Hi, my name is Seth Meyers, and I feel anxious and excited about being Conan O'Brien's friend.
Phonies. Back to school. Ring the bell, brand new shoes walking on the fence. And we are going to be friends, Shakuntala. Hey there, welcome to. Another episode of Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend. I put a slight pause. Did you hear that? Yeah, I said welcome to and it was the slightest pause to create a little bit of drama.
Did you forget what the name of your podcast is? I did. I forgot what we were doing. OK, but I'm now passing it off as this calculated micro pause because I'm a true master of the form that's not going to pass off the fact that I don't know where I am or what I'm doing. How are you guys? How are you doing, Sona?
I'm cool. OK. Do you need more.
I don't know right now. That's great. That's what it what a great instinct of mine to on the basketball court. Always go to the go to the hot hand. The person who's ready to go and I pass it off to Sona.
I just drew the rock and you went I'm cool. OK Matt how about you.
I'm OK. Wow.
Incredible. Well thank you both for injecting this podcast today with energy. Energy. I can bounce off of you just really I just got I got nothing.
Nothing from you, Seona now and nothing from you. But I will say there are mitigating circumstances. Seona, you are carrying two living human beings within you.
Yes. You've got to be exhausted. I all I want to do is nap and eat. You're stopping me from that right now. And I just so every second people are listening to you on the podcast is time that you're not unborn. Your unborn children are being denied sustenance and sleep. Yes. And rest and nourishment. Yeah. You owe you owe them an apology. Do you have any idea what the names will be? Mark and Marco? Mark and Mark.
I know, but you can't go with that. That's just that was Shaq's idea. And I don't know if people listen from one to the next. I hope you do. In which case match thing will make sense. But that's what Shaq's idea.
We're not doing it right. You know, you guys probably didn't listen to it. You know, you have to, like, be like, oh, yeah, that's what Shaq said. And then, you know, you're right to a previous episode anyway. People want to go listen to it. I can't believe I have to tell you that you're right. I shouldn't do that.
I'm too self hating. So it's more like and people should hear that's my natural reaction is no one has hurt. I always assume no one's heard any other one of these. But I shouldn't do that. I should just assume that everyone's listen to all of them multiple times. Well, because it's pretty much a religion. So as you know, she's there somewhere in the middle.
We could find for those two parts. You know, Shaq suggested Mark and Mark.
Oh, by the way, I'll tell you guys, I was in I forget even where I was. I was in Mission Hills. Yes, I was in Mission Hills. And a guy came running up to me with a mask and he was very excited. And he said, Conan, Conan, I just want you to know, because she's clearly a fan of the podcast, I want to say it was like 30, 35 years old. He said, I just want you to know I don't care what Shaq and Charles Barkley said.
You you could have been in the NBA. So he took it seriously. He was wounded for me. And he said, oh, and say hi to Matt and say hi to Seona. And I went, I will. And he went, but you could if you could have don't let them put you down like he was looking at you while he said, Yeah, I know, I know. And I said, I'm so sorry about your glaucoma.
He thought I really could have made it in the NBA. Oh, I only I only say that to NBA stars to get the ball rolling so that they can shit on me and we can have some fun. But we have a great show.
My guest today, of course, was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for thirteen seasons where he served as head writer and host of Weekend Update. Now, here's where things really get interesting. Now he hosts Late Night with Seth Meyers on NBC.
So he and I, our careers overlap in about 35 different ways.
And so I'm delighted to talk to this gentleman. I think this could be fascinating and therapeutic, very excited. To speak with Seth Meyers, Seth, welcome. We're about to have our longest conversation, hmm? I mean, we've met each other, we've met we've met a bunch of times. Yeah, I will tell you the fascinating thing about this podcast, if that's even what they're called.
That's what they're called right there. Podcasts. Yeah. Yes, exactly. Yeah.
This radio show, this format is that you are not alone, that this is the longest conversations I've had with just about anybody in the business. This podcast is my excuse to talk to people that I like and I admire. And I don't ever really sit down and talk to them. Thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it. I'm really genuinely looking forward to it.
Well, we don't have choice about it. That's all we have. Yeah, because we don't have much overlap. And far as what kind of jobs we got no. Or buildings we've worked. Yeah I know it's you and I have an insane amount of overlap and. Right.
You're probably one of the few people I can talk to in the world who has experienced many of the things I've experienced. So let's get into it, because you've murdered, right?
You committed murder. Murder. I've been a part of, you know, how it happens when you're new at SNL, where you do a murder for someone else in hopes that it will help get, you know, that they'll die off of your sketch. Yeah, it's called criss-Cross.
It's usually another writer who's not getting sketches on. And they always convince you if you murder someone, I'll laugh at your sketch. And when you think about this, crime makes no sense at all.
No, never. Barely. Because there's no way to you can't stand up and complain when they don't laugh at your sketch. That's what happened to me. But that's what happened to me is Jack Jack Handy said if you can kill this guy who has the apartment above me that I really want, murder him, I won't be linked to the crime.
And then I'll laugh at your sketch. I murdered this person who will go unnamed, a Canadian guy and who was living here in Manhattan. And he got to move into the apartment and then never laughed at my sketches and many of my sketches were cut.
Well, also, though, too, is in his defense. If he laughed at your sketches, that could be used as evidence later. If they were not good.
That's what he said. The only stand alone. You know what this is so glass is crazy. That's what he said. He said, I can't laugh at your sketches. Now the police are snooping around and I've already wasted your time because my research, my riffs are known as real time wasters and nothing is gained, except you are one of the most liked people and respected people in this crazy world of late night. And I didn't realize I always assumed you were a writer who, like me, Lorne said, here I stand behind this cannon because everyone else is dead.
