Series / Late Night

"There's been three hosts of Late Night: David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and me. And if there's one thing I've learned from Dave and Conan, it's that hosting this show is a one-way ticket to not hosting The Tonight Show."

NBC late-night (specifically, 12:35-1:35 AM) Talk Show franchise and (as the above quote will tell you) training ground for other networks' 11:35 hosts. Began in 1973 as The Tomorrow Show hosted by Tom Snyder, but replaced in 1982 due to lower ratings and stations dropping it for Reruns with the current format. Originally hosted by David Letterman in the 1980s and early '90s. When Johnny Carson stepped down in 1992, Letterman expected to inherit The Tonight Show. Instead, NBC gave it to Jay Leno, previously a regular guest host, and Letterman jumped ship to CBS, taking the show lock, stock and barrel with him. That is, aside from the title "Late Night", which was owned by NBC. Letterman's new show, The Late Show, was placed opposite Leno's Tonight Show. NBC initially wanted Saturday Night Live alumnus Dana Carvey to fill Letterman's old post; when that didn't happen, they gave the job (for reasons nobody was quite sure of at the time) to an unknown writer for SNL and The Simpsons named Conan O'Brien.

O'Brien was largely not expected to last much longer than a week, and indeed was on the verge of cancellation for years, with the fact that there was nobody to replace him the only saving factor. (The critical consensus, O'Brien included, is that the show was terrible for its first three years.) However, O'Brien grew into the role and ended up hosting for nearly sixteen years. NBC made darn sure not to lose another Late Night host to a rival network and plans were drawn up as early as 2004 for him to take over The Tonight Show. After O'Brien did inherit The Tonight Show in 2009, Late Night went to former SNL cast member Jimmy Fallon (who if he's smart had alternate names for all his characters and routines memorized or on undated handwritten papers kept strictly in his home, even though they turned out not to be needed. Yet.)

In 2010, The Tonight Show and The Jay Leno Show touched off what the media (and many viewers) termed the 'Late-Night War'; basically, Conan O'Brien made a lateral move to host The Tonight Show, and Leno moved up to an earlier timeslot to helm the Jay Leno Show.

After the switch, Leno and O'Brien's ratings began a serious decline; NBC's response was to shorten The Jay Leno Show to thirty minutes and move it from its 10:00 timeslot to 11:35, and move Tonight from 11:35 to a new 12:05 timeslot.

The new schedule didn't sit well with O'Brien, who refused to participate in what he called the wholesale destruction of The Tonight Show, which would also bump other programs back by thirty minutes (and possibly remove one from the late-night roster altogether). NBC reportedly gave him the option to accept the timeslot or leave the network; faced with the choice-that-was-not, O'Brien negotiated with NBC for a forty-five million dollar 'walk away' deal, and left NBC entirely, later signing with TBS.

Unlike many late night hosts during the conflict, Jimmy Fallon largely resisted jumping into the fray, as he considers both Leno and O'Brien good friends. Fallon took over The Tonight Show in early 2014 when Leno re-retired and was replaced at Late Night by Seth Meyers, also an SNL alum.

Tropes for the show in general include:

  • Curse: Late Night originally was intended to be the grooming ground for the Tonight Show’s future hosts, but as the controversies that both Dave and Conan had to face against NBC and Jay Leno would tell you, Late Night hosts seem to be destined to eventually host other networks’ 11:35 slots instead. Fallon during the Conan situation even remarked that "if there's one thing I've learned from Dave and Conan, it's that hosting this show is a one-way ticket to not hosting The Tonight Show." Four years after the Conan-Leno fiasco however, Leno retired from The Tonight Show once more, and Fallon took over The Tonight Show in 2014.
  • Long Runner: It's been running continuously since 1982.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Technically, it airs in the early morning.
  • Something Completely Different: A staple of both the Letterman and O'Brien eras.
  • Talk Show
  • The Talk Show with Host Name

Tropes from the Conan O'Brien era include:

  • Accidental Innuendo: Invoked: A visual instance occurred in a one-time skit involving Late Night collectibles. Conan introduced toy versions of Vomiting Kermit and the Masturbating Bear. Much like bobble heads, the Masturbating Bear has an arm that shakes when you touch it. Conan shook the Bear's arm to make it look like it was masturbating, and soon after activated the Vomiting Kermit so that it threw up on the Bear. Of course, this simultaneously looked like Vomiting Kermit ejaculated on the Masturbating Bear, something which Conan immediately realized and was embarrassed about.
    Conan: I did not intend for it to go down like that.
    • When animal expert Jarod Miller brought on a baby zebra, he asked Conan to feed it with a bottle. But in the process of nudging the zebra towards Conan, he was pressed up against its backside while the zebra sucked on Conan's bottle. So it ended up looking like a certain sexual position.
    Conan: So this is how you get 'em to do it, huh? (audience laughs) You are an incredible perv.
  • Accidental Misnaming: A recurring gag in the Triumph segments is for Triumph to say he's reporting for the Conan O'Donnell Show.
    • A Running Gag in "Live via Satellite" whenever Donald Trump is on: He will forget what his own wife's name is, even after being corrected by Conan.
  • Actor/Role Confusion: When Sylvester Stallone was interviewed in 2006, he said that whenever he visits Philly, he notices that people don't call him by his real name, but refer to him as "Rocky" or "Rock".
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: In one of the "live via satellite" segments when Arnold Schwarzenegger was running for governor, Conan mentioned that Arnold said previous California politicians were "fiddling, fumbling, and failing". Arnold said he could make alliteration out of any letter. When Conan said the letter "G":
    Arnold: These politicians, they've been... grumbling, giggling, and gaying it up!
