line, Jeff knew to answer the call. A truly unexpected turn, but 20 years later, he wouldn’t have it any other way: “The only thing I want to do [now] is kid’s TV.”
Following his small-town debut, Jeff attended Marist College in New York to study the art of TV production. Graduating college meant entering the entertainment industry to pursue his passion. Jeff’s motto was simple: “the answer is yes.” This “[eagerness] to get experiences under [his] belt” lead to many opportunities for behind the scenes work with VH1, MTV, and finally landed him — in an orange blimp — at Nickelodeon studios.
Children’s entertainment was never a part of the plan, but Jeff quickly fell in love with the process. In 2002, he became a co-host of Nickelodeon’s U Pick Live, and adopted the persona of superhero “Pick Boy.” Jeff went on to host a variety of Nickelodeon segments, game shows, and orange carpets, often dressed as his alter-ego. One of his most memorable moments occured during a recording of U Pick Live in Times Square, when a group of children approached, having memorized a full episode of the live show (which only aired episodes once.) In past experiences, Jeff recalls his ultimate reward being monetary. Now, “reaching so many kids…[means] more than the paycheck.”
In 2009, Jeff hosted Nickelodeon’s game show BrainSurge as himself. This became one of the network’s most popular game shows to date, but a few years after its launch, a shift in culture began. “Celebrity hosts took over,” Jeff recalls, which allowed him to return to where it all started: producing. His current project, Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, is staffed by many of the same people who worked on U Pick Live. The crew is like family, and the main focus is having fun. As Jeff puts it: “if we can’t have fun, we’re doing the wrong thing.”
Jeff lives locally with his wife, Stacy, and two children, Shayne and Morgan. When free time allows, the Sutphen family enjoys watching movies at home or going swimming together. As a child, Jeff recalls watching his father go to work and come home every day, though he was never quite sure what his profession was. This idea of a mundane work schedule frightened young Jeff; he never wanted to feel that “work stinks.” He now takes pride in knowing that his children see their father living his fullest dreams…and then some!
To those who say “you can’t do it all,” Jeff says, “I can, I will, I am…you don’t have to choose.” His success as a television personality was unforeseeable; yet the commencement speaker at his college graduation was none other than children’s TV legend, Mr. Rogers. Was this a simple coincidence, or a glimpse into the future?