And then somehow, years later, I was like a performer. You am I correct that you were hired at Star Night Live to be a performer?
Yeah, I was hired as a cast member first.
I did not know that a lot of people don't, which I think speaks to how unmemorable a performer I was.
It was not the right fit. I mean, it was very lucky that it happened that way, obviously, but it was not a time where I felt as though I had my feet under me particularly well at the show. I started with people like Chris Caton and Will Ferrell and Tracy Morgan. And I thought, well, they they're very good. And I'm not that they have experience. And I once I have experienced that, I'll be them. And then the next generation right under me came in.
And that was Hader and Sid Acres and Fortey and Fred and Samberg. And all of a sudden it dawned on me, oh, I can't do this. I'm not.
I preferred writing for them more than I would like writing for myself. Right. And that's when I realized, oh, yeah, I have to find a job here where I can just be myself. Right.
Did you talk to learn about people don't usually go to Lorne who are writers, who are performers and say, I want to be a writer, I want to stay up all night and I want to be mocked by the and made fun of by the cast members and put out my most brilliant ideas, but disappear in the background afterwards and not be recognized immediately.
I am allowed into the turn out live after party.
At least I had some status because I had been a cast member for a bit. And of course, as you know, people may not know when you're a cast member, you're doing as much writing a certain cast members do as much writing is as a lot of the writers.
And so that was not I think that that became more so. But that was not I may even doing it in my day. Many cast members, they were around for a bit. And then they they went they went out to dinner and then they went home and slept.
And I really envied, though I definitely slept there every Tuesday night for my entire tenure at the show. So I was not dining or whining my way through my time there.
But I so I didn't go to learn as much as Lorne came to me because I was a fairly prolific writer as a cast member. And I didn't. And because, again, I would write sort of big group scenes or I would write monologues, I would write the kind of things that I don't think cast members. Normally wrote know cast members, if they wrote, would write sort of a big character piece for themselves, which obviously didn't have those skills.
And so Lauren came to me after when Tina was leaving and asked me if I wanted to step in, not as a writer, but as a writing supervisor and then eventually head writer when she left. So it was a very weird jump because I went right from not being a credit writer on the show to sort of that job.
One of the best experiences I had, the experience that most changed my life. I'm going to say second most to the late night show, but being a writer, starting out live and having to cut your teeth in that environment, there were so few slots and so few chances to get a piece on that you could really feel the competition.
And I think even Lorne would admit he he encourages that, I think, in that way.
I found it very Darwinian when I was at CERN.
It lives well, I do. I mean, I think it became there was a time where it was more supportive. But the one thing that never changes is the amount of real estate in each given show. And the thing I feel really bad for about the current group is it's I think big casts make it so much harder in that at the after party when they ever have after again, the bigger the cast, the more people who didn't get something on.
Yes. And we had a really nice era from like 06 to maybe 2011. That was a smaller group and that made it for a nicer time. And again, there were times when people were upset.
But I think that those small groups and I feel like you maybe worked for there when there was a small.
Yes, I was there was a when I first got there, it was, you know, Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Jan Hooks, Nora Dunn, Victoria Jackson.
But it was it was a tight unit. I think another thing that's changed, I don't know what your opinion is, but and I don't want to hear your opinion. I just want to say my opinion.
And if you say your opinion, I'm going to have it taken out. So it looks like we're going to maybe just confirm yours. Should I just, like, back you up? But we actually have a tape of a person who roughly sounds like you going, oh, and we're just going to play that.
And then right on. Right on. And then. Yeah, right on. Right on.
That's my that's my catchphrase. Yeah. Yeah. It's why you never made it as a cast member. It's your all your characters just sit right on. Right on.
And you can't really sort of but always. Yeah. They would like echo more popular. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Here's a much more famous character. Hey I worked this out with this really famous cast member. Bill Hader is going to come on and just do this killer character and then I go right on.
By the way, that's basically what I did with Stefon. I was basically the right guy to Stefon. And it really hurts my feelings that your bit is my reality.
Oh, you think that was just a bit I thought about this.
I thought about this a lot, Seth.
And that was a way to expose you for the sham that you really are, which will happen nine more times.
That was just the first one.
Can you count the one of the things that has changed at SNL and is the stunt casting that didn't exist in my time?
Oh, I mean, I think the closest we had was when Tina came to play Sarah Palin. But I think when that happened, most people had forgotten that she had left. Yes. Because she was such a recent album that it just made sense. And also nobody at the show thought, oh, I think I'm a better match for Sarah Palin than Tina.
Right. Well, when Sarah Palin hit the scene, many of us said, oh, look, they're all talking about this woman who looks like Tina Fey.
I mean, literally, she looked she just she they they resembled each other so much. And then and Tina is is coming home to do it. You know, she's she's come back to the fold to do it. I think in this new era where you can say, yeah, we got really good, really good impression. Seth, you're right. You worked hard and it's really good.
Anthony Hopkins, we're thinking we're going to get Anthony Hopkins. I think we'll look at Hopkins and then we'll look at you. Yes. And we'll see how the wig, the wig, I you know, the other thing is to speak to know.
So I did. In a very unmemorable political year on the show, I played John Kerry and Will Forte played George W. Bush. And neither of us are known for that.
Nor when anyone sees those two real life people do they think of us.
With that said, it was so valuable for my time at the show to live through that and get those sketches and get that time together again. So, I mean, I guess that's the trade off, right? Like, it wasn't in the moment I went, Lauren probably looks back and goes, wow, I could have had two A-list celebrities and that might have pepped up that twenty four election year. But it was also built equity in the show in that will.