  • Affectionate Nickname: In "Live via Satellite", Keith Richards had a tendency to call Conan "Consey-Ponsey".
  • All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles: During one "Conan and Andy on the Aisle", the duo showed a clip from Toy Story 2, where Hamm was speed channel surfing and came across a hentai on TV.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Invoked during a segment where crew and audience members told scary Halloween stories. First up was Mark Pender, who rubbed his hands together and asked Conan if he wanted a scary story. Conan observed: "That's more pervert than scary guy, I gotta tell ya."
  • Ambiguous Syntax: In a "Live via Satellite" segment:
    Arnold: ...And then I watched a porno movie with Rutger Hauer.
    Conan: Wait a minute, wait a minute, you watched a porno movie with Ruger Hauer, or, Rutger Hauer was in a porno movie?
    Arnold: Ehh..... both!
  • Anything That Moves: How Roberto Benigni is portrayed in "Live via Satellite".
  • Arch-Enemy: Conan has one in Matt Lauer, host of Today. For instance, in one sketch, Conan presented an inflatable version of himself in Rockfeller Plaza, and Matt repeatedly popped it, getting annoyed when it kept resurfacing.
  • Ascended Extra: Quackers. Conan once had a segment that featured a duck, which pooped on the stage. The duck later came back to his poop and started to eat it, before Conan yelled at it to stop. This gave him the idea for "Quackers The S*it Eating Duck" segment.
    • There's also the manatee featured in the "NCAA Mascots" sketch; Conan's off-hand joke "He can be seen on hornymanatee.com" caused the manatee to appear in subsequent sketches when Conan said that if a fake website is said on the air, NBC has to purchase it.
  • Author Filibuster: Pierre Bernard and his Recliner of Rage segments, where he would rant on length at whatever was bothering him.
  • Baby Talk: Appropriately, Baby Trump pronounced The Apprentice as "The Appwentice".
  • Bad "Bad Acting": In a "Nerding it Up For Pierre" segment, Conan used sci-fi and anime jargon to explain the democratic primaries in a way that graphic designer Pierre Bernard could understand. After explaining it, Pierre said:
    Pierre: (flatly) Wow, I had no idea the democratic primaries were so incredibly fascinating.
    Conan: I'm glad... (audience applauds/cheers) This crowd knows true feeling when they see it.
  • Bait and Switch: Occurs frequently.
    • During an SAT Analogy sketch
    "Big Dig" is to "Giant Hole big enough to drive a car through" as Paris Hilton is to . . . Versatile actress/singer.
    • One "Sweeps Ahoy" sketch had Conan announcing that he's going to have a lesbian kiss on the show to generate ratings for sweeps week. Two young, attractive, scantily-clad women came on stage, but they were merely presenting the two women would would actually kiss each other: An elderly couple.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: In one "Photo Gallery" sketch about Conan, Max, and Joel's Oscars party, Max got offended by something Joel said and hit Joel in the crotch. But Joel gloated that it didn't hurt, because he doesn't have genitals. Cue a photoshopped image of Joel bottomless, with a smooth spot where his genitals would normally be. The audience groaned at the sight.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: While Conan and Triumph sang a duet of "Let it Snow", both stared into each other's eyes for a couple seconds and then made out.
    • Similarly, in a St. Patrick's Day sketch from 2006, St. Patrick was set to battle a snake, but when they looked into each other's eyes, they couldn't go through with the fight and made out instead.
  • Big Blackout: Just prior to taping of the show on August 14, 2003, New York City (and much of the rest of the NE United States) was hit with a massive power outage. After the studio audience was evacuated, Conan conducted a very basic, ten-minute mini-show from the darkened set with announcer Joel Godard and a skeleton crew (before NBC filled the rest of the time with a rerun). You can see it in two parts here and here.
  • Black Comedy Rape: In a segment where Jordan Schlansky and Conan went to a fancy Italian restaurant, Jordan was trying to tell a story about how it was the night of an important football game and afterwards he was invited down to a cellar. A drunk Conan added: "...And you were raped."
  • Blatant Lies: The intro to every "Actual Items" segment has Conan saying that all the newspaper clippings are real. Lampshaded since Conan also says with a great deal of sarcasm, "You can't make this stuff up. Why would you? That would be a waste of everyone's time."
  • Body Horror: The recurring sketch "If They Mated", in which images of a celebrity couple get combined into something horrifying. (Often by the end of a segment, they would subvert this by putting ridiculous theoretical couples together and getting silly non-patchwork results — Conan himself plus Scooby-Doo's Daphne, whom he claimed he had a crush on as a kid, resulted in Spongebob Squarepants.)
  • Bond One-Liner: How most of Arnold's "Live via Satellite" interviews end. Arnold will describe a hypothetical action scenario where he defeats all the bad guys, takes the cigar out of his mouth, turns to the camera and delivers a corny pun.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: In one "Live via Satellite" featuring Barron Trump (Donald Trump's baby boy), Barron said, "Yuh fiyud." Conan said that was his father's catchphrase and should get one of his own, so after a pause, Barron said, "You're pacifired."
  • Bowdlerise: One 1995 segment involved NBC airing Jurassic Park, and one of the sketches detailed how the movie was "toned down" for its TV airing so as not to frighten children. Silly voices were dubbed onto the raptors during the famous "chasing the kids in the kitchen" scene.
  • Boy Band: Parodied in a segment where Conan assembles a band which he calls "Dudes A-Plenty".
