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Hi, my name is Adam McKay, and I feel old fashioned 12 year old about to have a sleepover, excited about being Conan O'Brien STREAT.


Yes. And then if it's anything like my sleepovers, we will commit arson and then murder.


Phonies. Back to school. The bell, brand new shoes walking along the fence. And we are going to be friends, Shakuntala, go. Hello and welcome to Conan O'Brien needs a friend, I do need a friend. No man is an island, as Simon and Garfunkel famously told us and I am now, thanks to this podcast, I'm no longer an island. I'm kind of a very narrow peninsula. Yeah, like a spit of sand at the end.


Very narrow peninsula, very little access to other humans, but at least connection. So very grateful for this podcast, joined as always by my my trusty assistant, Sunim Assistant Hasana. Hi.


Yeah. You know what? Friends are fun. Grief. That's very profound as well. I think Plato said that friends are fun and then I think Aristotle said BFX forever. Yeah. Yeah, so he did. Socrates said chum's for life and then drank the hemlock. Yeah.


My favorite ship is the friendship. Right. Huh. That's awful. No, I mean I was pretty bad. Yeah. I don't care. Yeah. You can't work for me anymore.


Oh oh. So sure. Oh no. What am I going to do.


What am I going to find. Someone is terrible on it.


Uh of course. Magali also with us. It's good to see you, Matt. Hi, guys. You having some issue? It took us a while to connect with you because you're having some issue at your house. What's going on at your house?


Well, maybe you can hear some ambient noise like birds chirping and dogs barking because all my windows in my office are open because something died in the walls of our house. And it's a problem that when you have it, you can't really do anything about it. But just wait it out unless you want to rip your walls apart.


Wait a minute. Hold on. Let's back this up just a little bit. What do you think died in your wall? Oh, my cousin.


Who was last seen saying your cousin, whose last last time you talked to him, which was six weeks ago, was I'm going to go look inside your wall. I'm not feeling great. Some heart palpitations, but still I to go look inside your wall and then you haven't seen him since. Now you smell something died in the wall. Yeah. It is awful here. I hope it's only a mouse or a rat. I hope it's not something bigger like a God forbid like a raccoon.


Or is that because let me understand. Is that because you think a raccoon has more of an enlightened spirit than a mouse or anything? You just about the size and the cuter, but yeah, the size because. Oh, you're only worried about the size. So. Yeah, yeah. OK, all right. Let's take time so you don't get as sad when like a skinny guy dies but when a fat guy is really bummed out. Wow.


So you let the smell out and then the carcass just stays in your walls.


You have to let it dry out and basically mummify or else it's rip the walls apart. I don't know what else to do.


Well, excuse me. Do they have any way of detecting, you think in this modern era there'd be some kind of device in the way that does that thing? You can buy literally for six dollars at the hardware store that helps you find where the stud is. Stud finder. Yeah, my wife had a good stud finder. I know mine. No, no.


She was finding where the stud was in the wall I was talking about. Yeah, OK. Oh no, no. What what made you think I was talking about anything else anyway. My wife was just pretty clear when she met me. She found her stud. Right, because I was holding a stud finder that I got at the hardware store. I don't know why this is confusing, but is it there's some kind of device that they would tell you the source of these noxious gases?


Not that I'm aware of. I even brought my cat into the office to see if she would kind of just smell in a certain spot. She couldn't care less. It doesn't even seem to notice. It's horrible.


Well, cats are dispense death all the time. We have cats and all they do is, you know, kill things and try and bring it into the house, you know, and it's I mean, large dogs and it's terrible. You know, they just like birds. And it's just it's or if they find something, it's dead. They bring it into the house. So why would they care about the smell?


I would think she would just because our cat is food obsessed. She's just single minded. I'm telling you more than anything I've ever seen in any creature on Earth before, she's obsessed. She will eat a full bowl of food that's the size of a basketball and won't stop until she vomit.


Have you ever found your cat ordering stuff on GrubHub?


Like a car pulls up and they're like, is there a is there a Mr. Chips here? What's your what's your cat's name? It's Margo. Yeah. She has learned to open our cabinet trash, like, you know, the kind that are flush with the kitchen cabinets. She can open it. I swear she's evolving. Thoms We had to put a childproof lock on our goddamn cabinets because his cat died.


Ah, we have two golden retrievers and the younger one, Loki has figured out how to order pornography. What kind of pornography is Lokey into?


It's all sheets, very soft core. And apparently Loki wants there to be some story. So a plot driven. Yeah. What's it plot driven porn and film, not video. Oh, no, no, no.


Hate's video. Hate's video and. There's got to be a decent story there, and so I've sometimes even watched there have been times where we Lokey speeds through the sex, you know, like his just just goes and hits the fast forward and we speed through it lets just because it's because the plot is more what Loki's into.


So I mean, sometimes we watch the sex. If it's just what if it's why I can't let the dog watch TV alone, you know. So I because God knows you know what if what if pay per view. And the next thing you know what? We owe a lot of money. So no, I have to be there with Loki when we watch the softcore pornography.


Is it dog porn or. Oh, God, no, no. Who wants to watch dogs do it, OK? No. And dogs, I mean, they have no there's no erotic thrill for any dog will hump a desk. A dog will hump a fire hydrant, a dog will hump anything. So that would be the level of their porno he likes. But Loki likes bodice rippers, you know, like I think he likes costumes. He likes to be a plot.


Yeah. And so, yeah, it's and then I watch with him, but it's they're good stories. They tell really good stories. We watch Red Shoe Diaries, some of the old Showtime, stuff like that.


It's true. But only the one dog. The other dog's not into this.


Oh my God. Oh no, no. Basco, who's the older one, hates trued. Just hates pornography. Absolutely hates it.