And I got, I think, a little bit more sure of ourselves from doing it.
How many years has it been now that you've been doing The Late Night Show. We just hit seven, just a seven in February, which is. Crazy, like you're one of the few people I can talk to about this, I mean, specifically that late night show, which is, you know, obviously such an important memory for me and my being there and you doing it.
And you look at the cool little history of that show. I will tell you this.
There's nothing in the world that's better than doing a show out of Rockefeller Center. That's why I never, ever took for granted walking into that high church of comedy. Yeah.
And I remember when you when I would run into Letterman writers who worked both places at NBC and moved over to CBS, they would always say, like, don't ever underestimate how great it is to work in 30 Rock. And I've worked here because I basically took three weeks off between my last SNL and my first late night.
And so I've been I think August will be 20 years uninterrupted.
Working in this building between SNL and The Late Night Show. It's just about 20. It's as magical as you think it would be walking out of there at Christmas time. I'm just bringing up Christmas because it's a Christian holiday and I like to alienate anyone listening who's not not Christian. Right. And you're pretty upset when non Christians celebrate it. You know what? I'm going to tell you something. Listen, don't know. Don't laugh, Seona. I just think it's ours.
It's all we've got. We don't have a lot in Christianity.
Wait a minute. Hold on. I'm thinking about all this stuff we've stolen from other people.
You think? Oh, shit, I just remembered Rome and the Vatican. OK, all right.
I've probably been wrong on that one, but I will say I wouldn't mind two floors, but I so I because I'm on eight, I'm right down the hall from SNL and sometimes it's a little too close to my previous show.
I didn't realize only on Thursdays, like again, because SNL operates on seventeen four Monday through Wednesday, I don't see them at all.
And then on Thursdays when I have a show and they are starting their week, you very much feel like the smaller show, it's the it's the boat getting a little too close to the battleship.
The water gets in the way. Yeah. Just the weight, just the wake alone will kill you.
I feel like you had people. Am I wrong that David Bowie was a gigantic famous person who was on your show in fairly short order?
Like how many years were you doing the show until like a person like David Bowie was coming to do it?
I premiered September of 1993. There's a quite a while there where I'm talking to anybody who will talk to me, anybody.
And I don't want to start naming names because that's mean. But sure.
But literally, literally like Sixties TV stars that no one's thinking about anymore.
I'd be like, you remember him falling out of the tower on F Troop. He blew quite a bugle. He played Dobbs, you know, here he is. And you talking about, you know, he was the chimp in McNulty and the chimp. And so there was there was a while where it was like that. And then as the ship started to write, I think because there were so few talk shows and I'm in New York and we started to get good press and a good reputation, that's when suddenly I come in and be like, yeah, well, Elton John's on tonight.
And I be like, what?
I'm star struck in retrospect. Meaning I think about it now. And I go, I can't believe he spoke to me. You know, he came on six times.
Did people forget, like, obviously you never forgot. And I think people who pay attention to comedy always remember that you were on the chopping block early, right? That's part of the legend. Did guests like that? Was that part of it that you are also this really cool comeback story? Or by the time they came on, they were just a fan of the show? I think most of them cared about the comeback story.
But you just assume I like things on TV are supposed to be on TV.
Yes. The fact that you're there and there are NBC cameras pointing at you and your suit fits by logical extension. This person should be there. You don't walk into an ice cream shop and yell at the person who's putting a scoop of, you know, REPL on your on your cone.
What are you doing serving ice cream? You just assume they're wearing the outfit, right. All right.
You've got to prove it. Yeah. Prove serious in ice cream.
Seriously, OK, you got the white paper hat, but I don't buy it. I don't buy that. You really have you you will pay for what you've done.
I just like to throw that in occasionally. Every now and then I just throw in like a weird accusation there their and the goose bumps down the arm. Yeah.
They're called micro aggressions and I like to just like filter.
I don't feel like I get enough of that.
I do think I have to say I do think to me one of the things that I'm most curious about and I have I don't know your story, which is your linkage to being funny as a kid.
When did you realize. Hold on a second. Like an origin story, I have this power, I have this this thing I can do when I'm really in love with the sensation of using this secret power that I have. Can you take me through that?
Yeah, I think it springs from the fact that my dad is very funny to this day. Wonderful storyteller. And he's in finance. So it wasn't this wasn't his background, but I would see him publicly and certainly at home hold court in a way that I found alluring.
And my mom, God love lover, has laughed at everything my dad has ever said.
She's a very beautiful woman. I think my brother and I both thought, oh, this is how you go far well above your weight class with the opposite sex as you make them laugh. And then in school, I was definitely the kind of kid who would whisper a joke in the back of the class as far instead of make a joke in the front of the class. It took me a while to build up the confidence, try to do that.
But I remember I would go home and tell my dad things I had said, but give them to another kid and say this kid's. And then this kid said that and he would often think it had been funny, but I wasn't ready to even take credit at home.
That's fascinating. You couldn't admit to your dad that you would said the funny thing. It had to be you needed a proxy.
Yeah, it does. That speak to writer, to you. Well, I just explained like a writer's origin story. Yes. Yes.
No, it really does. I mean, first of all, when you said I whispered jokes to my friends, I can't emphasize that enough. And if I had to write seven things that I'd love to get across on this podcast, one of them would be funny people, very funny. People are often shy and it takes them a long time to find their footing because that is not known in the world of youth. Often they the loud, brash person who jumps up on the desk and at the prankster like I was terrified of pranks.
