DOU­BLE TALK

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By James Roc­chi cal­en­dar@ latimes. com

Co­nan O’Brien and James Cor­den chat.

In a lushly ap­pointed suite at West Hol­ly­wood’s Lon­don Ho­tel, James Cor­den and Co­nan O’Brien have fin­ished a photo shoot, both clad in blue suits, as the lanky O’Brien tow­ers over ev­ery­one in the room and Cor­den won­ders why there are so many cof­fee- ta­ble books strewn about. O’Brien, cur­rently host­ing “Co­nan” on TBS, be­gan his ca­reer as a talk show host on NBC in 1993. Cor­den, the new host of CBS’ “The Late Late Show,” has just 40 shows un­der his belt com­pared with O’Brien’s roughly 2,500. The En­ve­lope sat down with the two hosts to talk about com­edy and be­ing the face peo­ple see late at night, and see­ing the gig from two very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives: the vet­eran and the new­comer. When a dif­fer­ent set of guests comes through ev­ery day, is it a plea­sure or another day at the of­fice?

O’Brien: You al­ways have to be on guard for “I’m fall­ing asleep at the wheel: I have to stop the car, step out­side, hit my­self with a rock, wake up and get back in and try to rein­vent it for my­self.” I think there are 11 vari­ables any given night: There’s the au­di­ence, the com­edy … and you never know what you’re go­ing to get. Some nights, you pull and all 11 come out in your fa­vor, and it’s in­tox­i­cat­ing. And that hap­pens rarely, but when it hap­pens, like an ad­dict, you’re back to try and get it again.

Cor­den: We’re so in our in­fancy, but the other night we had Jane Fonda, Lily Tom­lin and El­iz­a­beth Banks. And be­cause we bring our guests out to­gether, it was just a con­ver­sa­tion with three peo­ple who I have noth­ing but the ut­most re­spect for … you have to from time to time say, “God, what a priv­i­lege; what an ab­so­lute priv­i­lege to sit and talk to these peo­ple.” Like the liv­ing ex- pres­i­dents or Su­per Bowl MVP’s, you two are in one of the small­est clubs of all time, late- night net­work talk show hosts.

Cor­den: Jimmy Kim­mel sent me a very, very nice card on the first night of the new show, which said, “Welcome to the very large United States of Amer­ica and the very small fra­ter­nity of late- night talk show hosts,” and I did re­al­ize, “Yeah, there aren’t that many peo­ple who’ve done this.” Is late- night one of those things where nos­tal­gia for the past can of­ten cloud the re­al­i­ties of it?

Cor­den: There’s a very in­ter­est­ing let­ter to the news­pa­per some­one showed me, and it was seven years af­ter Johnny Car­son had taken over “The Tonight Show,” and the let­ter read, “When is Jack Parr com­ing back to ‘ The Tonight Show’? He used to do proper in­ter­views, and all Johnny Car­son does is skits and bits.”

O’Brien: We are com­ing into peo­ple’s rooms late at night, and we are im­pro­vis­ing a lot, and peo­ple see who we are. Lorne Michaels had a great say­ing: “When you’re on tele­vi­sion ev­ery night, even­tu­ally, what’s in you comes out.” It’s prob­a­bly one of the most in­ti­mate kinds of TV, so when there’s a change, peo­ple can feel vi­o­lated. If you look at Car­son re­plac­ing Parr or me re­plac­ing Let­ter­man, it al­ways feels wrong for a while. So when James stops do­ing his show 30 years from now …

Cor­den: [ Laugh­ing] I don’t know about that!

O’Brien: It’s not your choice. You’re locked in. I don’t know if you read the con­tract. … Peo­ple are go­ing to say about the new guy, Quiz Di­b­ley, from Aus­tralia, “Who the hell do you think you are? Why aren’t you do­ing it the way James Cor­den did it?” Is the fact that there’s al­ways a next show the best pos­si­ble cure for writer’s block?

O’Brien: I’ve al­ways said the worst thing about these shows is you do it ev­ery day. And the best thing about these shows is you do it ev­ery day. You can turn that yin- yang sym­bol to in­fin­ity and al­ways come back to that equa­tion. You have no con­trol: You just do it ev­ery day, pas­sion­ately, and you go through the highs and the lows. And over time, you’ve built a mo­saic. You didn’t set out to make a pat­tern, you just went in ev­ery day and tried. Go in with the feel­ing you have noth­ing to lose. I ac­tu­ally have made a lot of bad de­ci­sions, fi­nan­cially, so I have a lot to lose. But peo­ple like to watch some­one have fun.

Cor­den: That’s what it is. That’s all it is: Fun, and ef­fort.

Jay L. Clen­denin Los An­ge­les Times

LATE- NIGHT fun­ny­men James Cor­den and Co­nan O’Brien of­fer their views of TV talk shows from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives: the old hand and the new face.

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