Loves musicals, the MGM musicals, the really good ones. He loves singing in the Rain, just all those great MGM musicals. But so we don't watch TV together. We watch have to have to watch it separately. OK, we have such a good show to get to today. And listen, another quick thing. If your dog is hooked on porn, you can contact us toll free number that will not be at the end of this podcast. It won't exist because that's not doesn't exist.


But anyway, if your dog has a real problem with pornography, you can get help if you listen for the number that doesn't exist. It's at the end of this podcast. My guest today I can't waste any more time is an Academy Award winning writer, director and producer behind such films as The Big Short, Vice Anchorman, Step Brothers and the Emmy Award winning HBO series Succession. He has had, in my opinion, too much, too much good fortune, too.


Too much goodness has come this man's way. Not true. He deserves it all.


Now he has a new podcast, Death at the Wing, with new episodes available every Wednesday. Wherever you get your podcast. And you know what? I'm I have to say, I've listened to about three episodes and it is fantastic death at the wing. So make sure you check it out. I am thrilled he's here with us today.


Adam McKay, welcome. There are so many strange ways in which you and I intersect, and yet we've had very little professional contact until you cast me in a movie, we've had very little professional. You went with Brad Pitt, and I always felt bad about that because I did like 11 callbacks with you. Yes. And the truth was like after the third callback, I was like, it's going to be Pitt.


But I kept. There was a little bit of a power trip going. Yes, this is I couldn't believe this for the big short. Everyone was talking about, oh, my God, Christian Bale is in this and Steve Carell and this thing is huge. And then you call you didn't call your person called to depart for Conan. Maybe, but but Adam thinks Conan could be really great for it. So I remember you got this rehearsal space that I was supposed to show up at, which was way out of the way as I can, Brooklyn.


I went out to Brooklyn to go to this rehearsal space and I go there for this audition. And Brad Pitt is there. He's there holding his sides. And I'm holding my sides and I'm thinking way, yes, we're in a hallway.


And he said to you, Yeah, and I make you wait for like an hour. You made us wait for an hour. And we listened at the door at one point. And you were just listening to the same Whitesnake song over and over again by yourself. Then you call Brad in and then Brad comes out and he just looks like he nailed it and he wished me good luck. It was almost cartoonishly fast. I was like, Brad, my my person once again, her name was Demián.


She was French. Yes. Demjanjuk's like Brad. Beautiful. Mr. McKay will see you. Yeah. He walked in the door and it was like one second later the door opened and he came out and we were already laughing about a joke. Yes, yeah. Yeah. Just had yeah. And it was and he walked out and he nodded at me and he said, I'll never forget this. He kind of hit me on the shoulder and said, go get him cone.


No one's ever called me cone before. But he said, go get him cone. And then Demián said, You may go in. So I went in. You made me read it so many different ways that you called me back eleven different times. And every time I went, Brad Pitt wasn't there. And I was reading in the trades that Brad Pitt was going to be in the big short. So I knew I didn't get it. Why did you keep calling me back?


There was a chance that we were like, you know what? If Brad gets sick, what Brad like is jogging. He's attacked by a mountain. And, yep, life is crazy. Like a lot of things can happen in life. And it was like you kept coming back so eagerly. Oh, you were so. And then at a certain point it became straight up just sadistic power tripping. Yes. Where the need and want. And your eyes was so deep.


Yes. And then I just straight up I was getting off on it the last four auditions I was getting off. I could tell I could tell you, mate, you said you're like a ballerina and one which is nowhere in the script. I just I at one point I said, tell me how much you want this. Yeah. And then I still have a recording of it. You went on for about ten minutes. I know how much you need it.


I know why you want it, how you don't feel good in the morning. This would make you feel good. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then I laughed and I said, you don't have it. You never had it. And we Demián took you out of the room.


I've never it's the only time that I have auditioned for something with a person I was auditioning for was sitting on a throne made of skulls. It's the only time that ever happened.


We are we were transitioning our office furniture, so I had that from my house. It all right. OK, that's right. That's right. Yeah. So there's an explanation. It's not as crazy as it sounds. Now, we have intersected in the real world outside of our minds. I got to I just really hoping that there's some people listening that I like.


That's a fucked up story. Why would they call Conan and Brad Pitt?


I cannot tell you by and you understand this, Adam, how many times if you riff sincerely about something long enough people, it's gospel, it becomes gospel, and people say, no, no, he he auditioned for it and he just he lost out to Brad Pitt.


And he it's the best of nothing makes me happier than the bit that becomes real. And people start talking about it behind your back. Little, you know.


Yeah, it's the best I I'll never forget.


I got to host on it live once when I was doing the late night show and I was writing on the show when you said yes and this is where I'm going with this, I make the rounds and of course having written there before, I know all the tricks. So I go to the pitch meeting and I know that people are pitching shit. This is the meeting in Lorne's office. That's on Monday night. I know they're pitching stuff to me that nobody's going has any intention of writing.


It's just we haven't thought about you yet, Conan. We're not that enthused, but we'll get around to it. It's not Tuesday night yet. So I knew and I had come with a couple of ideas of my own, was working on some of those, but I was making the rounds, talking the writers. And then I remembered one of the last stops I made was I went into your office. I'll never forget you were wearing a leather jacket, which I think was your wear at the time.


You had a leather jacket and I went into your office. You were so funny and so excited about a bunch of different ideas. And there was one idea that I think you had written and. No one else had done it, and it was about a doctor who performs an operation and removes someone's taint. Do you remember this? That is correct. And it is correct how you pitched it to me. And you would clearly I could I could see you.


It was clear that you had pitched it to Angela Lansbury. No. You would pitch to Dame Judi Dench. No, Anwar Sadat, Anwar Sadat, Anwar Sadat. And this was after he was shot to death by his own army. You pitched this to everybody. No one did it. And then you said you came in and you said it's about a doctor who removes someone's taint and is explaining with the taint is after the operation. And I cut you off and said, I'll do it.


