8 Comedians Who Started As Pages Or Interns

Everyone starts somewhere. (Usually at Conan.)
8 Comedians Who Started As Pages Or Interns

We all have to start somewhere, and somewhere is usually at the bottom. In the entertainment biz, the bottom looks something like this:

The Today Show

Nothing says COMEDY like a navy NBC blazer.

Working as a comedy intern or network page is the $18.50-an-hour job that just might give you the chance to ride in an elevator with Trevor Noah’s assistant.  Sure, it might not sound like much, but a lot of today’s top comedy talents got their start doing just that.  (Our big takeaway: If you want to make it big, intern for Conan.)

Pretty Much The Entire Office Cast

Ellie Kemper, Jon Krasinski, and Mindy Kaling all interned for late-night legend Conan O’Brien. “I was the worst intern that ever worked in the program,” Kaling admitted to Conan years later.  “I wanted to work there not to photocopy things but to watch you. So I wouldn’t do the things I was hired to do. I would just follow you around.”

Team Coco

Kaling's intern job description read “Conan Stalker.”

I had a blast,” Krasinski told Conan in 2006, five years after his intern days. “My job was to hang backstage with you just before you went on. You’d run through some monologue jokes. I was laughing and laughing and you’d say ‘You think that’s funny? No, you don’t! All you kids do is smoke pot and go home and listen to Pearl Jam.’”

As for Kemper, she not only found a career but a life partner: She met her husband, comedy staffer Michael Koman, while she “was an old intern and he was a young writer.”

Seth Meyers

Meyers, who interned at Comedy Central, received a lousy review upon his exit interview.  His bosses told him that he’d worked hard during the first half of his internship, but spent too much of the latter half watching Kids in the Hall

Meyers admits:  “They weren’t wrong.”

Aubrey Plaza

Before Plaza played an unmotivated intern on Parks and Rec, she was an actual unmotivated NBC page. Cackling Today Show hosts Hoda and Kathie Lee confronted Plaza about her legendary internship, which may have involved security escorting her out of the page program (an accusation she denies).

Today Show

NBC page lore has it that security escorted Plaza away from the program.  Legendary. 

“We heard when you gave tours, you made up all kinds of facts,” alleged Kathie Lee. Plaza’s response?

“I like to lie. I get paid to lie. And it makes me happy.”

Aziz Ansari

Plaza’s Parks costar got his start interning at The Onion. You’d think professional joke guy Aziz would have been whipping up funny headlines, but that wasn’t the case.  “I just interned at the advertising department,” confesses Aziz, who was too shy to tell anyone he’d just started doing standup. “I just hung around and played foosball, pretty much.” 

“It was a fun internship, but it wasn’t like I was in the writer’s room or anything like that. I was just going around and delivering checks and stuff.”

Mike Birbiglia

The Sleepwalk With Me star posted about his internship on Instagram:  

Birbigs was convinced that Conan producer Jordan Schlansky didn’t like him.  Why? “One day someone brought in and handed out Conan O’Brien insignia golf balls.  I go ‘Jordan, do you think I could have a sleeve of Conan O’Brien golf balls?’  He looks at me and says, ‘No.’  That’s when I knew as an unpaid intern what my place was.”  

But to prove there were no hard feelings? The comic brought Conan an official Mike Birbiglia golf ball.  (Also known as an ordinary ball signed with a sharpie.)

Team Coco

Available in limited edition of one.

Vanessa Bayer

SNL alum and I Love That For You star Bayer got her start interning for … hold on to your hat … Conan O’Brien.

Team Coco

Bayer and O'Brien agree that red hair led them to comedy.  Seriously.

“The thing that used to stress me out when I was an intern was that when people would ask for coffee with milk, I would get so stressed about how much milk to add.”  So when she was on SNL, she’d assure the interns “just so you guys know, it doesn’t matter. Add as much milk as you want.

Ben Schwartz

After a failed attempt at delivering a resume for an MTV internship, Schwartz cheered himself up by heading to a Late Show with David Letterman taping. The show’s pages were there goosing up the crowd, and Ben was fascinated.

He asked the pages how he could land one of these “dream jobs.” The pages summoned their boss, who told Schwartz, “I’m sorry. I can’t help you unless you have a resume.”  

I took out all 20 resumes from my backpack, and he laughed, set up a meeting, and that’s how I got that job, which led to me writing jokes for Letterman’s monologue, which started the whole thing.”

Conan O’Brien

So what about King of the Comedy Interns Conan O’Brien? Surely he couldn’t work for himself.  So where is an aspiring comedian supposed to start before Conan had his own show?  Well, what could be funnier than interning for Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)?

Conan grew up working for people like congressional representatives Frank and Robert Drinan, he told Hilary Clinton on his Conan Needs A Friend podcast. And he was “really committed to a lot of those sort of core ideals of the Democratic party." But those political beliefs haven’t played much of a role in his life as a late-night comic.  "I am not a political comedian. That is something that I've always stayed away from." 

In fact, he vowed to nix the Trump jokes during his final days on TBS.  Jokes without Trump references, he says, have “always been my favorite kind of comedy.”

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