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Tuesday
Nov182008

Inside With: Aaron Bleyaert, Late Night Blogger/Web Guy ExtraordinaireBy: Andrew Singer

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THE BEST THING "Learning how to compromise without compromising is one of the best things I've learned and continue to learn." --Aaron Bleyaert | Photo: Lisa Bleyaert

Aaron Bleyaert is the comprehensive blogger behind The Late Night Insider and Late Night Underground, the repositories for all things Internet-postable for Late Night With Conan O'Brien. But Bleyaert is much, much more than that. In fact, between blogging, filming behind-the-scenes action videos and a weekly podcast, it's a wonder he finds time to do his main job. The Apiary recently sat down with the man of a thousand pies to the face to discuss Late Night office life, as well as his love for people who love what they do.

How would you best describe your day job?
I work at Late Night with Conan O'Brien as the Late Night Blogger/Web Guy Extraordinaire. I also help out with Guest Research; I read about famous people and put any interesting stories into a file that is then used by our Segment Producers to make the awesome and hilarious guest segments you see on our show.
How would you describe your rise through NBC's corporate ranks?
My first job at the show was as the Segment Producers' assistant, and from there I moved to Video Research, Photo Research, and then finally Guest Research. Weirdly enough, the bulk of what I do now and enjoy most (all the web stuff) came not from hard work, but from being friendly. When I first started here, I became good friends with Associate Producer Jordan Schlansky, who ended up pitching me for becoming the web guy! Madness.

Is there anything you're not allowed to do at your job?
Not really. But doing comedy for a giant place like NBC, it's inevitable there will be something that someone above you might not like. For example, there was a video I shot with one of our awesome writers, Brian McCann, where we drank an entire case of beer in just under 20 minutes.

Brian McCann & Aaron Bleyaert | Video
Photo courtesy of Late Night Underground

It was fun, but completely insane. In the first cut, there were beer cans all over the floor, we were clearly drunk, etc. I knew that somebody up above us at NBC might have a problem with it. I showed it to our Executive Producer Jeff Ross, and we kicked it around until we had a cut that everyone was happy with. Learning how to compromise without compromising is one of the best things I've learned and continue to learn.

So there's not really anything you're not allowed to do?
I'm not allowed to spend any money. Zero money. There is no budget on our show for the web, and that is a constant struggle for me -- I mean, you can only show two guys in an office talking to each other so many times before people will get bored, regardless of where we work. So how do we do videos where we put giant, 3-foot wide bowls of nacho cheese in someone's cubicle with no money? How do we do videos where we throw 50 pies each other without a budget? Well ... We get creative. We bake the pies ourselves if we have to. There is always a way.

Is your current position as good as it gets?
Not even close. Here at the show, I am as far down as you can get on the totem pole. I am basically the concrete base at the bottom. That was actually a joke in the office -- Conan called me "Concrete Base."

"Bleyaert, you got your next scoop!" | Video
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Do you have bigger aspirations?
I really love what I do, but I feel like I can always do better... And I think that's true for everyone in the entertainment industry. Everyone is always looking forward to the next step, and I'm no different. Call it the curse of the ambitious. Even if I had my own show that's number one in the ratings, it wouldn't be enough. What about two shows? What about a movie? A trilogy? A series of books expanding the Bley Multiverse? Nothing is good enough.

Please tell us the story of your awesome, multi-colored hair.
There's not much to tell, unfortunately. I've been gray since I was 14, a freshman in high school. Being a gigantic, loud guy with white hair, people have always recognized me and remembered me wherever I went. When I did TV in college, people would come up to me in the street or in bars and want to meet me. I can't say that it's helped with the ladies (because it hasn't), but it certainly helped me stand out and made me unique. In high school, "Being Unique" is pretty much everyone's worst nightmare, but when you grow up and get out into the real world, standing out in a crowd can really be a blessing. I've always been thankful for it. It is literally impossible for people to confuse me with someone else ... Unless that someone else is a muppet. One of the handsome ones.

When did you first start creating comedy videos?
I got extremely lucky with the timing of the Late Night Underground. We started it right before the strike hit -- and all of a sudden, we have no show, but we have this new website with all these Late Night videos! No one at the show really cared about the blog or the Underground, and I was just kind of toiling away down at my desk, completely under the radar. But right after the strike hit, that all changed -- literally overnight.

"Writers on Strike" | Video
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What happened?
I specifically remember that I had worked really hard on this "Writer's Strike Rap" cartoon that went up right after the strike started. I came in the next day and Conan stopped me in the hall and told me how funny it was. I thought he was kidding, but he was totally serious, which threw me. Then he was like, "I want a new video up there every single day." So we made it happen. And Conan saw us running around the office shooting stuff every day and started getting involved. It was a ton of fun during a really stressful time. And the best part is that we were able to make these comedy videos and get some Late Night funny out to our fans even with our show off the air. It was lucky that it worked out like that.

Which group of people do you find yourself most comfortable around -- actors, writers, producers, stand-up, musicians, improvisers?
I find myself most comfortable around people who are passionate, regardless of what they "do." Most of the people who are my friends are all of the above, but anyone who is passionate about anything is a fun and interesting person to talk to. Both my parents are social workers, so I learned early on that everyone has an interesting or funny story if you know how to get it out of them. That's why I love doing the Late Night Podcasts. Everyone here at the show has been in the business for so long, they've all got just absolutely fascinating stories -- even those Late Nighters who don't think they've got anything to say! It's pretty incredible and just reinforces to me how absolutely lucky I am to work at such an awesome place. I don't think it's anything that I would ever take for granted.

READ the Late Night Insider and Late Night Underground.

--Andrew Singer is a contributing editor for The Apiary. He performs regularly as "Soce the Elemental Wizard." He recently interviewed Kevin Allison and Maria Bamford.

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Reader Comments (3)

This is great.
November 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLucas
such a nice writeup!
November 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjoycemorrison
Awesome AARON, YOU GO GUY! Love ya, Aunt Barb
November 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbarb kilbourn

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