I'm still terrified of pranks. I don't I don't like pranks. I don't people are always saying George Clooney, he's such a funny guy. You know, once when he was rooming with this other actor, you know, he filled his toilet bowl with blood.
So he thought that he had colon cancer or something. I think I'm making this up. But my point is, well, that's what Clooney is known for, is the old. Yeah. Blood in the book. Yeah. His favorite thing is that his favorite thing is to show up after the colonoscopy and go, ha ha. I'm the reason you thought you had colon cancer.
Oh, no, it's very hard to say. Ha ha.
I'm the reason you thought you had colon cancer. But but cloney if anyone can pull it off, it's.
Well, the thing is, because it's Clooney, even the person who did the explorative surgery is laughing, you know, I'm sure everyone's laughing. The guy who had three inches of bowel resected is laughing because it's Clooney and and Clooney.
I know you're a big fan of the podcast, but, you know, you do it and it's it's you can get away with it. But a lot of people can't. If I do that, I get sued by the American Medical Association. I think you can. I think you will agree with me, Seth, that some of your favorite funny people and really funny people like yourself, you can't see them in the classroom often. There's a quietness that I relate to.
I also relate to my father is a funny, very funny man. And I used to notice he would make a roomful of people laugh really hard and it got my attention. I think something inside me resonated like just exactly what you're saying that. Oh, what is this and I think if I had if I had seen my father shoot a three pointer, I wouldn't have felt the same way because there's nothing in me that can shoot a three pointer, you know, making a three pointer.
But it won't it won't go in.
And so I don't think that's called shooting a three.
You can famously get that far away from a basket and shuka ball. I am. No, no. I was known in the athletic world and scouts used to check me out. I could get outside outside the paint and I could whip ball up in the air and event and it would sail sort of towards the basket and then land over and sort of rattle around in the stands. And so that's why Scouts checked me. I never hit a three pointer, which was noteworthy, right.
Because it's very hard to not ever hit the one.
I'm the only person I know that I've launched in my life.
I spent years launching three point shots just in an empty gymnasium with a camcorder. And I think I think I've launched well over 35000 attempts. None of them, even many of them don't hit the back.
But I seen the supercute of just the ones that hit the camcorder. Yes. You hit that more. Put that out. There was a time when I hit the camcorder 15 times in a row. And Steph Curry is right to do that and he can't do it.
I saw the one where you hit the camcorder, which then went through. Yes. Oh, I get that plenty of times. I would hit the camcorder and it would that camcorder would ricochet off the flying ball and do spiral up into the air and all net just right through.
Beautifully shot to because again, I know you just hit record and let it go.
Thank you. Cameras. I have two cameras. Oh, I always use two cameras in case the camcorder ever got knocked in. Well, that's great.
Do you find, like, for example, the Lorne Michaels, if at all, Lawrence got certain out live? He was the whole reason I got The Late Night Show and I'm forever indebted to him for that, obviously. I mean, he gave me my career. But it is interesting when you're in the peculiar situation of he he's producing Stand Out Live, but he's also producing The Late Night Show.
And yet it was always clear to me and I obviously could never blame him for a second for this, but it's so funny because many of us I don't know if you're one, but we kind of turn Lorne into a dad.
You know, we we all have our own dads.
And yes, of course, you seem to love your a father figure. One hundred percent. Yeah, yeah.
He's a father figure. And then you realize that he's got this child called not live, and then he's got this other child called The Late Night Show now. Now, of course, he has, you know, The Tonight Show and I think Wheel of Fortune, the Fortune and all these other shows that. But back in my day, it was you know, he did start out live and he did late night. And that was other than the occasional movie.
That was. That was it. But there in Rockefeller Center, those are the two things. And it was so clear to me that night lives his real son, you know, and I'm it's not it's not clear that I'm his real son. You know, I haven't had a DNA test. And I I'm sort of this his other son is this amazing athlete and I'm kind of a stoner. I don't know.
It just I guess I think of it to feel good about it, that I essentials his farm and I work there really long time until he said to me, you should go start your own farm. Right. Because it is you're taking the skills that you learned there.
And ultimately and I'm sure he felt the same way about you or else he never would have given you the job. Like he has more confidence in you and your ability to make decisions than he does maybe for a lot of the people he spends a lot of attention on at SNL in any given week.
And it also should be noted, I do this show with Mike Shoemaker, who you know really well, and and he was worked so closely with Lauren for all those years of SNL. So we as a team, I think Lauren looks at us and or at least the way we sort of justify the fact that we you know, he's never here.
But like, we literally we see him, you know, he'll take us out to dinner and tell us we're doing a good job. But it's not like he ever comes down and and says, you know, I feel like the lights are a little hot or, you know, who's doing props now at the lack of realism. Yeah.
So I remember when I was head writer and doing update that he called me in because he was upset with the way the shows had gone, maybe for just three or four episodes like a season or anything. And I remember saying, well, I think with update and he snapped at me updates the last thing I'm worried about.
And I realized that was the praise I was going to get for updating with last year. And I just I like I was in a Tennessee Williams play. I was like the last thing, Mr. Michaels. I was so flattered. And I was like, oh, that's what you get from. And then but you have to, like, take it and realize he meant it. Like, he he wasn't worried about update. He thought update was a good place.
And then we got on to all the things that I could be doing better with the rest of the show. But I think that, yeah, he's not. And the other thing is, you think because he's Lorne Michaels, he's going to be really good at telling you exactly what he needs and exactly how to do it. And trust me, kid, I've been in this business for so long and you've got to do X, Y, Z, but he really isn't that.