  • Broken Record: During one monologue, Conan kept trying to start a joke about US Magazine, but kept getting sidetracked. He eventually lampshaded this by saying "US MAGAZINE!" over and over while walking around the set like a robot.
    • Overlaps with Manipulative Editing: In one of the "Conan on the Aisle" segments, he showed a clip from Goldeneye where this exchange was repeated numerous times:
    James Bond: "Onatopp"?
    Xenia Onatopp: Onatopp.
  • The Bus Came Back: David Letterman appeared as a guest a few times, complementing Conan on being able to sucessfully put his own spin on the Late Night set and formular.
  • Captain Obvious: Frequently occurred in the "live via satellite" segments, such as the one where Conan interviewed Donald Trump, who was advertising Trump Steaks. When a still image of the Trump Steaks package appeared on the screen (which featured Trump pointing at the steaks), Trump said, "That's me pointing at them, you see that? Don't look at me, look at the steaks!"
  • Catch Phrase: Triumph: "...For me to poop on!" and "I keed, I keed."
    • Pierre Bernard, in the Recliner of Rage segment: "Comfortable and furious, Conan." And at the end of each segment: "Bottom line, America: (recap of what annoyed him)"
    • Don King in the "Live via Satellite" segments: "$49.95! Only on pay-per-view!!!"
    • Bill Clinton in the "Live via Satellite" segments: "Nee-haw!" (a take-off on "Yee-haw!")
    • Al Gore in the "Live via Satellite" segments repeatedly used the word "excited".
    • After doing an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression: "My Arnold always eats a sausage."
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Briefly. Understandably, the first episode back after 9/11 was a mostly serious affair, with no traditional monologue but a long, somber speech from Conan sitting at his desk. His guests were also not people from the entertainment world but journalist/60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft and author Sarah Vowell.
  • Charity Motivation Song: Parodied in the "Famous Helping Song" sketch. Guest singer Sting is annoyed at the generic lyrics.
  • Collective Groan: Happened all the time in "If They Mated" when the audience saw the result of what would happen if two celebrities had a child. Occasionally, the audience would groan in disgust at the before pictures. This would amuse Conan: "I haven't done anything yet!"
  • Comical Overreacting: The shtick in the "Andy's little sister" segments, where said character would go ballistic when Andy would poke fun at her precocious crush on Conan, and later in the skit when Conan politely rejected her advances.
    • The "there's no reason to live!" guy. One example? He wanted to kill himself because he got the DVD release date of Joey wrong.
  • Corpsing: Anytime La Bamba has to read off the teleprompter or a cue card. A particularly bad one occurred in a 9/23/2008 episode:
    Conan: ...You just had a complete meltdown on national television.
  • Cover Version: One sketch had Conan singing "Consider Yourself" in an extremely thick Cockney accent, much to the annoyance of Jerry Lewis.
  • Crosscast Role: The lead in "Thin Thin Ice: The Tonya Harding Story" is played by a man for some reason.
  • Cue Card: Very occasionally, Conan will rip up a cue card that contains a lame joke, or will give it to an audience member.
  • Dark Secret: The premise of "Secrets".
    Tom Hanks: "Tom Hanks" isn't my real name. My real name is "Hank Toms". (...) When I agreed to make Apollo13, I was under the impression I would be playing Apollo Creed from Rocky. Those sons of bitches tricked me! (...) I played Kip on Bosom Buddies, but the funny thing is, I originally tried out for Henry. How crazy would that have been?! (...) The best thing about being seen as the nicest guy in Hollywood... is that... (pours drink) nobody searches my backyard for bodies.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: When discussing the NBC/Universal merger in 2004:
    Conan: Now, of course, this merger has far-reaching implications for all of us here at NBC, and I thought we'd take a look at these changes in a piece we're gonna call "Let's Look at the Far-Reaching Implications of the NBC Universal Merger."
  • Depraved Homosexual: Joel Godard is often portrayed as this in sketches.
  • Description Porn: The "Small Talk Moment" sketches, where both Conan and Max describe something in great detail, using overly-long sentences.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Triumph initially did his usual insult comic shtick to Don Rickles, but stopped after only a few jokes to ask himself why he was insulting a comedy legend. He then profusely apologized to Rickles, claiming that the staff put him up to it, and begged Rickles to poop on him.
  • Dirty Old Man: Max Weinberg, in character.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In one "Live via Satellite" from 2000, Al Gore was speaking on the monitor in the studio, and said he wanted to distance himself from Bill Clinton. This cued Clinton, on his own monitor in the hallway, to enter the studio and give his two cents. But along the way, he got distracted by an attractive woman walking down the hall.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: In one monologue, Conan delivered a joke: "In California, a female figure skater told police that someone slipped a roofie in her drink. Yeah, female figure skater, yeah. She said she's not sure who did it, but she is sure it wasn't a male figure skater." After few people laughed and Conan commented on the tepid reaction, he said, "Y'see, male figure skaters are gay."
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Played for laughs whenever a joke of Conan's doesn't do well. If the audience begins to applaud after the initial tepid response, Conan will rebuke them and say, "No pity applause." or "You were right the first time."
  • Driven to Suicide: The "There's no reason to live!!!" guy. Cue Stock Footage of a man going down a ski slope in a kayak.
  • Drone of Dread: Heard in "Secrets". Also heard in the one-shot sketch where Conan interviewed Pierre Bernard about allegedly being a Serial Killer.
  • Ear Worm: Invoked: During an early 2009 show, Conan observed that people are getting impatient with newly-elected Barack Obama fulfilling his campaign promises. One of them had a guy saying he can't forget a song stuck in his head (the Subway jingle: "Five, five dollar, five dollar foot-loooooongs"), and annoyingly said he thought Obama was supposed to do something about that.
