As part of the New York Comedy Festival, I attended two Paley Center speaker panels (Speaking panels at a media museum?! Will my crazy drunken antics never stop?!) with the writers for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Colbert Report. I was able to talk to both writing staffs before each panel. Here's a video interview with the Colbert writers.
So that was awesome. We also got to sit down with the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writers and talk to them for a few minutes. Click after the jump to read on.
We only got to sit down with the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writers very quickly because they were being prepped for the speaking event, but we were able to ask them a few questions.
Before I get started, have I ever mentioned that I think the writing on that show is actually very tight and smart? Sometimes when a show changes host, there's a bit of an immediate backlash, and I'm sure it's hard to live in Conan's shadow, but seriously, check out this amazing sketch…
Isn't that just a really solid, well-executed late night sketch?
Talking to them about their favorite late night shows, a common thread came up. Almost all of them agreed that Late Night with Conan O'Brien played a huge role in turning them onto late night comedy.
Jeremy Bronson, one of the current writers on Late Night, as well as a former writer for Comedy Central's Chocolate News, said, "In college, I was such a huge Conan fan. He's really what inspired me to get into comedy."
Everyone basically agreed that they became obsessed with Conan in college, which was cool, because Conan was probably my first comedy idol back when I started watching that show in elementary school (I am a baby! Waah!)
During the actual panel, A.D. Miles talked a bit about how the show was built, that particularly interested me, "They did something kind of interesting when they were building the show. They picked a lot of people who were stepping up into the job.
"I’ve done a lot of writing, acting… but I’ve never been a head writer on a show before… A lot of people working on the show, it was the first time for them working on television… Everybody felt like they had something to prove.”
And it was true (You mean to tell me A.D. Miles didn't lie?) For a lot of the writers, this was one of their first experiences working in television, and they all seemed very excited to be working on the house that Letterman and Conan built.
I talked to them about what their first sketch was to make it on the air. Gerard Bradford, the writer behind Space Train, which featured Robert DeNiro, talked a bit about that experience, "My first sketch was Space Train… The whole thing took like two weeks to put together and lasted about thirty seconds."
Bradford mentioned that while he never got to meet Robert DeNiro (writers on late night TV don't live as glamorous lives as everyone thinks!), it was exciting having a big actor like DeNiro perform one of his sketches.
In our interview, A.D. Miles talked a bit more about establishing the show.
"I think we were so desperate to be funny every night that whatever happens happens, and the tone and the style will emerge over time. I don't think we're sitting down and going like, this is the tone we're looking for. We just go in there, guns blazing, trying to be funny. In five years, I'll be able to tell you what the style is."