Have you ever paused to think about the late night show monologues? That rapid fire delivery of jokes, witty observations and humorously distorted facts that leads you in to whatever the evening's guests are selling or promoting. They are not made up on the fly. A large and dedicated team of writers, including the host, work tirelessly to make 5 minutes of your time mildly amusing and diverting.
For every joke or one liner delivered, at least 50 are prepared, honed, and developed on the off chance they'll be needed. Each show meeting is intense, fast paced, up against an incredibly tight deadline and actually a lot of fun. Banter flows, one upping each other's one liners is rampant and, though it is a serious thing, laughter happens a lot.
The host usually sets the tone. A bunch of news articles and headlines that he or the research staff have pulled together overnight. There are certain perennials which get used, but mostly we try to keep it fresh. Spitball jokes about the various guests - these don't get written down, but the host jots down some of the best one liners in case they can be used as a comment to an answer.
Then comes the monologue itself. What are the big stories of the day? How can we make them both funny and ridiculous in the space of 30 words and a rim shot? Here is where we, seasoned professionals all, shine. You think it is easy to get a laugh out of genocide? It is possible.
The wildly different backgrounds of the writers comes into play here, though the host, the one who's name is on the tin and who has to deliver and account for these jokes always has the final say. Only right, that. He cuts our checks and we want him to be able to keep doing so.
A five minute monologue will take maybe 2 hours of between 5 and 15 people's time to prepare. Sometimes they hit hard. Sometimes they miss. It depends on the studio audience, like all stand up, and the host will adjust on the fly to what is more favorably received.
So, the job is tiring, time consuming, and great fun. The pay isn't great, but the company you keep is. The perk of being able to conference call in a tatty robe and no pants is a bonus that no one who has ever attended an office meeting will ever undervalue.
It is no longer a necessary job. We have been replaced. We are good at our jobs. Talented, professional and hard working. But there is a saying. "You can't fight city hall."
When Congress, the Senate and the President himself start writing their own jokes on the people, our job is over.
It was good while it lasted. Is NASA hiring again yet?
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