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: One skit involved two contestants racing turtles representing the New York Giants and New England Patriots to determine who would win the 2008 Super Bowl. At one point, the contestants and turtles entered an elevator and guess what song was playing inside?
    Conan: (laughs) That is so stupid, I'm sorry.
  • Evil Inc.: NBC was sometimes portrayed as this, such as the episode where Katt Williams didn't show up and Conan said he has experience killing time, saying he was forced at gunpoint by General Electric to go back on the show despite the 2007-2008 Writer's Strike. He further joked that NBC would pollute the Hudson River even more if he didn't cater to their demands.
    Conan: It was a threat! What was I supposed to do?! They said, "You do it or we'll... (mimes dumping motion) You see a seven-eyed fish, you'll know where it came from. (slams mic down) The point is... that now, I'm going to be fired. My old problem was Katt Williams not showing up; now, I've angered a monolithic corporation.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: When Conan interviewed staffer Pierre Bernard, Pierre said, "I haven't been killing for a long time", which was replayed at lower pitches to make him sound evil. For added laughs, the footage was also played higher pitched.
  • Fauxtastic Voyage: In a recurring sketch, Conan interviews a cast member who claims to be reporting from a distant location while actually standing in front of a projected background. When Conan expresses skepticism that the correspondent is actually at the distant location, the correspondent insists he really is there and purports to prove it by walking to another location (represented by another projected background). The sketch typically ends with Conan walking to where the correspondent is standing (a few feet away on the stage) to hit him with a chair.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: In a Triumph segment where he visited ComicCon '08, Triumph gave a zinger to a guy:
    Triumph: If you're here, who's at home disappointing your parents? (crowd laughs, including the guy)
    Guy: Uh, I dunno, you got me.
    Triumph: I was talking to the puppet. You're much cooler. (referring to the puppet he's holding)
    Guy: My parents are dead. (Triumph gets up close to the guy's face, trying to get him to laugh. Eventually the guy licks Triumph's nose)
    • The whole premise behind the GE Satellite Channel called "Clive Clemen's Inappropriate Response Channel".
  • Film the Hand: In the first two segments where Triumph visited the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the sketches ended with some security personnel covering the camera with a card.
  • First World Problems: Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage, covering such topics as ill-fitting underwear and illogical New Jersey roads.
  • 555: In a one-time sketch about recalled cat food, Conan ended the sketch by saying, "If you think we were wrong to continue the sketch, call 555-1-800... Sanjaya."
  • Flag Drop: In one segment, Conan remarked how, at the time, Britney Spears had visited New York and was acting drunk. Max Weinberg said he was disgusted, and began a speech directed at Britney about it. The catch was, he wasn't upset with her behavior, but that he didn't get to see her vagina (a reference to Britney getting out of a car without panties). During this faux patriotic speech, a flag dropped behind him in the background.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Triumph called the pets.com mascot a rip-off of himself. Pets.com retaliated by suing Robert Smigel.
  • Gag Dub: When Delgo flopped at the box office, Conan showed clips from the film, dubbed with humorous dialogue.
    • When Grand Theft Auto IV was released, Conan noted that the game toned down the controversial elements from previous games, and showed clips demonstrating the main character doing and saying non-criminal things.
  • George Jetson Job Security: In one episode, Conan introduced his "Green Your Routine" public service announcement, but the video clip didn't begin playing right away. Conan jokingly shouted, "EVERYBODY'S FIRED!"
  • Get Out: In a "Scary Stories" segment from 2002, Mark Pender said his left ear is haunted, and proved it by sticking a Q-tip in it. A demonic voice said, "GET OUT! GET OUT!!! (Pender removes the Q-tip) THANK YOU!"
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: The recurring sketch "Moral Dilemma", where Conan would be faced with a small one — e.g. finding a wallet full of cash and deciding whether or not to keep it or return it to its rightful owner. Suddenly, a little devil urging him to do the wrong choice would appearing on one shoulder. On the other shoulder, instead of an angel, it would be something like a bear or an astronaut, giving advice pertaining to that character.
  • Gratuitous Italian: In a "live via satellite" sketch from 1998 about the Oscars, Roberto Benigni had a stereotypical Italian accent and used numerous Italian words amidst his English.
    Roberto: Let me kiss your genitalissimo!
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: When Jarod Miller brought an armadillo on, the camera zoomed in on its fake penis and held on it a long time. Finally, Conan said:
    Conan: Okay, director, I think we've seen it enough! Allan used to work in pornos: "Get in tight!"
  • Heel Realization: Conan called himself on his insult to La Bamba during a sketch where La Bamba hadn't seen the Christmas tree yet.
    Conan: And you like that Christmas tree, don't you?
    La Bamba: (downbeat) Sure do.
    Conan: Yeah. Okay. (audience laughs) That's the first time you've gotten a line right on this show... (laughs) in sixteen years. You have no idea. This guy's in a mirror for six hours: "Sure do. Sure do! Sure do! Sure do! Suredosuredosuredo, suredosuredosure." Anywho, I had a thought, I'm a nice guy, despite that cruel thing I just said.
  • Hollywood Mirage: In one "Comedy Spring Cleaning" sketch, one of the sketches was about worst mirages. A man was shown crawling through a desert and coming across the opening theme to the sitcom 227.
  • Hopeless with Tech: Conan was selling tickets to his week of shows in Chicago, and claimed it was so easy that Max's mom could do it. It turned out to be false.