And I had so much fun. And I realized the sketch went on in the episode. I did it like, of course, twelve fifty five. And I immediately connected with you because so many of your ideas were twelve forty five ideas, twelve fifty ideas that I absolutely loved.


And it was and it's where Jack Handy used to write his sketch or a lot of them were one fifteen, one thirty nine a.m.. They had to, they had to er you had to call local affiliates and get them to air it instead of the crop report. Conor, was it like this when you were there. Like in our group it was like a badge of honor. If you got the ten to one sketch like that was the pure writer's slot.


And that was I remember seeing your show for the first time and it was ten to one humor. Yes. Which is why we love why we loved it, of course. Yeah.


You know, it was. And then I'm going to tell you another story that I want to tell another story about Mr Adam McKay doing our late night show. And one day you came down from Saturday Night Live with Mr Will Ferrell and you said we have an idea for your show. That's really weird. And it doesn't it isn't going to work on SNL. We don't even want to tell Lorne about it. It's called Scrub a Dub. I immediately cut you guys off and said yes because I thought I loved it.


We loved it. Audience howling I was so grateful. You guys just came down and gifted some comedy and then the shit hits the fan.


Because I've talked to Will about this. We all.


Are you serious? Yeah, I've never heard this. Oh, this is great. I love when this shit that it's going to make it even more enjoyable. We got in trouble because no one ran it by Lorne. So Lorne Michaels, it's his star.


Well, and and I'm also produced by Lorne. So I'm just on a different floor at 30 Rock.


So we get kind of a you know, I might like a heads up next time you're taking my talent. And I thought, well, I thought we were all friends. We're all serving in the same army. I thought and Will got to talking to like, could you do me a favor, Will?


This is back when, you know, we'll hadn't clicked yet, I don't think.


And so it was it was hilarious. Remember us kind of getting called in on the carpet for scrub a dub. And so I blame you. I blame you for that. I love it.


I didn't even I was so low on the totem pole that I didn't even get a talking to. Yeah. That he didn't even like I wasn't even in his mind in any way, shape or form for us. We were so clueless. We just thought we were in comedy heaven. We were working at SNL. We loved what you were doing. And then we went downstairs. We just thought, well, this is awesome. We could just pitch an idea and just do it.


And you were really cool. You were like, yeah, let's do it. And and then Ferrell told me he had gotten in trouble in the whole dream of this comedy, heaven was destroyed.


You know, we have something in common, which is and I didn't even realize this until I was reading some notes today that you spent formative years of your youth in Worcester, Massachusetts, which is where my entire clan is from. Worcester, Mass.


You see this? I did not know what your family is from.


My what happened is my I grew up in Brookline, Mass.


But my mother grew up in Worcester. And her father, my grandfather directed traffic in downtown Worcester. My father grew up near just outside Worcester, and he went to Holy Cross College.


He got Kennedy, all of my cousins, uncles, everybody from Worcester. I mean, I think I spent every single holiday as a child in a car driving to or from Worcester. And I remember the big thing to do, because this is even before the Worcester Centrum opened up, we would think what to do. There's an armor museum, an armory, and it has like old suits of armor in it. And I don't think they've every birthday I ever had in Worcester was spent at Higgins' Armory.


Yes, it was it was a fake castle in the hills over Worcester. Yes. And some guy had just bought a bunch of old suits. Armor, and it was awesome, it was the coolest place on planet Earth. Yes, awesome. But I also what I remember is no sense of presentation. It was this dark place. They just filled with suits of armor, many of them unlabeled, no lighting, no sense that you're in a museum.


It really did feel like you went to someone's storage space, broke open the lock, went inside, and it was a giant room, dark room filled with armor. In no particular order.


I, I remembered I loved it because I was like in third grade. So to me it was like it was like a cool museum without all the boring museum parts because it was just like badass halberd and like two ended swords and morning stars and like all nasty ass weapons with no educational purpose whatsoever, which was exactly what I was looking for. And we would just go there and I would just look at cool shit and then go home. So I loved it.


And someone told me they closed it and they sold the castle off. It's all shut down.


Yeah, they gave the armor away. And you can just see people walking around in Flemish armor in Worcester. Now, it's a lot of it's true. You'll see people ride down the street in an armored forces with lances and no one even blinks.


It's normal in the FedEx guy is wearing Belgian armor from the 15th century. Everyone in a different occupation is wearing old armor. And they were in that summer, which is I don't understand, but that's what Worcester wants to do.


Yeah, the dentist my dentist in Worcester had a minus three armor class with fourteen points, so it can only make joke with Conan. Yeah. So here's a question. I have this very particular memory of Massachusetts, Boston, Worcester, Somerville, and you name it. And it may have been just true of the United States, but there was a time, I want to say, the early 70s through mid 70s when things looked shitty and cars were rusty.


There was one restaurant to go on, any restaurants to go to, and they were called Italian restaurants, but they weren't really Italian restaurants. They just served pizza.


But you could also get, you know, prime rib, prime rib, you can see prime rib.


And I remembered nothing was slick or glossy. Then something I remembered. I went off to college.


When I get out of college sometime in the mid eighties, I look around and there's croissant shops everywhere and cars aren't rusty anymore because they started rust proofing them or making them out of different materials and everything got kind of fancy.


Do you agree with that? It's so funny that you say this. So two nights ago I'm watching the movie Tinman, which is Barry Levinson's movie, takes place in the early sixties. And I think there's a moment where they go into a diner and they sit down in the diner. And I have the whole experience that you're talking about. I'm like when I was a kid, there were no chain restaurants. Everything was like a smoke filled diner. You had like Salisbury steak and some sort of like gray gravy.


