Slate Knight with Conan O'Brien
Funnyman Demetri Martin recently wrote one of those weeklong Slate diaries. You can read it here.
Right now my job is writer at Late Night with Conan O'Brien. I'm one of the sketch writers. That means I don't write any monologue jokes. I share an office with Kevin Dorff. He's a sketch writer, too. Our office is messy. I like it.
We don't tape shows on Mondays. So yesterday consisted of a series of writing intervals punctuated by meetings. That means sitting in chairs all day. A lot of jobs are just places people sit. Maybe that's why I like stand-up comedy. Because I can sit or stand or even crouch when I'm doing it. It's a job that has a lot of body-movement versatility. (Other examples include gymnast, stuntman, and prostitute.)
After our pitch meeting, we went to our desks to write "Celebrity Surveys" -- that's a segment Conan does from his desk. It consists of fake survey questions with fake answers from real celebrities. It will be on the show tonight. We returned to the head writer's office. His name is Mike. Each of us showed up with our celebrity survey jokes on paper. We put the papers on Mike's desk. He assembled the pile to read aloud. The ones that make us laugh he marks. If there are enough of those, then we are done with celebrity surveys. If there are not enough funny ones, we go back to our offices and write some more for half an hour or so. Mike read them aloud. We went back to our offices to write for half an hour or so. We returned, Mike read the new batch. We finished with Celebrity Surveys.
Then we had to write some "new characters." "New characters" is a segment on the show in which Conan introduces new characters to the audience. Some past new characters include Preparation H Raymond, the Coked-up Werewolf, and Pimpbot 5000. The process is strikingly similar to celebrity surveys: Go to your desk for half an hour, write a bunch, then print them out and head back into Mike's office. I did that.
Then dinner arrived, so we all headed into the conference room. Everybody had Chinese food. Except for me: I'm allergic to most of the ingredients (life-threatening allergies to peanut oil, poultry, and seafood), so I got a roast beef sandwich, yogurt, and pretzels. While I was eating, I made a mental note to avoid mixing pretzels and strawberry yogurt in the future.
Conan was there. He usually eats pretty healthy food. I think what he was eating was healthy. For him, at least. It would kill me.
After dinner, Mike read our new characters. I didn't have such a great batch. One of mine did OK -- a character named "Suzanne: Sexy Washing Machine," which would be a washing machine wearing a bikini. I'm not saying it's great, but I think it would make me laugh if I saw it. My favorite of the ones I wrote was "One Man Band on the Toilet." That would be a guy playing a few instruments while sitting on the toilet. It didn't get anything. It was a selfish pitch anyway.
After dinner, we watched the president's speech, because we might do a "clutch cargo" on Wednesday. That's when Conan talks to the television screen with a person's face on it and the lips move. The lips are Robert Smigel's. Robert was the first head writer at Conan. He also writes at Saturday Night Live. He makes cartoons and is "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog." He is funny and prolific.
I got out of the office around 9 p.m. That's early. Sometimes we stay as late as midnight. (We have to be at work at 11 a.m.) My mom was in town. She brought my air conditioner up from New Jersey. It was nice to see her. It was also nice to see my air conditioner. It was not nice to carry it. (See discussion of six-floor walk-up from yesterday.) Sometimes I feel like my life is just a series of breaks between carrying heavy things. And those breaks involve a lot of sitting. (See discussion of body-movement versatility above.)