Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

Most likely you’ve heard of the comedian Conan O’Brien, most well known as the host of the late night TV show Conan, where he puts his abrasive yet endearing personality on display in sketches and interviews. Personally, I’ve never enjoyed late night talk shows; I usually find them to be overly political, extremely shallow, or just thinly veiled advertisements of celebrities and other entertainment. Most of the hosts are too dramatic, as if they were trying to entertain children, or they are just clearly bad at conducting interviews. Conan is no exception: a few of his skits force a laugh, his personality is unique and comical, and his interviews are no worse than any other late show, but I have never been able to sit through an entire episode. Whether it be a lack of interest, or a failure in the talk show formula, I’ve never been able to consistently watch any late night show, let alone Conan. However, I was recently told that Conan hosts a small podcast, which is widely praised and quickly gaining popularity. The name of the podcast is Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, and each week Conan interviews one of his celebrity contacts in a search to find out who is actually his friend and who is just a professional acquaintance.

Image result for conan o'brien needs a friend"I’ve tried podcasts in the past but they never caught on; I couldn’t be bothered with downloading them, finding them, or finding time to listen to them, so I eventually gave up. Recently it’s been different, ever since I started listening to Conan. It’s the one podcast that I can listen to from beginning to end and still wish there was more, that’s how impressive and unique his podcast style is. First, I find the concept of the show interesting, which considers how famous celebrities often struggle to make authentic friends just like the rest of us, humanizing them and painting them as regular people with extraordinary experiences. Second, I think this is the ideal format for Conan; he can rely on entirely verbal comedy, not childish antics as often seen in his TV show sketches, and I think his interview style is much more suited for the intimate setting of a podcast. When he interviews in front of an audience, both him and the guest are putting on a trained persona, crafted to create a positive public opinion and maintain a certain reputation. On the podcast, Conan becomes authentic, and in doing so he is able to draw out the authentic personalities of his guests.

Some of my favorite podcasts so far have been interviews with Ben Stiller and Stephen Colbert, both amazing and inspirational celebrities in their own right, but also fascinating people with complicated histories. It was so strange hearing Ben Stiller give a genuine recount of his childhood and cracking jokes, not promoting some new movie or TV show. I got caught up in how normal and hard-working he was, hearing about how he got into comedy and paved his way in the industry. The interview with Stephen Colbert was very similar, as Colbert talked about his rough childhood and related to Conan about the power of suffering to produce comedy. It was something you would never see on TV, since it would be considered too dark and not entertaining, but I found myself more intrigued than I had ever been watching a TV interview. Overall, I think Conan is in a unique position with his podcast: not only does he have the ability to interview other celebrities, he also has a talent for leading sincere and thoughtful conversations through his personality and comedy. I highly recommend giving it a listen, even if you aren’t one to listen to podcasts; Conan O’Brien needs a friend is the gold standard for the power of podcasts.

What to Do in an Interview When You Actually Like Classic Books

A person slides his or her finger across multiple old, embellished books.

You know that question interviewers ask about the last few books you’ve read, or your favorite book of all time and why? You’re supposed to say something cool and interesting, something you didn’t read for class or because your feminist book club suggested it. But how do you answer when you actually like Shakespeare and Milton, or spend your afternoons snuggled up with Lewis Carroll? What do you say when the last book you read actually was George Orwell’s 1984 or Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations? Essentially, what do you do in an interview when you’re like me?

They say in an interview you shouldn’t lie, but they also say to answer any question in the way that will make you shine in the best light. So when someone asks me the last book I read, it takes me a moment to figure out what would be the best answer. Should I actually say the last book I read was Louis Sachar’s Holes, but that I just got to the letter in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and can’t wait for Elizabeth to get over Mr. Wickham? Or, should I go with something a little more contemporary that I didn’t read as recently because I’m some weirdo who thinks The Tempest is a good bedtime story.

So, after months of consideration and many interviews, I believe I have found the solution to this age-old question. Be honest about what you like to read, as long as you remember one thing. Be proud, too. Be unapologetically passionate about the books you’ve stuffed into your bookshelves and spent countless hours you should’ve spent sleeping underneath your covers with a book in hand.

When you get that question, that dreaded yet exciting question that allows you to talk about literature, tell the interviewer the truth, and tell him or her exactly why you read (and reread) the book and why you liked it or didn’t. Tell them your favorite book is The Great Gatsby, but only if your favorite book is The Great Gatsby. Don’t leave it at that, though. Instead, be sure to include that you like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work because you have fond memories of it. Tell your interviewer that you read it for the first time in high school with your favorite teacher. Tell them people joke that your town is split just like West Egg and East Egg and part of you finds it funny, while the other part feels uncomfortable at the thought of such division. Tell your interviewer that Old Owl Eyes is the best character in the book because he notices Jay’s books weren’t cut, and that he’s so underrated as a character because of just how important and amazing a detail that is that you can never stop thinking about it.

So, when you’re sitting in an interview for your dream job and you’re asked what the last book you read was, or what your favorite book is and why, don’t lie. Don’t say you stayed up all night memorizing Shakespeare’s sonnets or counting all of the times Holden Caulfield says “phony” if that isn’t what you actually did. But, if it is how you like to spend your time, if you are the nerd checking out Jane Eyre from the library, own it. Don’t be a phony. Be proud of your tastes. Who knows, your interviewer might be a closeted One-Hundred Years of Solitude fan just like you.