I think also one of the reasons this show thrives is he kind of, like you say, lets everybody find their own way and it either works or it doesn't. But he doesn't have time to individually one on one, give people guidance. I don't know. Have you been reading the Mike Nichols book? Because it's really great.
No, I actually someone just gave it to me. Everybody says when you went out to dinner with him or you did a play with him as a director, he would just tell stories about himself and famous people. But you the more time you spent with him, you realized, oh, I think those stories were supposed to like within that story was a piece of advice that he wanted me to take with me. Right. But there was a bit of and I feel like Lawrence like that a lot that you realize halfway through his story, he's telling you about some play he did at Toronto University that it's about you.
What you're saying is that Confucius would tell a story about a grasshopper and a frog trying to cross a stream and it'd be great magisterial beauty in it and knowledge that you can relate to yourself. Lauren does that. But it's a story about Mick Jagger and Paul Simon trying to cross a stream. And Jennifer Lawrence is on the other side. And it's the same if you think about the story. It really is the same message that Confucius was giving. And it's in Prague during the Velvet Revolution.
And we flew there with Chris Dodd and, yeah, someone once said, when Lorne gives a note, do you know Andrew Steele?
I don't know if you know, I do know right now.
Andrew Steel said that when Lorne gives a note to someone who then gives the note to the writer, it's like a tiger told a pyramid.
And now the pyramid has to tell you like that. But it's not even that. It's in a different language. It's like different beings with different. It's hopeless. Yeah. Was it celebratory when you got the job? Absolutely not. Yeah, absolutely no. How do you find out? How did he tell you?
He didn't tell me. The network called my agent. My agent called me. And I swear to God, I think I don't think Lorne was celebrating me getting that job because I think a lot of people were coming up to him and saying, wow, you chose a complete unknown with really no on camera experience to replace David Letterman. Gutsy move, Lorne. And I think he was rightly scared, he might say now.
Oh, of course. I always knew Conan had it. And I to his credit, he he saw a lot of things in me. And then sure enough, we debuted and people were nice initially. And by initially, I mean for like the first week or so.
And then Lorne has a technique that he uses, which is it's very interesting. But he likes to I don't know if he's ever done this with you, but he'll tell you a bad thing someone said about you, but then tell you afterwards, immediately after he tells you the bad news. That's and it's stuff that you wouldn't have heard otherwise. But he used you know, he then tries to reassure you that it's going to be OK, even though he's the one that told you so.
He used to call it call me like late at night and go.
I think I think what the I think what the Michigan Herald Dispatch wrote despicable.
And I would say what like clearly he got me out of bed and I go, what? Well, I just you know, you're not a you're not a mindless cretin. You're not an asexual. You know, you're not an asexual monkey on an unfettered means babbling nonsense.
You know what I mean? You know, like, why would someone even write that?
Why would they go to the trouble? And I would say, oh, my God, he'd go, look, no one's going to remember it tomorrow. So you've got to just put it out of your mind.
It's this, this. And I think it was to be fair to Lorne, he had put himself on the line for me. And so he didn't like reading that. And I think he needed to make sure that I knew that that was out there. And so I don't I don't know. I don't think he was wrong. I don't know. Sound like a masochist, maybe.
But OK, I should tell you, I feel like my writers, when they started on the show, they all wanted to write for your show in nineteen ninety seven. Right. This style. And it was and I don't blame them and it's a style I liked as well.
But the one thing that I would always try to point out is like this can't be the one thing. This can still be funny but it can't be new. Like I just want you guys to appreciate that. Like it's not a new thing, right.
However, you know, twenty years later, it's the only frustrating thing is you you think you know what you're going to be best at or what people are going to like most. Right. And that was a really frustrating just because how right. Lauren was. I remember when I started the show, he said it'll take a year and a half and in my head, just out of ego, I remember thinking I better take six months and I to the day.
I think I took a year and a half before I walked into work and thought, I think I know what I want to try to do.
Most nights I think doing this kind of show, it's it's a unique problem and the only way to crack it is to actually do it. Two things have to happen. You have to learn the job. But that's 50 percent. The other fifty percent is people have to learn. You and I remember thinking I know me and my friends who think I'm really funny have known me for a while, and that's what I have to do. Only I have to do it with the United States of America.
I have to go. I have to like be around long enough for people to go. You know what? He's got a funny voice and a weird rhythm and his hair's odd. But if I can stick around long enough and they pick up on what it is I'm putting out there. So it's a two way.
It's there's two things in this equation that need to happen. And you're only you can only do 50 percent. And the rest of it is people getting to know Seth Meyers in this role.
I still can't believe. And looking back, it never even occurred to me, but I threw away the advantage I had from being a weekend update anchor, which is I so firmly believed that in order to do this new job, I had to start with a standing monologue. I had to prove to everybody I could do something else.
And it turns out people don't want to learn your next move. And so that was basically the big shift we made was a year and a half into it. I started the show sitting at the desk and I think everybody. Had liked me an update and maybe felt a little weird about me as a late night host, saw that and was like, oh right, this is what he does. And we like this more and we're more comfortable watching it.
I was going to say I thought your only issue is your legs are withered. You have wither and atrophied. Well, ones with. Well, if they were both, whether you could fix it with pants. But when one's so clearly being dragged, kind of just horribly withered, correct me if I'm wrong.
It's the left leg and it's the left.
It looks like a stream. Yeah. And so you'd hop out with this what looked like a denim noodle hanging off of you. Yeah. Then a lot of times when you were doing the monologue, you were teetering and I was always like, well, just let him sit. And you were defiantly saying, I can do it.