And and all the cars were crappy. They all had roll up windows. The music was oddly sad. Whenever I would play on top 40, it was like, you know, she can read in wildfire. It was always like mournful with some sort of dark undertone. Minor keys. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And a lot of minor keys, sort of folk songs about please come to Boston, you know, and like the guy won't go with the woman he loves for some reason he keeps traveling around and you're like, just go with the woman you love and then you're right like around nineteen eighty three the first preamble we're like the burger joints where you could eat peanuts and leave the shells on the floor and they have the crappy like big screen TVs and then like a light switch goes off and suddenly there's Houlihan's TGI Fridays Bennigan's and these like brightly lit chain restaurants like around eighty two.


Eighty three.


Yeah. And I notice too I drive around and I don't think that's just people got very not that people weren't interested in money before but, but somehow everything got really much nicer in the nineties when I mean nicer, I mean just slicker, glossier.


And so I noticed very gradually I drive around with my kids. My kids have never seen a car. It's like rusted out, you know, they don't see it.


And, you know, they'll see some cars that have some dings in them and stuff like that. But cars aren't rusted out. The cars that we drove had so much rust that my dad drove us around and he drove us in a 63 Chevy Impala. I had so much rust that you could see the street going by beneath your feet because there was big holes in it. The Pontiac we had, the seventy Pontiac had rust. And you just thought like, yeah, that's what happens.


Stuff rust and you still get in it, you still drive it.


And I don't know, I I'm I'm on a Henderson Avenue in Worcester. I'm in first grade and my mom is driving down the street and the car that my parents have is an old male. They go and they buy the old mail truck that they're no longer using, and I'm sitting in the front seat without a seatbelt on. We take a left turn, the door opens, I go flying out the door, holding on to the door because I'm a sorry and it's like a bad cartoon.


My mom just reaches over, pulls me back in. The door closes. She doesn't say a word. She keeps on driving. So that's something that wouldn't have you, don't you?


You they bought they bought a mail truck that was no longer in use so they could drive it. Guess what? This is freaking me out. My parents, when I was a kid, when I was about 10 or 11, we all six kids and my parents, we all took this trip to this place called I think like Pine Manor Lodge or it was up in Maine. And while we're there, my dad sees that they're getting rid of the station wagon that drives people to the lake and back.


And it has the logo, it says like Pine Manor Lodge and it has a little pine tree painted on the side and it's got wood, fake wood on the side. And it's a Ford, you know, whatever station wagon. My dad buys it. Yeah. And then, yes, that's the car that when I'm learning to drive, I'm driving in. And they never took the logo off. So I would drive around and the girl I had a crush on would see me go by and I'd be like, Hey, how are you?


And she's like, are you working for a hotel in Maine? And that has a shitty car. Is that your job? No, my father got it. And it's what I drive because my father got it. It's pretty good. And then I realized she was gone and had been gone for ten minutes and she should have lied and said you were working at the hotel and the motel in Maine. That's better than my father. Got it. By the way, just in the future, that choice comes up again.


And by the way, such a 1970s story. I mean, all my memories of the 70s were my dad saying, if you dig the knife around in the mayonnaise jar, there's still a little bit left. Don't throw that out.


And it really was like just not a materialistic time. Everyone felt vaguely like a hippie. Even the baseball players had giant sideburns, long hair, and people like you weren't if you were showing off your wealth, you were like an asshole in the 70s. Yeah, that's one I remember at Dennis Eckersley, famous pitcher for the Red Sox. He had kind of longish hair. The Red Sox front office was pissed at him because apparently occasionally he'd go to a discotheque and dance and he'd date women.


And he apparently wore like jeans and they were like, fuck, is this what's this guy doing going out at night? Why does he cut his goddamn hair? It's like he's an amazing pitcher. He's winning games for you. And God damn hippie. What are you talking about? It's nineteen it's nineteen seventy five. The owner of the Red Sox back there was Thomas Yawkey.


Yeah, I'm pretty sure Thomas Yawkey, by the way, this isn't true, but I'm pretty sure he carried a pistol around at all times. Yes. And would shoot three or four people a year and it's all taken care of.


Listen, we have a very good lawyer. We have a very good lawyer at this podcast. We'll take care of him and Billy Martin. So we both sort of got Dep't, I think, in this similar vat of an experience growing up, and then I know you're a Monty Python freak, as am I. And I loved absurdity. And you go out to the world and you cofound Upright Citizens Brigade. And I love the ethos you guys had, which is you would pull these pranks where the world was your place to make weird, funny things happen.


And it didn't matter if anybody even knew that a prank had just occurred. There was a famous prank that you did that I love that I'd love to hear about from you, which is on on the Navy Pier in Chicago. You and a bunch of people pretended to be Pepsi employees. Is that what you did?


There was a big lockout of like the corn sweetener. Plants all across the Midwest had been bought by some conglomerate and they had unions. So the conglomerate was like, here's a way to save money, let's just not have unions. And so they told everyone, if you're in the union, don't come back to work or if you come back, you're no longer in the union. So is this giant lockout that lasted for like six, seven months. And it was brutal.


It was like destroying towns. And we were like, how can we do something to support these people? Well, Pepsi was the biggest purchaser of the corn sirup and they were a big sponsor of the new Navy Pier that was opening on this one weekend. So we came up with the idea that we're going to go and act like we're from Pepsi and do a big presentation. And we got Ian Roberts, who was like one of the best actors among us.


He had actually gone to acting school. And this other guy, Pat McCartney, was also like a legitimately good actor. And we just walked to the end of Navy Pier and they were doing this. It was giant. I mean, the place was packed. It was the opening of Navy Pier. And I had a Pepsi shirt on that. I just bought some 99 cent store back when ninety nine cent stores really were ninety nine stores. And I said, hey, we're from Pepsi.


