Louis CK was the bright-eyed rookie when he joined the first writing staff of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” That was a tough feat to pull off on a show hosted by an inexperienced 30-year old on-camera rookie and led in the writing room by a 33-year old scribe, but at least Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel had experience with “Saturday Night Live” and other TV shows. All Louis had on his resume were a few short films, a quick TV sketch job and a decade of low-pay standup gigs.
The first episode famously began with a skit that saw Conan, after receiving “pep talks” from people that told him he better be as good as vacating host David Letterman, try to hang himself in his dressing room before the show began. That they didn’t go any farther came thanks to Louis.
“He told me he was going to put a gun in his mouth, and I was the new guy, and I said, ‘Are you really going to do that?’ and they were like, ‘You think that’s too dark?’ and I said, ‘You can’t do that, that’s vicious, that’s really hard for people to take,’” CK recently told interview Jonah Weiner. “I talked them out of it, and it was like they were asking me for permission. ‘Really, is it too much?’ ‘Yeah, guys, that’s crazy.’ A gun in the mouth, Jesus.”
It was hard to do, it hurt. It was hard to do that, but I loved the work, I loved it, and Robert let me do anything I wanted to, anything,” Louis said. “I got to shoot some really elaborate, crazy shit there, and it’s something I learned how to do: live comedy, sketch comedy with an audience, and I hunkered down, watching it happen.”
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