I can stand, remember and I don't know if you remember, but if a joke went really well and the audience clap, that was enough to knock me to do so. I had to never I could never do so well in a monologue that the reaction was no, you had to modulate and would knock me over.
So I had to bring it down. And again, that's not how you want to be doing comedy like aiming for a B minus. No.
Well, listen, you got through that, as Lorne said, a year and a half.
And that's the thing to is now, especially I think it was such a rigorous this is what a talk show is. You know, in 93 when I was coming in, it was this is the House. You're at the National Broadcasting Company. There was a lot of that. There was a lot of you. This is how a show is done. The microphone is eight inches from your breastbone at the desk. You know, there was a lot of rigorous orthodoxy about what has to happen.
I think the last vestiges of it were alive. And we started very much of like monologue, piece of comedy, commercial comedy, commercial guest like, you know, and that if you mess that up at all, like the people who come in with paperwork and show you why you were wrong.
Well, I got a Graff's right. Also, is there anything worse than having a guest you adore and know that they're in their dressing room watching them when you're doing? No, I'm always hoping. What?
I'm always hoping they're not seeing it. I'm always hoping that the segment producers talking to them, because if it's someone I really hold in high esteem, the idea that they're watching is horrific.
And I think the odds that they're watching now because of Zoome is higher than ever, which is also devastating to me, knowing that they're watching the first act of the show, usually because they're waiting.
Oh, see, I don't do it that way. We do it. We tape them separately. They are hermetically sealed from the comedy.
I know it's a weird question to ask because I obviously love a live audience, but where are you on missing an audience? Because I got to be honest, it's been sort of thrilling to do a show without an audience.
I'm going to say I don't miss an audience on the show as much. It sounds crazy, but I would still need to go out and make appearances somewhere because I love screwing around with an audience and talking to them and trying to make something happen spontaneously in the moment and getting those laughs. I get a lot of energy from it. You and I talk in front of an audience. We're going to be thinking all about making it funny. We're not going to get to most of the things I really want to talk about.
And it's not going to have this feel, which I find much more compelling now at this stage in my life than OK. I just did four minutes with Seth and he did his bit about, you know, Mr. Poopy Pants, which is sort of your humor, I suppose. And yet Mr. We we and and, you know, the talking toilet, I wouldn't do them both on the same time as I was them up. Yeah. Yeah.
Well, you'd always go poopy and then into we we are you know, are we going to poop or whatever. But we do they're they're beat for beat the same character. Yeah. Different. But we'd get through your scatological famous Seth Scatological Myers routines. Oh.
Or we could not. And the audience would boo me out of the theater. Yeah. No, no, no book.
Hey listen, Gallagher works. It works. Yeah. You're you're crass. I just. I'm sorry. I just I can't believe how blue you work on the late night show and how it's always.
Can I ask a question about back when there was an audience when when I love that you're more or less said, can we be can we go back to being real again instead of pretending that I'm Mr. Stop what you're doing? Can we go back to anything but this? What let's go back to when I said yes to doing this.
No when in normal times do you go out and say hi to your audience before the show starts?
Used to all the time. I used to go out and perform. I used to go out there and perform my ass off for them before the show. For how long? Years and years.
So how long would you when you would go out, like how much time would you spend? Too much time. It was so fucking needy and wrong and they loved it. And then I'd start my show. And if you look at some of those shows in the nineties, I'm out of breath in the monologue because of something I did for studio audience, literally wading through the audience, singing songs that you know to them. All this energy, I'd be out of breath and sweating in the monologue because I had just done something that only 200 people saw.
What about you? What do you do?
I go out and say hello and I do basically five soft jokes exactly the same way every night to sort of set an internal baseline for me as to how good an audience there. Because that way I don't like finding out on the first monologue joke how good they're right, because then I spin out. So I like to just say, OK, they're OK this.
And also I it took me a while to figure this out, but they're very good. The sound guys on these shows are very good. It's when you're watching from home, they all seem to go about the same.
Yes, that's the problem is that the biggest mistake a novice makes is a lot of savors. So you go out there and you tell a joke now at home, it does fine. Does OK. Right. But if you go.
Oh okay. Yeah. I don't nassan didn't like that one. Huh. They get suddenly everyone at home is thinking you're educating people that it's not working.
I hosted the Emmys in twenty fourteen. Fucking did it at the Emmys. I had it ready to go. I was like the first joke that does bad. I'll say jokes and these jokes are like nominees. They can't all be winners. Right. And it was I shouldn't have done it as soon as I did it because I was proud of it. I thought, oh, I'm so smart to have this pre written survivor. And I could just feel people do exactly what I said, judge themselves and what with, oh, you know, we thought that was a commensurate laugh for the period.
Or if they're not even thinking about it, they're all you're performing in front of a room that's only thinking about themselves, you know?
Yeah, I guess it is a night that is fully for their egos. And the last thing they want anybody to say is like there's another. Hi, I would like you to know I also have an ego, right?
Yes. I know you're worried about winning the big award tonight, but my feelings count, too. But you and I have learned the exact same lessons I wish if I could if I could have written down all the lessons that I learned and handed in to you in a book, I don't think it would have made any difference because you just got to you got to figure it out for yourself to learn them.
Yeah. Yeah. Unfortunately, gadolinium yourself. I don't want to keep you. I've kept you over an hour.
I've one last thing I want to talk about. I will I read watch something today because I was thinking about it. So I have to college. I work for this improv theater in Amsterdam called Boom Chicago. And when I was there, I moved there in nineteen ninety seven.
