That was the period at the very beginning of the show where you don’t know how long you’re going to last, so you’re putting everything you can out there. I used to say that I fed my bone marrow into the first couple of years of that show. Because you’ve been waiting your entire life to get your comedy out there, and then you have this window to do so, and you’re just going to go 130 percent till they drag you off the air.
As I’ve written, late night shows ossify over time, and their hosts transform from the production’s driving engine to “the talent.” It’s just not possible to maintain the manic creative energy that earned you a time slot in the first place. As the years passed, for example, Dave mellowed and Jay checked out.
Conan, for his part, dropped his show’s most absurd bits and started leaning more on his own cynical sarcasm. He’s still funny—but not quite as interesting.