Fallon Upward

Local Laughs
By MIKE MILIARD  |  September 16, 2009

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Boston is thoroughly dominating NBC's fall line-up. Every weeknight on the Peacock network, starting at 10 pm and ending at 1:30 am, it's a triple dose of local late-night talent: Jay Leno, followed by Conan O'Brien, followed by . . . Jon Rineman.

Okay, you might not have heard of that last guy. But you may have heard his jokes. The 25-year-old stand-up comedian and writer doesn't yet have his own show like Leno and O'Brien (proud sons of Andover and Brookline, respectively). But Rineman, a North Hampton, New Hampshire, native who stuck around Boston after Emerson, honing his chops at clubs like the Comedy Studio and Mottley's, started a new gig just last week — as the newest writer for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

It's not his first experience writing for late night. Semi-regularly for the past four years or so, Rineman had submitted jokes on a freelance basis for Leno's Tonight Show monologue and Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update.

It wasn't always rewarding. "There's a lot of hours of sitting by yourself at your computer writing jokes that will probably not get on TV," says Rineman. But "the goal all along was to get good enough so I could get a job on one of these shows."

Sometimes these things have a way of working themselves out. Earlier this year, Rineman had thrown in the towel, moving back in with his folks in New Hampshire. He'd applied for a "regular" job back in Boston, figuring the late-night thing probably wasn't gonna happen.

"Long story short, the job didn't work out, my car needed some repairs, I needed some money," he says. "I'd heard that Late Night might be taking some freelance stuff. So, shot in the dark, I e-mailed them. They let me start submitting, and a month and a half later, they wanted me to come down for an interview."

So far, joining brand-name comedians like A.D. Miles, Morgan Murphy, and Anthony Jeselnik in the writers' room has been a blast. "Everyone's always open to new ideas, and they've been very welcoming so far. So it's been a great first week."

There could hardly be a better time to write for late-night TV than these days, too, what with the blogosphere and mainstream media so often picking up and amplifying the hosts' ghostwritten bons mots, particularly the political quips.

It's a lot of work, though. The first day on the job, Rineman very nearly scored an O-fer. "The one joke I got on the first day was like the last one that made it." What was the bit? He's not sure. "That's the thing — you write 40 to 50 jokes a day. I don't even remember what it was, to tell you the truth."

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