  • Hulking Out: In an early episode, Andy mocked Conan until he transformed into a green version of himself with wild hair. Not more muscular, though.
    Conan: Look what you did.
    Andy: Oops.
    Conan: No, I mean, I feel like a jerk now. Why do you push me like that?
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Parodied in a "Scary Stories" segment from 2002, when Conan opened a door in the studio that's never been opened, and found a devil inside:
    Conan: Aaaahhh!! A monster!
    Monster: "Monster", Conan? Last year, humans destroyed more than 3 million unwanted dogs and cats because they didn't take the time to properly spay and neuter their pets. So who's the real monster, Conan?
    Conan: Humans, I guess.
    Monster: Yes, Conan. Humans.
    (NBC's "The More You Know" graphic plays)
  • Hypocritical Humor: In one of the "live via satellite" segments, Conan interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger on the subject of immigration. Arnold stated:
    Arnold: WE HAVE TO KEEP OUT THE FOREIGNERS! Yah! You do, because... because... they can't speak de Englishes! And Conan, their diction, it can only be described... as fleigengrapenscheizen!
    Conan: What does that mean?
    Arnold: It means, that these people lack the basic vlasitruden to achieve the grubenschnitzen!
    • A one-time sketch had an audience member calling Conan a hypocrite about a comment he made, then a different audience member calling the previous audience member a hypocrite, followed by another audience member calling out the audience member who called out the audience member, and so on.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: When Conan interviewed Jimmy Fallon in 2005 about his newest movie, Taxi , he asked Jimmy, now that he's a big movie star, if he's going to move out to L.A. Jimmy replied: "No, I gotta stay home right here in New York City, THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD!!!" and ran into the cheering crowd. When Jimmy sat back down:
    Conan: So you filmed Taxi in New York City, then?
    Jimmy: No, we did a lot in L.A., actually.
    Conan: Which I understand is the greatest town ever. (laughs)
  • I Approved This Message: Parodied in a spoof of attack ads.
    Announcer: Barack Obama said he'd never lie to the American people. But look what he told Conan O'Brien.
    Barack Obama: I was thinking about you as my running mate. (clip repeated twice more)
    Announcer: But then, Obama said this:
    Barack Obama: I searched for a leader, and that man is Joe Biden.
    Announcer: Barack Obama. He lied to Conan O'Brien. What will he do to you?
    Conan: (in pop-up bubble) I'm Conan O'Brien, and I edited this on my Mac.
  • I, Noun: "I, Rowboat", a parody of the then-recently-released I, Robot movie.
  • Identical Stranger: A Running Gag in the last few seasons was how Conan bore a strong resemblance to Finnish politician Tarja Halonen, whom he later got to meet in real life.
  • Impersonation Paradox: Robert Smigel's impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the "live via satellite" segment got more and more exaggerated over time to the point where Arnold shouted every line.
  • Innocent Innuendo: In a one-shot skit, Conan had Vomiting Kermit vomit up hot chocolate for two freezing bystanders. Then Conan remarked: "But of course, you can't have hot chocolate... without whipped cream. Here to dispense the whipped cream is the one and only Masturbating Bear!" At that, the Masturbating Bear came on stage and literally dispensed whipped cream from a can. When the audience had a disappointed reaction, Conan asked, "Wait a minute, what did you think was gonna happen?" Immediately, the Masturbating Bear did what he does best.
  • Insane Troll Logic: When Conan interviewed Donald Trump on "Live via Satellite" about his "Trump Steaks", sold only at The Sharper Image:
    Trump: Just as everyone wants their music now from their computers, it naturally follows that they'd want to get their steaks from a high-tech electronic store.
  • Instant Seduction: One of the entries in the "Late Night Create Your Own Commercial" contest involved a nerdy guy who watched Conan, which highly impressed a woman to the point that the two had sex.
    Announcer: Watch "Late Night": It'll get you laid!
  • It Is Pronounced Tropay: In one episode, Conan asked Max how his weekend was, and Max said he had a nice "respite". Conan thought his pronunciation was odd, and said it should be "res-pit".
  • It Makes Sense in Context: On one night where Conan was going to pull the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever, he hadn't even started that segment but a guy in the audience yelled out, "Pull the lever!" Conan remarked how odd that must sound to anybody at home who isn't familiar with the Lever, since it's out of context.
    • In fact, the entire Walker, Texas Ranger Lever segment is one big example of this, with brief clips from random episodes shown without any context. Which, of course, makes the show look more ridiculous than it is.
  • Jerkass: A-Hole Ronald, who would swat competing restaurant's bags and drinks out of people's hands. He even did it to people actually eating McDonald's.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: When Jim Carrey was a guest during the shows in Canada, he said that Canadians have a way of insulting you to your face but can cover for it by giving a goofy smile after the insult. Conan and Jim both tried it on each other.
  • Lame Comeback: A recurring gag when Conan interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger in the "live via satellite" segment. Example:
    Arnold: These are people [immigrants] who risk life and limb, swim across rivers, crawl through the hand-dug tunnels, and give up everything they had, just so that their children might one day see my all-time smash holiday classic, Jingle All the Way!! (audience laughs) Don't you understand, Conan? It's the American dream!
    Conan: That is not...
    Arnold: Jingle All the Way!
    Conan: That is not the American dream.
    Arnold: You're not the American dream!
  • Lampshade The Obscure Reference: If Max and the band plays an old song, Conan will occasionally comment on how the younger viewers won't know it.
    • The Running Gag at the end of every "Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage"; Conan will say (paraphrased), "You've summed up the thoughts of two or three other people."
