Great article on How Conan O’Brien Got Screwed
If you’ve ever seen a criminal standing before a firing squad and felt jealous of all the attention he was receiving, then you would have loved writing for Conan O’Brien. There was a ritual at rehearsals for Late Night: Every afternoon, the writers responsible for that day’s comedy would enter the studio, file past Conan’s desk, and position themselves behind the guest couch, standing shoulder to shoulder or seated on apple boxes. (Later, at The Tonight Show, these were upgraded to four director’s chairs.) The arrangement was awkward but practical—it gave writers a good view of the rehearsal and kept them close to Conan and Mike Sweeney, the show’s head writer, for notes and on-the-fly changes. It may have appeared as if the writers were enjoying a seat of entitlement up there, and when rehearsals went well, it was an incredibly entertaining privilege. But if a piece of comedy flatlined, there was nowhere to hide from the hot sting of shame.