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Penn State Alumnus Makes ‘Conan’ Debut

Earlier this November, comedian and writer Adam Yenser, a 2005 Penn State graduate, got the opportunity to perform some stand up comedy on TBS’s “Conan.”

Yenser, who is currently a writer for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, graduated with a degree in Film/Video and has since done stand up with the Upright Citizens Brigade, contributed to SNL’s Weekend Update, and will write for The 86th Annual Academy Awards. He’s done everything that a Film/Video student dreams of — including my personal dream of working for Conan O’Brien — and is living proof that extremely hard work and dedication pay off.

While at Penn State, Yenser was head writer and producer of the sketch comedy show “No Pun Intended” on PSNTV. He interned with the Maury Povich show his junior year, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien during his senior year after making the decision to take a semester off, delay graduating, and move to New York.

“In the fall while I finished my classes I was still interning one day a week at Conan, so after my Thursday class at 7 p.m., I would drive three hours from State College to my parents’ home in Macungie, sleep until 6 a.m., then catch a two hour bus ride to New York City, and head back to State College sometime over the weekend,” Yenser said. “I also worked at Yocco’s Hot Dogs in Emmaus, PA to support myself since the internships were unpaid, and I briefly worked at the Burger King on University Drive and was named Employee of the Month after only working there for two weeks – so I was good at that, too.”

After interning with Conan, Yenser was brought on full-time as an assistant. He still had an interest in doing stand-up, but didn’t get the chance to try until the Writers Guild strike in 2007-08.

“I had nothing to do so I decided to go out and try it,” Yenser said. “I did a five-minute set at a midnight open mic at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York. The first time went really well, my second time was a disaster, and from there it steadily improved.”

He now divides his time between writing for Ellen and performing his own stand up at local bars and comedy clubs during the week. He’s come full circle from writing at PSNTV, to performing original stand-up on Conan.

It’s easy to say that we’d, too, do whatever it takes to fulfill our goals, but how far would we go? Would you willingly travel 10+ hours a weekend for an unpaid internship, or take the risk of starting a new adventure while unemployed? It’s scary to think that our dream careers aren’t going to be handed to us. Yet Yenser proves that they can be reached. His success didn’t come by chance or from an inside connection; he constructed it himself by drawing upon his talents, intrinsic motivation, and work ethic.

“I did stand up for three years before I got paid for it and then I made eight dollars,” he said. “But eventually it led to a job at Ellen and a set on Conan.”

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