  • Language Fluency Denial: When Conan interviewed Sammy Sosa about the steroids scandal in "Live via Satellite", Sosa responded to everything with "No hablo."
  • Last Name Basis: When Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were guests in 1997, Andy had a question and, without thinking, said, "Y'know, Ebert..." This was not missed.
    Conan: "Hey Ebert, get over here." Andy, what the hell was that?!
  • Leitmotif: A-Hole Ronald had "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth.
    • The Masturbating Bear had "Saber Dance" by Aram Khachaturian whenever he pleasured himself.
    • The Horny Manatee had The Divinyl's "I Touch Myself".
  • Leprechaun: One sketch involved Conan dressing as a leprechaun and, while speaking in an over-the-top Irish accent, telling the audience that they won't be getting his pot o' gold.
  • Long List: In one "SAT Analogies" skit:
    Conan: "Romeo and Juliet: love at first sight:: Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez: love after Jen broke off her engagement with Ben Affleck and divorced Cris Judd who'd been there after P. Diddy who she dated after divorcing model Ojani Noa, and five days after Marc got a judge in the Dominican Republic to sign off on his divorce from former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres who he dated after model Kim Vilanueva who is three women removed from the mother of his daughter Arianna, Debbie Rosado."
    • Doubling as a Take That: When Triumph interviewed Ralph Nader during the 2008 election season:
    Triumph: Ralph Nader. You've been called a champion of the consumer. You've also been called a kook, a nutjob, the idiot who got George Bush elected, a mistake, a... self-important, let me get this right, self-important, narcissistic windbag, without merit, human feces, dog feces, unidentifiable feces, a confused, doddering douchebag, and all-around terrible guy. My question to you is: Do you think the critics go far enough?
    • In a "Small Talk Moment" about NBC airing the 2008 Olympics:
    Conan: I tell ya, Max, we may not know who will bring home the gold in women's 10 meter air pistol, but one thing's for sure, mi chaco: When it comes to comprehensive, multi-platform Olympic coverage, I can guarantee the gold medal will go to NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Universal HD, Oxygen, Telemundo, USA, and NBC.com, baby!
    • Done a couple times when Howard Dean was on "Live via Satellite":
    Howard Dean: AND WE'RE COMIN' TO YOUR STATE NEXT! WE'RE GOIN' TO NEW HAMPSHIRE!!! AND COLORADO!!! AND MINNESOTA!!! AND UTAH!!! AND NEW MEXICO!!! YAAAHHH!!!
    Conan: Yeah, all right, we know, we know. Sir, you're going to a lot of other states-
    Howard Dean: CAROLINA!!!
    Conan: People are saying-
    Howard Dean: AND NEVADA!!!
    Conan: People are saying this kind of over-exuberant behavior-
    Howard Dean: AND SOUTH NEVADA!!! (...) AND TEXAS!!! AND MASSACHUSETTS!!! AND IOWA!!!
    • And later:
    Howard Dean: HOW CAN I CALM DOWN, WHEN I'VE CONSUMED SO MUCH COFFEE!!! AND DO-DOS!!! AND EPHEDRINE!!! AND RITALIN!!! AND ANABOLIC STEROIDS!!! AND CRACK!!! AND CRYSTAL METH!!! AND PIXIE STICKS!!! YEE-HAH!!! AND COKE!!! AND (???)!!! AND MICHAEL DUKAKIS!!! AND TEXAS!!! AND COLORADO!!!
  • Long Title: One sketch in 2005 about King Kong (2005) had this title:
    "Boy, This "King Kong" Movie Sure Looks Incredible. Plus, I'm a Big Corporate Suck-Up and Maybe if I Help Promote it, the Brass at NBC Universal Will Notice And Who Knows? It's Christmas Time and Maybe There'll Be a Little Something Extra For Me in My Stocking, if You Know What I Mean."
    • An even longer title was used in a 2006 St. Patrick's Day episode:
    "We Were Going to do Some Scathing Satire About the Recently-renewed Patriot Act and Its Implications For the Future of American Democracy, Then I Realized it Was St. Patrick's Day and Everyone Expects Me to do Something About it Just Because I'm Irish, and When Your Name's Conan O'Brien, You Can't Really Fight it, so Here's Some Stuff We Threw Together About St. Patrick's Day."
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: How Bill Clinton is portrayed in the "Live via Satellite" skits.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Played for laughs when Arnold Schwarzenegger was a guest, who dished out the same thing that Conan did to him during the "live via satellite" segments. One of the sentences that he put in Conan's mouth: "I'm a virgin!"
  • Manly Tears: Conan, when watching Cats.
  • Mathematician's Answer: When Steven Wright was interviewed in 1999, a gimmick in the first two minutes was Conan asking questions that Steven could answer with either, "Yes" or "No", with no elaborations.
  • Mirror Monologue: Done in "The Conan O'Brien Story" sketch, with Jim Carrey as Conan.
    Jim: (in despair) I can't hear the laughter anymore...
  • Misogyny Song: The second song in the "Artie Kendall the Crooner Ghost" sketches was always this.
  • Mr. Seahorse: Joel was pregnant during one "sweeps week" episode, and wanted to know who the father was.
    Conan: I've never been this depressed before. And that's saying something.
  • Motor Mouth: Occurs during the "Small Talk Moment" sketches.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: One "Live via Satellite" from late 2003 had Arnold talking about how his job as governor was just as exciting as one of his action movies. After listing a couple examples, he abruptly shouted how bored he was and that he made a mistake.
  • The Musical: For three nights in 2006, Conan showed a selection of songs from the ill-fated Lord of the Rings musical stage show.
