For comedian and raconteur Mike Birbiglia, self-owns are a way of life. Anybody who knows Birbiglia’s body of work as a masterfully self-effacing monologist is aware of a whole lot of things the comic and actor has done that he genuinely wishes he had not. Some of the stuff really isn’t his fault—the sleepwalking condition that famously saw him hurling himself through a La Quinta Inn second floor window in his underpants can’t be laid at his feet. (It can, however, be the framing device for a career-changing movie.) As Birbiglia is wont to greet audience gasps of horrified realization once he reaches the precipice of one of his stories of impending disaster, “I know—I’m in the future also.”
But Birbiglia was on Tuesday’s Conan to talk about the past, recounting his tenure as a lowly intern on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. How lowly? The future Don’t Think Twice director and star didn’t even fetch Conan his coffee, instead finding his control room teenaged fate in the hands of favorite O’Brien punching bag, producer Jordan Schlansky. “Odd, and strange, and kind of elitist and robotic,” is how O’Brien summed up his occasional comic foil and travel buddy, a “Spock”-esque series of traits that, naturally, the young Birbiglia only assumed meant that his boss hated him. (No hard feelings, as Birbiglia gave Conan a sleeve of hastily personalized Mike Birbiglia golf balls in place of the official NBC-made Conan golf swag that Schlansky disdainfully denied the young Mike.)
Still, a Mike Birbiglia story wouldn’t be what it is without a tale of sweaty embarrassment, so Birbiglia (there to promote The New One, his latest one-man Netflix special and its accompanying book) confessed to his former employer about a case of light celebrity stalking during his time on the show. The victim: beloved comedian Jonathan Katz, who the brash young Birbiglia followed into the men’s room in order to unprofessionally beg the Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist star for a job. It was for Birbiglia’s comedy writer brother, Joe, but, still, Conan dished out some belated light rebukes to his former lackey. At least until Birbiglia struck again, unexpectedly conferencing in big brother Joe (now part of the Birbiglia entertainment juggernaut) without telling O’Brien.
“This is inappropriate!,” Conan couldn’t help but laugh at yet another piece of Mike Birbiglia effrontery. But he did get another interns behaving badly story out of the deal (both Birbiglia boys worked for O’Brien at one point), so all seems to be forgiven. Especially since Joe’s anecdote about his youthful worries about someone at NBC poisoning Conan’s lunch order let O’Brien break out his impression of a certain former late-night rival, F-bombs and all.