You went to Amsterdam and filmed a piece with Ozzy Osbourne. And I was thinking about it today because I remember at our theater, at this English speaking American Improv Theater in Amsterdam, we all said, oh my God, Conan's here. Do you think he'll come and see a show? And it made me laugh so hard today. Now, twenty years later, I think if I was in a foreign country, as I talk about, the last thing I would do is to go like we're in Amsterdam for the night.
What should we do? Yeah, well, there's some guys doing Chicago style improv. Have you ever seen that cone?
And then we're going to get some McDonald's? No, I was at the red light district the whole time.
I was high.
I was I, I have I will say a thing that you are the best in the world at that I find. So anxiety inducing is going out on the street and shooting remotes.
I just I fall apart. Do you not have.
I have. I will tell you that. Thank you. But I will tell you that it's I am always filled with anxiety.
I think it was my first or second year going out for St. Patrick's Day and just standing outside of 30 Rock by the parade and just dawning on me. Other people have done this. This is not nothing about this is new. And I don't like being around drunk people. Oh, I don't like. Yeah. And that would be the dance at all.
Yeah. Being around drunk people whose inhibitions are gone as any club comic will tell you, is the worst way to work. And so where you want to be is someplace where they're not expecting you. And that's why I love to show up. You know, when I went with Stephen, you into to a Korean spa there, not no one there is expecting that.
They don't want it. They don't expect it. So you can find the quiet weirdness, you know. But, yeah, again, I they sent me out to the Thanksgiving Day parade my first year of late night, and they sent they sent me places like go to this big place where a lot of people have no inhibitions and it's really loud and your comedic wit will be drowned out. And there's nothing original to be said about it. Yeah, of course.
Of course. You didn't want to do that.
You're around people, but they're not an audience now, so you can't help but think you're bombing.
Even though the goal wasn't to make them laugh. It's to take find something that later, like in two weeks when it's edited, will make a different group of people laugh. And so I just immediately the amount of flop sweat I have in those situations is, yeah, I had to get out of that. Yeah, but like I say, everyone has to find their own way, you have done a brilliant job and I think it's a regret of mine that I don't know you better, because as you said at the beginning, this is you know, there's an assumption that I know all the late night hosts and I've met all the late night hosts and I know some a little better than others.
But I think it would be surprising how much I don't know them.
I live you know, I live in a different coast.
And also it's like any hassle to write like an almost impenetrable cast. Yes, I have a I actually have built an ivory tower and I live up on top of it and I'm contemptuous of other people.
But it reflects so much sunlight. It's a real people get burned around.
No, but I, I this podcast, this interview is a chance to for me to tell you, you know, how much just a compared notes and just talk to you and sort of do a little bit of a deep dove on what are you feeling, how have you experienced all of this. You know, the lawn, the late night, starting out life to late night. I mean, you and I overlap in so many ways. And then also just to tell you that I really admire how you've handled yourself and the job you've done.
You really have done a just a lovely job. And I do have a sentimental streak in me for that old late night show. And it's really meaningful to me that someone classy and smart is hosting that show. You know, it's it makes me feel good. I'll sleep better tonight.
Well, it means a ton coming from you. And it very it feels very full circle. The first talk show I ever did with you when I'm sure someone dropped out and you guys just called up to 17, we actually I remember we did not invite you.
You you you came during rehearsal and we felt so bad. We just kept rolling. Definitely didn't air. You talk to me. God knows it was too short. No, it was only like two minutes. Well, you said a lot of really an act. You said a lot of really controversial stuff. You had to very right off the bat, I jumped right into you. You had a lot of theories. Let's just say that, you know, very strong.
You had a weird religion you had built. And I want to this was this was 2001. And everything I was saying was also not OK then. This isn't a case. I'm not saying it was a different time. Oh, no, no, no. These were the stuff. You were saying things. No, no, no. This is not one of those. Let's look at the tape. And now, in retrospect, in 2001, the stuff you saying was hate filled.
It was completely off the rails. The crowd was furious. And I don't know why there was a crowded rehearsal. I'm justifying my own bad improv now.
I lost everybody. I lost everybody right away. Well well, thank you. I it is really, you know, again, everybody who was part of a legacy of keeping this show alive, I owe a great debt to. But particularly how much I watched yours. Yours was the one I watch the most. And so this is this is great to do.
Well, I'm for editing. I'm telling Letterman that. And that's a powerful guy who can he can fuck you up. You're going to be beaten tomorrow. Hey, listen, and let's see what I'd like to do is I'd like to follow this up with at a time when we are allowed to dine together, I like to come in in New York.
It would be really fun to download. So I will reach out when I'm in New York.
Don't call me. I would love don't call me if you're in L.A. because you know. No, no.
I'll be with I'll be with Clooney. Bye. You have your you have your life buying fake blood. Yeah. Hey, listen, thank you so much. This has been a joy. A real joy. Thank you.
Conine, a few weeks ago, you gave Soane an absolute hell for getting you the wrong tipped pen in her role as assistant, is that right? Well, first of all, I disagree that I gave her absolute hell. I really don't think I did. So what do you think? I think you gave me hell.
Absolute, absolute hell. Was it warranted? It's all relative. I disagree. All I did was recount that. I asked Sonor to get me this very particular pen. And yes, I am particular. I am, after all, a writer. I am a I think I could say I'm an artist of a sort. This is my this is my craft. And so this is the tool that is essential to my craft. And so, yes, I'm a little particular about it.
So I asked Seona, can you get me a precise grip rolling ball pilot pen, they have a rubber grip. You're fantastic. And can you please make sure it's bold?
And soon I set on it and then suddenly I get this shipment of pens, his bag of pens, and it's me.