I just acted blazey like, hey, we're from Pepsi, we're sponsoring it. We're supposed to do a thing after your band and they're like, yeah, no problem.


And we just got on stage the bikes and we're like, Hey everyone, let's get some Pepsi spirit going. And we started pulling people from the crowd up and then it was Ian McCartney and they would come up and tell these just heartbreaking stories about like losing their homes because of the lockout.


And we would be like, hey, who could ever roll a Pepsi bottle with their nose wins twenty dollars and begrudging you not eventually. G.A., who's a writer director of this, and he actually looks like a 1930s union guy. Yeah. He started yelling about it and tore up our Pepsi side and then it turned into like a staged riot fighting.


And people have grabbed the mikes, shut down Pepsi and the police show up and arrest all like Ian and pat down. My God. Oh. Oh, crap. I'm about to get. And you don't mess with the Chicago. No, you know, I'm about I'm about to get arrested. And the cop comes up to me and I'm like, oh, well, here we go. And he goes, so how do you guys at Pepsi want to handle this guy?


And yes, I have a beat where I have to catch up and I'm like, you know, I think we've got enough bad PR for the day. Let's just let him go is like, all right, you got it.


We all just sprinted to the car. We're like, oh, my God, that's fantastic.


I know that you also what we have in common is I, of course, worked a lot with the great Robert Smiggle, helped me launch The Late Night Show, and I worked with him at SNL and just terrific talent. I remember you guys did a lot of great work together.


You did. There's a joke that I believe you wrote or maybe that was you or Robert, but it was, you know, those ads on the back of comic books when we were growing up.


I have lots of little panels for like X-ray Spex things you can order that you remember this like it was on the back of a comic book. It would be all these little things.


And one of us, Dan Deardourff, fake vomit. And it was and it was this just looked like fake vomit, but it said the like this trick your friend's into thinking this legendary football lineman has been to your home and was sick and it was seared into my brain. I saw that in the 90s and I laughed. I died. I was laughing so hard. I just looked like anyone's vomit. No one would say that's the vomit trick your friend's into thinking.


Dan Deardourff has been to your phone home and was sick kid.


You remembered that. Yeah. Spigel, I mean, basically grew up the same time we did. So he had all those references to like the Superfriends animated show. Yes. Yes. I've always thought the best SNL years for me were the. Those early 90s, because you guys had to replicate it like it had already had the smash hit of the original cast, the smash hit of Eddie Murphy, and almost at a standstill, that group in the early 90s through the mid 90s, like created their own film that the cast was amazing.


The writing staff, you had heart and you had car like just crazy cow that was outstanding. I was very lucky. I showed up at the beginning of eighty eight and then one of the early guests was Tom Hanks came and had, you know, one of his early of his just great, great, great shows.


And I remember thinking something's happening here. This is a great, it was like I had come with my guitar to mess around in Liverpool in nineteen sixty three, you know, just it felt like it was just a perfect time to be there and a real blessing because a lot of that stuff's timing.


You can't you're, you know, you're there at the right time or or you're not. And so we were very fortunate. But what I'm fascinated by and I, I want to get to this is you've had this amazing evolution where you did so much in pure comedy, just pure, pure comedy and so many of these great movies with Will Will Ferrell. And that would have been enough for anybody. And you seem to have had this appetite that that was not enough.


You pushed it. I think I would have felt like this is enough. I'm going to just stay here and just I'm always happy in the comedy mind, had this interest and appetite for these other projects. And I think not only is it commendable, it's kind of insane how well it's gone for you. I find that to be really interesting. Oh, thank you. I mean, thank you in a way. But like you said, it's timing.


It's just the world happened to completely unravel in a way that I think like looking back at us in the 90s, like enjoying comedy. I think we knew stuff was kind of headed in a weird direction, but I just never imagined that it would be like a severed power line thrashing around in the street like an injured snake like it is now. And so at a certain point, you know, and I've spoken to you before and I know Richter's the same way, like you guys are clued into what's going on.


And so through the years, you know, at SNL, I was always writing like the political cold opens. I've always been a guy who's been an activist and involved in the guilds or unions. And like I said, we were doing, you know, sort of street activist theater when we were in Chicago. So that's always been part of who I am. And so it just seemed like a very natural transition. And it was really just all about the book, The Big Short.


I happen to read that and was like could see it as a movie very clearly. And once that leap was sort of taken, it was like, oh God, I get to do the same as you guys. Like, we like all kinds of stuff. We have drama. We like, you know, documentaries. And then all of a sudden off the big short, I was able to, like, be a producer on succession and get into all this other stuff and vice and the new thing I've just done.


And so it you know, the world really became unhinged. And then I happened to bump into the perfect book at the right time. Yeah.


I think I remember when it was announced that that before I even knew you were involved, I heard, oh, there's going to be a movie of The Big Short. I had read the book and I thought, there's no way that's a movie.


It can't be a movie, because I try to explain, you know, that market and that complexity. I mean, I've read hundreds of articles at the time while it was happening about, you know, mortgage backed securities and and shorting stocks. And I didn't know I was having such a hard time understanding it. And of course, you took it. And I I watched the movie again with my son. He because, as you know, shorting has gotten to be huge in the news again.


And I was really interested in it in the GameStop. He really was fascinated by it. And he knew there was a movie that was highly regarded on the subject. So we watched it. And he he loves Korell and he loved the movies. Fantastic. And it holds up.


And it's such a great sadly, you feel like it's a it's a movie that's going to be relevant every seven years because you don't seem to learn our lesson. You know, that's that's the part that kills me.


It's really it was crazy. We did one screening where we had our focus group afterwards and we were curious how much the audience was getting about the mortgage backed securities and the yeses and all these different exotic products they had. And and so the person asked them, like, do you know what a credit default swap was? That it was the craziest thing I've ever seen were like in Orange County. And it's twenty people describing perfectly how synthetic assets work, how synthetic CDOs work, how.


