Rehearsals were by far my favorite thing about working for Conan.
It was important for Conan and the writers to have unbiased people in their target demographic to test the jokes and sketches for the day. When I first started my internship, it was smack in the middle of the Writers Guild of America strike, so I didn’t know what a real rehearsal was until weeks later. During the strike, Conan would spin his wedding ring on the desk and time it, and do all kinds of improv since they had no writers. Sometimes he’d just tell funny stories, like this one:
Thankfully, improv is Conan’s specialty, so these rehearsals were an experience all their own.
Once we got the writers back, a traditional rehearsal went down like this: the sketches for the day were rehearsed. If a bit was going to involve an audience member, interns were used! Then they moved on to monologue, where he’d read about 20 or so jokes off a list and check off the ones that got the best reactions from us. Then the producers and writers huddled at his desk and they worked on narrowing it down to maybe 8 or 9 for the show.
Naturally, it was fun to play around and take pictures on set. Every intern gets a “Desk Picture” on their last day, and during the last week of shows we just had fun at rehearsal running around and taking pictures of anything and everything. Also, trying to figure out this strange tambourine/maraca hybrid was a never-ending mystery.