Inside the Last Days of Late Night with Conan O’Brien

The elevators open on the sixth floor of 30 Rockefeller Center to reveal a hallway full of activity. We're hours away from another taping of NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien (not to mention test shows underway in an adjacent studio for Jimmy Fallon!). Three floors up on nine, where O'Brien and the writers work, however, the mood feels decidedly different. It's almost as if it's the last week of high school. Make that the funniest high school in America, and most of the students don't know how to react, because they're about to go on summer break in the spring, and meet up again in college in Los Angeles, where they'll put their own spin on The Tonight Show in June. How do you say goodbye, exactly? The Letterman folks went through this all before in 1993, of course, when David Letterman jumped from 12:35 a.m. at NBC to 11:35 p.m. at CBS, providing the opening that O'Brien and his staff have more than ably filled. Despite the high-school/college metaphors above, though, you don't get the sense that O'Brien's staff is suffering from a case of senioritis. It's just…different. Fewer guests to plan panel stories for, more clip packages to hunt down and edit, and a completely overhauled monologue for the final week. Out with the topical news and celebrity jokes, in with the goodbye quips. For Tuesday, writers...

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