And it was the craziest thing I've ever seen. I mean, I. Ultimately, with that movie, it's like once you start calling it betting as opposed to investing, everyone gets it. Like the second you don't use their language and say, no, their bets, everyone goes, oh, OK, I get it. And that was kind of the breakthrough moment we had with that one was just like, oh, call it betting. And yeah, that was crazy when I think seven years is about right too.


Isn't that about the cycle of the boom bust. Yeah. Tends to be every seven years.


Seems to be, it feels like it's maybe a decade, maybe a decade. But I think you're about right. Yeah. And then you, the taxpayer have to pay for it. And then about a year after that, we're going to somehow get really angry at teachers.


Yes, yes. Yes. You know, these teachers are getting away with murder. Well, wait a minute. What about Bear Stearns? What about those assholes? Oh, come on.


I couldn't believe I was actually witnessing it, but it was like a year after the crash and there was this backlash against teachers. I was like, that is nervy. Yeah. And they pulled it off. Right. It destroyed a bunch of teachers unions. Yeah. Anyway, well, crazy, crazy, crazy. I have to if I were to go on about succession, which is one of my favorite shows, I love that and I love the show.


But I also want to wear all the clothes that the men wear in that show when they go when they go hunting. I take screenshots and I say, get me that to my wife. And she says, you don't hunt. And no, I'm not getting you that.


But I want to talk about your podcast because it is really so thoughtful and it's such a, you know, obviously not a cheerful subject, death at the wing.


And it's really and you can describe it better than I can. But just talking about these these players in the NBA who lost their lives are lost their careers, I mean, at the time just dismissed. I'm thinking of Len Bias. Len Bias. Yeah. The one that really he's the most famous. Yeah. He was the number two draft pick in nineteen eighty six out of Maryland and he gets drafted and he is many people think he would have been a great rival to Michael Jordan.


He would have been one of the greatest in the game ever. It would have been Jordan bias bias Jordan. And he's celebrating his pick as number two and that the fact that he's going to the Celtics and does cocaine possibly for the first time to celebrate and dies, and his death kicked off in a really negative way, the war on drugs, that and incarcerating people instead of trying to help them.


Yeah, I mean, it's it's crazy because, you know, roughly in the same age zone and I was I just remember in nineteen seventy nine, suddenly becoming a huge NBA fan, like all of a sudden the NBA was the coolest. And I had this great experience of being a crappy basketball player, but getting to love watching the league. And years afterwards I would always go, wait a minute, it seemed weird that that many guys died in the 80s going into the 90s, like it's a long list when you start to go through it of really great players.


There was another Celtic, Reggie Lewis, who also tragically died from there. Not quite sure, maybe a heart defect. And there's Drazen Petrovic. There's this guy, Ricky Barry, who is a really promising rookie, died after his rookie year from mental health issues. And Benji Wilson, the number one player in the nation out of Chicago, was killed in a senseless act of gun violence. And on and on and on. And this list and then a bunch of players, because of drugs and different reasons, also had their careers cut short.


So I just always have been curious, like, why was it during this period and then you don't see it later. You don't see it as much in the late 90s into the 2000s. And now and once we started digging into it, it kept crossing over with just the eighties being this time of just massive change like you talked about with the rusted out cars and the crappy restaurants of the seventies and suddenly the eighties, it was like someone plugged in a neon sign.


Suddenly it was like cash signs, like dollar signs, and everyone was worried about being slick and driving fancy cars. And there was sort of this collision of culture and media and the NBA that you saw in the eighties. And we really started looking at that through each of these tragic stories. And it's heartbreaking. First and foremost, the promise that these guys had the effect on their family, their community, the loss. But it's also really I feel like it's a part of our history.


We don't fully dove into the fact that we are living to this day in the Reagan revolution, the right wing revolution, and that the country that used to be this way. And there was a lot of social change, economic change, political change. And once we drove in, it was like we had to limit ourselves to a select amount of episodes because it was just a bottomless it was just so much information, so many stories about these players.


And and you're right for me, Len Bias is one that Joe. I was a freshman in college and I remember hearing the news and just not even being able to process it. I was wearing a Celtics jacket on the day I heard about because I lived in Worcester, and even though I was in Pennsylvania, I was still was wearing my Celtics jacket. And just the heartbreak of that was tremendous by our producers. Did such an amazing job with that episode.


The people that got for us to talk to the different voices is just was such a pleasure to get to work on this and talk to these all these different great writers and voices.


You start out and you think, well, this is going to be almost the true crime story of Len Bias. But it's not. It's it it starts with Len Bias, but then it goes into how his death was sort of, in a way, co-opted people that were very interested in the war on drugs. You have some statistic in the podcast that's still mind numbing that I won't try to replicate, but it's something on the magnitude of we went from two thousand people or twenty thousand people in federal prisons to two hundred and twenty thousand people in federal prisons.


Some statistic like that in about an eight year span and just incarcerating people and how the Len Bias death really was the spark and the and lighting of the Fuze that enabled that to happen. Yeah, it's really crazy. I mean, you start to see these tragedies happen and they become more opportunities for a ruling, a new kind of ruling class, really. I mean, like the robber barons kind of I was called the Reagan Revolution. You know, it's like a Star Wars title, like the Gilded Rage, Revenge of the Robber Barons, like.


Right. It's where they really kind of came back and kind of like countered the New Deal. And so the death of Len Bias was heavily publicized. It was a heart breaking story. People were looking for meaning and they were able to harness that oppressed people of color fuel a burgeoning for profit prison system and give this exterior of being tough on crime like people you know, voters really like that. No nonsense. Quick answer. So they really got to touch a lot of bases.