    "You can keep your mystical spells and chants / I'll trade them in for that song and dance / And be the wizard of the great white way!"
  • Naked People Are Funny: Demonstrated in the "big finale" during the Lord of the Rings musical numbers, when Gollom takes his loin cloth off.
    • In one sketch, Conan and Andy are set to go into a Turkish spa, and Conan informs Andy that they have to be nude before they go in. Conan took off Andy's towel and pushed him through the doors, laughing. It turns out the doors led to The Today Show set, where Matt Lauer is on the air. Cue awkward small talk between Matt and the naked Andy.
  • Name's the Same: Invoked: One of the Tom Hanks "Secrets" involved bumping into Tom Selleck in the bathroom at the Oscars:
    Tom Hanks: I said, "Looks like we're a couple of peeing Toms! (soberly) His angry silence is something I'll never forget.
  • New Year Has Come: For the Central Time Zone.
  • No, Except Yes: In a "Live via Satellite" from 2006 featuring Donald Trump:
    Trump: And Conan, let me add: As far as publicizing The Apprentice 5, Mondays on NBC, Conan, if I've told you once, I've told you 9/8 central times, that's something I'd never stoop to. Never.
    Conan: Donald, this is getting ridiculous.
    Trump: Conan, I'm gonna put it in writing: "I, Donald Trump, do hereby solemnly swear that from this moment forward I will no longer promote or in any way publicize The Apprentice season 5, featuring The Russian. Mondays, 9/8 central time on NBC."
  • No Indoor Voice: The Announcer, Joel Godard. Dear God. "PLUS MAX WEINBERG and the MAX WEINBERG SEVEN!!! Now, here's your host, CO-nan O-BRIIIIIIIIYUUUUUHN!!!!!!!!!"
    • Nearly all the characters in the "live via satellite" segment, especially Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Clinton.
    • And of course, Howard Dean, THE DEAN MACHINE!!!!!
  • No One Should Survive That: The "there's no reason to live!" guy, who often returns to the studio alive and well, despite getting in a skiing accident that should've killed him.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Occasionally, Conan will say this when describing a "news of the weird" story.
    • Unrelated: After a commercial break in one episode, Conan began a comedy bit but an unusual alarm noise went off. Conan had to tell the audience that the alarm wasn't part of a bit. It turns out there was a false alarm condition on another floor of the building. This whole segment was kept in the aired episode.
  • No, You: A staple of the Arnold interviews in "Live via Satellite". Conan's been told such ridiculous statements as, "You're not a movie!"
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: One sketch involved La Bamba announcing he was the winner of a Genius Grant. Conan was surprised, and asked if his stupidity has been an act all this time. La Bamba responded that he had an MFA from Yale, double-majored in molecular biology and Asian studies, and was an erudite polyglot. But he refused to stop pretending, because he could lose his Genius Grant.
    La Bamba: (holding up his fingers caught in a Chinese Finger Trap) Help me! Help me, please!
  • Obligatory Swearing: At the start of one monologue, Conan said they were going to have a good show, and Max replied, "That's right, damn right!" An amused Conan said that the network told Max to "butch it up".
  • Odd Couple: Conan and Triumph in the sitcom parody "A Couple of Mutts".
  • Once per Episode: At the top of the show, Conan scrunched his legs together and took a jump forward, which prompted a trumpet sting. Conan would then stand up and point to the band leader, who would wrap up the opening theme. Episodes frequently had Conan performing "the string dance" as well.
  • Operator from India: One sketch had Andy Blitz attempting to fix his computer with the help of an Indian telephone IT technician… And traveling to India with his computer (in Real Life!) to pester her.
  • Overly Long Gag: The New York Yankees fan who created overly elaborate sports chants. One chant went on for four minutes.
  • Parody: "Actual Items" is a parody of Leno's "Headlines".
  • Piss-Take Rap: Max Weinberg does one during the Musical Sketch in 2002.
  • Portmanteau: "Spocktober", which involved a disinterested guy in a Spock uniform and ears walking down the aisle and lazily tossing candy into the audience. Conan was not pleased.
  • Potty Emergency: When Kanye West was interviewed, he claimed he really had to go to the bathroom.
  • The Pratfall: In one famous blooper, God (played by Brian Stack) entered the studio and started walking down the steps, but briefly lost his balance.
    Conan: You been drinking, God?
    God: Yes.
  • Precision F-Strike: In a segment where Jordan Schlansky and Conan went to a fancy Italian restaurant, Jordan kept bugging Conan about savoring the dessert he was about to eat, and finally after many pretentious sentences, Conan told him, "You've GOT to shut the (bleep) up. You're killing me. You're killing my mind, you're killing my spirit. I like you, you're a nice guy; eat the mush, shut the pie hole."
    • When an alarm went off in the studio, Conan asked, "Do they realize we're taping a (fuck)ing show?!"
  • Precocious Crush: Andy's little sister (played by Amy Poehler) to Conan.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: How Martha Stewart was portrayed in "Live via Satellite" during and after her brief prison stint.
    Martha Stewart: Conan, that allegation is straight-up "whack".
  • Product Placement: Parodied in a "Conan and Andy on the Aisle", which had a Clear and Present Danger scene full of product placement; at one point a bag of Frito's flat out danced in front of the president's head!
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Parodied in one episode, where a psychic guest loses copious amounts of blood while using telepathy. The psychic's spoon is indeed nudged, although he is now wearing a wet red shirt for it.
  • Public Service Announcement: Parodied, of course. For example, during 2008, Conan and his band created some mock "Green Your Routine" ads, which NBC was running at the time.