And there are fine, fine point. Fine point. And I hate a fine point pen. It's just this little scratchy pen that barely gives you any ink. It's like, oh, I'll give you this much ink.
Can I have a little more ink. Maybe tomorrow is enough for now. No, but I really just want to doodle and say nothing right now. It's fine for now. Fine.
And I, I just begged for a ballpoint pen. And these are not expensive pens.
These are at least you didn't wait like a year and a half until you told me that they were the wrong kind.
I waited 14 months, three houses to write it. At least you brought it up and then you dropped it immediately after. You didn't dwell on it for hours on text.
Just sort of a really good idea for the show. I'm just going to take out my. Oh, good. It's my pilot pen. I'm going to write this idea down. It's so great for the show.
And wait, it's only writing down the first part of the idea. It's not writing down the whole idea. There's a pen here a little bit and not done yet. Pen, pen, please. No, no, no. That's all the ink for now. I am in my ear with my eye, my precious. Only a little bit for now.
What do you think I'm born then. Bold pen comes in. You want ink. I've got so much ink I'm vomiting. Yeah. It's just this pen that shoots out ink everywhere and it's just fantastic. It's just like Jackson Pollock, trust me, used a bold, precise grip pilot, just one splash at the canvas and he had a eight hundred million dollar painting. Bingo, Bango Bongo.
So that's what I like. It's like the difference is between Scrooge is the fine point pen and then where's the ballpoint pen?
It's Zorba the Greek living life by all but everybody dance ink for everyone. Ink because ink is life and life is short.
Anyway, as you're diligent and forward thinking producer, I'm wondering you've spent so much time talking about these goddamn pens. What's the state? Are we getting anyone? Can we capitalize off these? Are they not sponsoring us? Have we heard anything?
Seona have they sent no phones? They haven't sent any pens, no. So a lot of times when you mentioned something on the podcast or the show, they send it. And you did a whole thing about how much you love these pens. And I have heard nothing from. Right.
It's weird because I briefly mentioned that I was telling a story and I said the guy drove up in a Porsche 911 Porsche, sent me six 911 elevens in different colors, and they said, tell us which one you want.
And I was like, oh, that's just crazy. But wow, this I sort of like this purple white one. And I said, so I'll just send the others back to you in the way. Just keep them all.
So and it was just to give them away to other people or do you know I could of. Yeah, I probably should have. Yeah I probably should have. I had the others destroyed. I hired a man what with a hammer to destroy them rather than see them bring joy to anybody else.
Yes. Oh my God. No, I tied the I tied them all together to make one really wide push. That's nine, eleven times six. And I drive it around because I want to go. My new title is Captain Duesenberg and I just drive it right. And I wear a yachting cap and I'm the guy that drives six, nine, 11, strapped together with twine. I drive the middle one, but sometimes I hop into one of the other ones to make a quick course correction.
But anyway, anyway, back to the pens. Yeah. If you think about it, if you think about how much time I spent talking about the pilot, precise grip rolling ball with rubber grip that ball and black. Right.
I wouldn't be so great if they sent you just a case of them and they were all fine print.
Oh my God. If that happened. Oh my God. Please send fine tip. Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Not even don't even joke. Don't jump. No, no, no, no, no, no. I despair line. Yes.
Oh they have one that actually takes ink away from the paper. They have it's three grades beyond fine that if you, if you hold it up to anything like you could hold this up to the original Declaration of Independence and it would suck out all the ink immediately. Oh, my God. Nanochip it's very it's like, yeah, it's the black hole of pens literally. And it was predicted, as predicted by some of the great physicists. No, God, I I've given them so much airtime.
We are not getting paid. And you know what? I'm fine. We live in why should I get free pilot precise grip rolling ball pens.
I should say. This has angered me so much that if they send it, I'm just going to trash all of them. Well, all of them in the trash. Next, you will never see those pens.
How many times Sona has a company sent me something and you didn't even tell me about it. You just took it. How many times? And. Honest me, be honest, I always don't even say that, no, now you're making me feel like I steal things. No, I tell you, this came for you. I knew you wouldn't want it. So I took it.
I came in and it's already it's already at home and in use when you tell me half. Yes. Yes, that's true. Now, to be fair, you don't you tell me. But sometimes you're like, oh yeah, they sent you this really cool thing. I knew you wouldn't want it. So I took it home. Yeah, I plugged it in and now it's washing clothes at my house. Yeah. And I'm like, oh, that sounds like a nice.
Oh it's fantastic.
It's really amazing. It's from Sweden.
No, but if pilot sends you pense just to spite you, I'm just going to throw them all away. No time to film myself, throwing them away.
And then they send you the video of me tossing all the pens into the trash that I feel that's that's ecologically unsound. I don't think. And that's wasteful. I don't think you should do that. I think what you should do is you should get out a knife and you should pare down the tips. So they're super fine. That would be the way to get me. Yes. That way nothing's wasted and you've gone out of your way to make them super fine.
Pilot, the ball is in your court.
Oh, literally the ball as in rolling ball, the precise grip rolling ball, or as they say in Espanol, Ebola Rhoden they use promo code.
Fine tip here. Why are the instructions on the back in Spanish escritoire to Suavi team to liquidy this de lay out why you know say this goal at this point. Seventeen Tanagra Azura Roka there they emrah that doumbia and responsibly and put the extra fener no.
In the end it says also available in extra fine point. That's what it says pilot.
You know what to do. Yeah.
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 Bozena. Our supervising producer is Aaron Belayer and our associate talent producer is Jennifer Samples. The show is engineered by Wilbekin. 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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