And by the way, I'll make it clear, I include Democrats on that. Joe Biden was involved in in writing this bill. There were a lot of Tip O'Neill, the speaker of the House, was involved in creating it. It was a Democrat. So you see the country just swinging. Right. And it's such an unusual podcast. I mean, we have the first episode, we interview Jerry West and we interview Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jane Mayer in the same in the same class.


What I love about it say I want to say it has the candy coating of a sports podcast, but I could see a lot of sports fans wanting to listen to this podcast and then being taken on a whole ride that's exploring so many different thought experiments and concepts and ideas about the way our country works, how it's changed economic injustice, income disparity, racism. So to me, that's it's a very tough thing to pull off. And it's it's like I said about your your screenplay for The Big Short, I didn't think that could be done.


And then you did it. And this is a really hard balancing act with this podcast. And I think it's really beautiful. I think it's fantastic.


Thanks, man. I'm so glad you dug it. And it's. Yeah, I mean, this is podcasting is incredible because if I had had to sell this as a movie or a TV show, maybe we could have squeaked it through. But like podcasting, there's such freedom where you get to, like, try something like this and just let it exist more than. Well, no. Yeah. So we've started our new company, Hyper Object. We're doing more and more podcast.


So we have this one coming out. And then we did another one that's called The Last Movie Ever Made. That's about the making of the movie I just shot during the pandemic. Don't look up. And so we did a whole we couldn't do a documentary about it, so we did a podcast. And so we're in the middle of editing that as well. And we did one about the victims of scene that was pretty serious and dark. But then we have another one that's really cool.


That's called things you don't need to know with this guy, Ari Kagan, hosting it. That's ridiculous. But yeah, kind of informative. And I just love it. You know, any time it's like animation for comedy writers. Yes. You actually wrote for The Simpsons, like there's nothing better for a writer than animation because you can do anything.


Nothing. And that's right. No one's saying to you, we're not going to build an airplane or a biplane being driven by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. We're not going to build that. It's a really funny idea. We're not going to do it. Yes, we're going to draw it. And that's and you're right. You're absolutely right that that it's a delight. The podcast format is a delightful sandbox.


Yeah. So it's so cool with this. So if you're a Hupert, if you're into the NBA, you're into sports, you'll definitely hook on this. Yet at the same time, like you said, I listen to Dan Carlin's hardcore history, too. I love it. If you're into that side of it, you look into it and then there's just like human stories. I always use my, like, wife and daughters as the test case because by.


Daughters could care less about the NBA. So I'll play them like a chunk of it in there, like I'm actually interested, like my daughter Pearl, who is from the old video, the landlord. Yes. Yeah. Use her. Is it? She's like my test. I didn't realize I didn't realize Pearl was your was your daughter. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh my God. She's part of history and I test her. So I had to watch the Big Short and I was like, what do you think?


And she's like, it was kind of boring but not as boring as I thought it was going to be. And I was like, that was all. But that's that's two thumbs up. Yes, that is exactly. That's a five star rating. That's fantastic. Well, listen, I don't I have made you carry me one hundred and ninety five pounds with me. I've made you carry me down many different cul de sacs to scratch my little comedy itches.


And I really appreciate that because I was just very excited to talk to you and massively, massively happy about your success and and what you're doing with it.


So thanks so much. And I think you should seriously, seriously have me read for a movie someday. You know, we'll get we'll get you in there.


Yeah, I'm looking at a role right now.


That's for either Ed Norton, Christian Bale or, you know, please call me in. I want to be there in the same room waiting, holding the same sides that Christian Bale and Norton are holding. And I want to be there, too. You know, I I'm really looking forward to that.


Well, honestly, I. I sincerely have been like a giant fan of yours. Like I said, going back to when I was just watching SNL and then always just loved the beautiful, crazed anarchy of your show. Oh, thanks. And I've loved seeing, like all the different permutations you've been through. And of course, like you end up doing, in my opinion, the freest form there is, which is podcasting and then huge success with this as well.


So thank you so much, man. And I always love talking to you. Right.


Well, I'll see you at the casting session. And and thanks again so much. Really fantastic talking to you. All right. Thanks. You guys go.


There's something I want to say, yeah, which is today, for the first time ever, I was out driving around and I realized, hey, I've never seen Sonas home.


Oh, Seona has a home that she purchased just before covid. And it's a bit far from where I live.


But I was kind of sort of quasi near that area and I thought, I'll stop by. So I called Soane and she said, Sure, come on over. And while she was talking to me, she was chatting with me on the phone and was talking to her in the car saying, y'all had your way. I think I know the way I'm following Google Maps. I think I can get there with your address and we're chatting. And I thought she said, I'm cleaning up while you come over, just tidying up a bit.


And then I heard a noise in the background that sounded like something shuting. And I said, oh, did you just close like a microwave? That's what it sounded like. You just close a microwave. And Sonia said something that caught my attention. She said, no, I'm Armenian. We don't have microwave ovens and I don't know what that means.


And she wasn't making a joke. And then she said, no, take my husband's Armenian, too. So we don't have microwaves. And I thought this I have to explore. Oh, why don't Armenian people have microwaves? I'm not I'm not doing I'm curious. Yeah, I am too.


I never grew up with one. Neither did tech. You go to our parents house. Nobody has a microwave. I can't speak for all Armenians. But I think I think most Armenians that I've houses that I've been to, you don't reheat the food by putting it in a box and zapping it for a minute. You put it back on the stove and you basically recook it.


And it is. Wow, I'm sorry.


Little judgment there. No, no.


I'm just saying it's what do I want that radiation in my house? I don't know. Oh, first of all, there's not radiation shooting out of a microwave that they fix that problem two years ago. So the point I'm making that this I'm curious about this because this felt like a window into a real thing. You weren't making a joke. But my parents, it's not a generational thing because my parents are much older than than your parents. My father's like I think he's one hundred and twenty eight years old.


