In the world of late night, the hosts hog most of the spotlight. It’s the hosts behind the desk that get the credit when a show does well in the ratings or produces a viral video, but a captain is only as good as his or her crew and Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Conan O’Brien wouldn’t be where they are without the help of some funny men and women who played supporting roles on their talk shows. We’re talking about the writers and actors who put it all on the line to give us zany, outrageous, memorable sketches and bit characters that have stood the test of time and added comedic clout to the heroes of late night and their respective shows throughout the history of the genre.
Here’s an ode to some of the comedic geniuses who got their start after midnight and what they’ve done in their careers since their big breaks.
Brian Stack – Conan
Brian Stack got his start in comedy at Chicago’s Second City and used skills honed there to carve out a specialty in oddball characters who earned laughs by poking fun at themselves while also carrying some pretty tragic backstories. “The Travelling Salesman” is probably the most popular example. Sporting an old-timey accent and trying to sell Conan everything from shoe trees to root beer and, of course, some bad jokes, Stack’s salesman also dropped deadpan remarks about the death of his father at the hands of a hooker and his 400-pound illiterate wife’s proclivity for sleeping with prison inmates. Stack also ushered in other bit characters like The Slipnutz, The Interrupter, and Artie Kendall the Ghost Crooner — a dead singer who offended Conan with his sexist, bigoted lyrics.
Stack’s now writing over at The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and he’s still churning out some great characters like Cartoon Trump – an animated rendition of the POTUS. The bit has been so successful that Showtime ordered a 10-episode series starring Cartoon Trump to be produced by Colbert.