Chances are, stand–up Sean O’Connor is having a better year than you. He’s worked on not one, but two pilots that were picked up by FXX, released a stand-up album, went on tour with Norm Macdonald and now holds a coveted seat at the writers table for The Late Late Show with James Corden. Oh and Comedy Central’s CC: Studios just announced they’re developing a digital series from Sean titled: How to be Friends with Everyone on Earth. To most that sounds like a fulfilling career but that’s just what Sean has been up to in the past twelve months and he doesn’t plan on stopping.
What can you tell me about the new Late Late Show?
Not much ‘cause we’re still figuring out what the show is. And it’s going to be I guess very exciting. It’s pretty cool because James [Corden] is super famous in England and he’s about to be super famous here… He’s a quadruple threat. He does everything, it’s pretty impressive.
Are you so excited to be involved in the ground floor with a show like this? It’s pretty rare to get that opportunity.
I’ve never done this before and it’s very strange because I’ve just spent a year and half in animation so I’m just getting used to what human bodies can do again – they’re limiting, the human body.
Sometimes limits help.
I kind of like the restrictions. Yet I’m not pitching things where people are going to space or anything. Although I had a million of those ideas – space pitches, or what happens if you go to hell, all those things. I live in a big, not grounded world.
What are you most excited about?
Premiering – I’m really excited about the premiere. We don’t know what it is yet. I want everything we’re doing now to be more like a daily activity where every day we write a show rather than: “What is the show?” … I’m looking forward to the routine of it all.
Is there anything you’re nervous about?
Not really. The first week I get married as well. I guess I’m nervous about that.
Congratulations! That’s a good distraction right now.
It’s like – I cannot pay attention to the fact that I’m getting married because right before I get married we are launching a television show … It’s going to be really cool.
What’s the strongest thing you bring to the table?
To the writing table? I think I am very annoying [laughs]. I think that I can confidently pitch ideas that are very stupid and I think that really worked on the cartoons I was working on – they were very silly. I think also the idea that I’ve never really watched Late Night television outside of Conan when I was a kid. I have a very limited scope of what happens so I can at least think outside the box because I’m not really sure what the box is.
So you’re fearless?
Yeah fearless or just confidently wrong.
Do you think you’re going to get any on screen time?
I don’t know yet; we’ll see. It’s so new and so undetermined. I would love to appear on screen but I also think I’m better suited behind the camera … I very much never fight for myself.
Well you seem to be doing well without fighting, so maybe that’s working.
Yeah, everything has been a happy accident so far.
You mentioned in a previous interview that when you’re working on sketch that your stand up kind of goes on the backburner. Do you think that will be the case now or are you using every comedy muscle you’ve ever had?
Yeah I think so. It’s very fulfilling doing this. I haven’t been doing stand up as much because I’m getting everything out right now here.
You’re basically giving them everything you’ve got right now?
Exactly, it’s performing in the [writers] room and using all my ideas on this.
What have you been up to in the past year or so that you think is the most important work that’s led you to this? Constantly writing or what?
Yeah I think its constantly writing. The past year has been pretty awesome because I opened for Norm Macdonald on the road almost the entire year – which is really great and super exciting. But really the stuff I did for ADHD (Animation Domination High-Def) that is on FXX right now – that’s the thing I was really, really thrilled about. I worked on that show Stone Quackers with my friend from the sketch group Power Violence and I worked on The Lucas Brothers Moving Co. with people I’ve known since open mics in New York. So I loved those two shows so much I thought they’re both so different. Stone Quakers is very small and contained and kind of dark where Lucas Brothers is a subtle show that just gets crazy and wild. It’s kind of fun to use everything from your childhood in both of those shows.
It’s awesome that both those animated shows got picked up. Congratulations on that as well.
Yeah, it was actually really fun because on Halloween they did a sneak peek of all the Halloween episodes, and I wrote on four of the shows that premiered that night. It was really cool that there was an hour of television where I had something to do with everything.
That’s awesome are you planning on working on either of those shows at all, maybe when you’re on hiatus? Or are you locked in with The Late Late Show right now?
I basically belong to The Late Late Show for the foreseeable future. It’s really great and exciting.
What’s the best piece of comedy advice you’ve ever gotten?
It’s not really advice it’s just a real fact that I didn’t know. I always thought eventually I would get comfortable on stage from doing it countless times. But a mentor told me that he’s still nervous when he goes up on stage and that’s terrifying -that someone who’s been doing it for 25 years still gets nervous. It actually made my nerves – it suppressed them a little because I was like “Oh okay, this is never going to go away” so I just have to learn to deal with that. I think that was healthy for my comedy to find out that people that I really respect still get nervous … There are people who can go up on stage super confident and not nervous –they’re probably like that early on. I’m just someone who still gets very nervous. I know what jokes work and I go up and I’m still nervous to tell them as if every audience is a liar before this joke.
I feel like that is a great part of your act – your energy.
Yeah I have a very, very strange energy. … I think I’m really myself, I think.
What advice would you give?
Basically what I’ve noticed on the road, all the people who’ve ever asked for my advice look identical to me [laughs]. They’re nineteen-year-old kids who look exactly like me. And the advice I always give is the most overdone advice – just do stand-up as much as possible. Just do it so much that you’re bored of it and do it even more … It’s really running yourself into the ground … and still being able to do it. And the audience can somehow tell when you’re done with a joke, unless you’re a fantastic performer. But if you’ve had a joke that’s worked for years and the audience is pulling back on it, know it’s not that the joke is bad it’s that you’re not delivering it the way its supposed to be delivered.
That’s good, I like that. So what’s next?
This [The Late Late Show] is next and I hope it goes really well. I mean, in the future I would really like to create my own cartoon or a sitcom. Then move on and when I’m in my 50’s I want to direct. Then die I guess, I guess I’ll die eventually [laughs]. I mean, I want to get to all the films I want to make- I don’t know what they are yet.
Oh cool, you want to do features?
Oh yeah I want to direct features when I’m in my 50s and some in my 60’s. Then I’ll retire. Then I’ll die.
Be sure to watch The Late Late Show with James Corden on March 23 and check out Sean’s Album James Dean Type available on iTunes.