He is one of the oldest men to ever live. And he has had we've had a microwave in our house since like the late 70s. So it's not a generational thing, is it, Matt? It's not generational this something.


And so do you think it might be cultural that that your culture doesn't believe in putting it in a microwave because that's cheating somehow?


It also you have to admit that when you reheat something in a microwave, it's not the same.


I wouldn't know. I've only reheated things in a microwave.


Oh, yeah. Well, I'm serious. I'm completely dependent on a microwave. I take there's leftover food. My my wife's a very good cook and she makes stuff and it's in these Tupperware containers and I open it and I put it on a plate and then I put it in the microwave and I put everything on two minutes. I don't care what it is, I put it on two minutes and then I always forget, reached in and grabbed the plate with my bare hands.


Oh, burning the skin on my hands. I do this every single time. A squid will learn instantly once it's stung not to approach that object again. I went to a good college and every time I reach in grab it and my flesh Sears. Still, that's what I do with everything. I microwave everything. And I don't know how you can live without a microwave.


I just never. You know what? When we when we were growing up, there was a microwave that was old that someone had that was in the garage that no one used. The only time that I ever used it was I would take it down from the shelf that we were using it where we stored it, and I would heat up the wax that I would use to wax my life.


I'm sorry. Wait a minute. Yeah. And couldn't you have done that in the oven? You know, is it it's different. That's that's the wax that needs a microwave. I don't know how to reheat wax in a microwave. And then. But that was it. I never needed it. I mean, everything. I'm sorry. I don't know anything about this. You have to heat up wax and you put it on your legs and then.


Yeah. And then you pull it off. Yeah, that's waxy.


Yeah, that's what it was. So I don't know any. We don't wax.


I don't wax. Do you. Wax meant. No.


OK, I don't listen. We got off track a little bit there. Yeah. You mentioned Seona that. Yeah. You mentioned something that intrigues me. You said who needs all that radiation. Well do you really think there's a lot of radiation coming out of a microwave?


It's there's so much around us just in general that I'm kind of like, do I need something else? Not really. And I I'm just telling you right now, I've never lived with a microwave. Tech has never lived. Can ask a question. Yes. A question. Does this have anything to do with the fact that your husband and this is a true story, went to a summer camp that was near Chernobyl?


OK, seriously, so tacker up in the Soviet Union, which, you know, he was there until he was. 11, he had absolutely no involvement in Chernobyl. No, he's blaming high equipment so that No. One I'm not blaming tech for Chernobyl, but you told me that he went to a summer camp that was near Chernobyl.


Also the way he responded and said that he had nothing to do with it. Now, he didn't blame you. Makes me think. Did he have something to do with he's he he was it anywhere in the Ukraine when Chernobyl happened? And it just seems like you're protesting, too. No, it's just kind of like, oh, Ukraine. Soviet Union. No, that is not me. No, that was right there on the bridge watching the plant, you know, just implode.


I watched the HBO movie, which is very moving.


And there's a scene where there is a young boy and they say, TICC, get out of here. And he says, Someday I marry Seona. He says that he says someday I'm not Seona. And you're wondering, like, why is this even in the script? Because it's not a documentary. And he's holding a pivotal part of the reactor that he says he's holding a piece of reactor. He had just this is the way I had always heard the story.


TICC was on a school trip. They went to Chernobyl to see the plant. They said, don't touch anything. Tech said, what's in this room? And they said, Tak, you irrepressible scamp, you stay out of that room. Tak went in there, removed an important cooling rod and walked out of the reactor. It exploded, creating one of the worst nuclear disasters ever after which Tak fled the Soviet Union, came to America, married you, and then you said maybe we should get a microwave.


And he said, Who needs a microwave? Watch this. And he just put his hand over the food.


OK, going on oil. That's tax origin story, let's sell that to Marvel. I will say, listen, when we were watching Chernobyl and you talk about tech, having grown up in the Soviet Union a lot the whole time, we were like, fuck, we know Conan's going to watch this and we know he's going to have all kinds of material. And then when they introduced an Armenian character whose sole purpose was to kill dogs, that was another animal that was awful.


That was the whole time you ruined that viewing experience for us like that field, because they ruin it. Because everything I look at in my life now is like, how can Conan make a riff of this?


Know about that? No, I never went after attack in any way. Related to that was too horrifying to me. I really I did not joke about that. But the minute I realized that TICC had gone to a summer camp pretty much at Chernobyl, I realized I. How do I not mention that? How do I not mention that? And that he can reheat he makes ramen noodles just by cupping his hands and you can put the noodles inside.


I've seen him do it. He does it at parties. It's fun. He's this is one division. You know, you're his vision. You're Wanda because you're which like at times. Oh wow. No, I'm saying that which like in that you have powers. So that was a compliment. OK, you know what I said when I say you're real, which I mean, you have a lot of powers. You are not. You are outside the norm.


Those are all compliments. And when I say that he's vision, I mean, he was responsible for the Chernobyl accident and he was a boy. He was irradiated and now he can make ramen noodles in his hands. That's all I'm saying. It's no insult in here at all. There's no insult. There's no exaggeration. There's no goofing around. Oh, that's all.


Oh, everything you're saying is true. OK, thank you. We have your admission. I hate it here.


Conan O'Brien needs a friend with Sunim Obsession, and Conan O'Brien has himself produced by me, Matt Cawley, executive produced by Adam Sachs, Joanna Solotaroff and Jeff Ross at Team Coco and Collin Anderson and Chris Bannon at Airwolf. Theme song by The White Stripes. Incidental Music by Jimmy Luisito. Our supervising producer is Aaron Belayer and our associate talent producer is Jennifer Samples. The show is engineered by Will Beckton. You can rate and review the show on Apple podcast, and you might find your review featured on a future episode.


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