    Joel Godard: One simple way to reduce energy consumption is by turning off all the lights in your house. It's as easy as flipping a switch, or not paying your electric bill for seven months because you kept spending your money on barbiturates.
  • Pun: This example, which was so bad that the audience booed him.
    Conan: This week, airport security in England recently detained James Hetfield, the lead singer for Metallica. Apparently, he kept setting off the heavy metal detector.
    • In one sketch, Max remarked that he spilled wine on himself. Conan then declared he should change his name to "Max Wineberg". God arrived to admonish Conan for his bad pun.
    • In one of the Toronto episodes, Mike Myers was a guest and told a true story about being greeted by a fan in a public bathroom. Despite having a Potty Emergency, the fan kept asking Myers questions. After Myers said he was working on Shrek2, the fan asked, "So what else you got comin' out?"
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Triumph gave a particularly biting one to Simon Cowell (he was still on American Idol at the time):
    Triumph: I'm ready for you, bitch! Can't believe I wasted half my life watching that. No no, it was great. It was great, it was a fascinating interview. I always wondered what would happen if we blow-dried the Weakest Link chick and cut off her nuts! No no seriously, man, what's with the '80s hair? Look at that thing. What's with the '80s hair style, man? You look like Denny Terrio shtupped a chow chow! Get a lawyer and sue Super Cuts! (Triumph grabs some cards) Got a few more here. (Conan laughs) All right. No no, seriously: Who the hell do you think you are, man? (beep) You're telling- listen to me! You're telling th- I don't understand the logic. (...) Seriously, what's the logic here? You go on, and you tell people they have no talent?? That's like poop telling vomit it stinks! I keed, I keed, you're a big star! You're a big star, you're- you're like the star of American Idol, seriously, they should rename it "British Homo". No no, he's fine, he's good, don't worry about him, he can handle it, he gives to people straight and hard! I guess... I guess I don't need a punchline for that one. GO BACK TO ENGLAND, BITCH!!!
  • Recurring Character: The 10th Anniversary Special ran through a bunch of them in short order: Vomiting Kermit, Pimpbot 5000, Little Jay Leno, the Coked-Up Werewolf, Frankenstein, Preparation H Raymond, the Masturbating Bear, and finally... Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
    • Abe Vigoda is also a frequent guest, though not as an interviewee but as an almost-always silent player in a sketch.
  • Re Tool: The Lord of the Rings musical; first, as a tap dancing musical, second, in the style of Billy Joel's Movin' Out, and finally in the style of Blue Collar musical comedy. All three failed, but Conan admitted, "It's getting better" after seeing the Blue Collar version.
  • Revised Ending: Done during a sketch on revisiting classic Christmas movies: One doctored clip was from It's a Wonderful Life, with George Bailey getting shot when running down the street.
    George Bailey: Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!
    Cop: Stand back! (shoots at George Bailey, who is hit and falls to the ground)
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: When bread expert Steven Kaplan was on, he suggested that Conan didn't know what good bread was:
    Steven: How much good bread have you eaten?
    Conan: I eat bread.
    Steven': (derisively) Yeah, Wonderbread, I imagine.
    Conan: Hey! Suddenly, you don't like Wonderbread, huh? What's wrong with Wonderbread?
    Steven: It's tasteless, it's insipid, it's without any interest, it has no crust, it has a crumb that's charged with chemicals, why else should I like it?
  • Riddle for the Ages: The 9/24/08 episode asked the question, "Why is Carrot Top in the audience?" We never do find out the answer.
  • Right-Hand Cat: In a segment where Conan complained about his long interview for the ESPY Awards being whittled down to "Red Sox", Conan said that the person calling the shots on the bad editing had a white cat on hand.
  • Roommate Com: Parodied in "A Couple of Mutts", with Conan and Triumph living together. Conan faked a disability (specifically, blindness) so he could live in the building, and pretended Triumph was his seeing eye dog.
  • Running Gag: Conan will call the area where he does the monologue "The Laugh Zone". He also frequently calls his desk "Old Bessie Lou". And he often purposefully knocks over his microphone.
    • Whenever Arnold Schwartenegger shows up in the Live Via Satellite segments he would inevitably throw in a plug for his "smash hit holiday classic Jingle All the Way!" He would also inevitably propose to solve whatever problem he would be facing that week with an explosive action-movie sequence, after which he would "light/drop my cigar, turn to the camera and say: [Insert corny pun-based Bond One-Liner or Pre-Mortem One-Liner]".
  • Screen Shake: In a monologue during the Writer's Strike, Conan wanted to re-enact Cloverfield. What followed was Conan running around the stage while the camera shook violently.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: One of many running gags when Bill Clinton was interviewed in "Live via Satellite". For example, in 1996 he was convinced the election was in the bag, so said anything he wanted ("Milkshakes, naked women, nachos, boobies!"). And when the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit, he didn't pay any mind to the impeachment trial, and even showed Conan how to appear sincere.
  • SELFCEST: "Max on Max", which was footage of Max Weinberg having sex with himself.
  • Self-Deprecation: "This is the worst show on television."
    • Much humor was also derived from the news that NBC dropped to fourth place amongst the major networks in the mid-2000s. They did a whole segment about it.
  • Serial Killer: Conan was convinced Pierre Bernard was one after Pierre refused to allow a remote segment taped at his house. What followed was a newsmagazine-style interview where Conan tried to get Pierre to admit he was a mass murderer.
  • Shoot the Money:
    • They had used a giant whale costume with functioning blowhole for one sketch. After that, Conan announced that they would feature the costume in as many sketches as possible in order to justify the price of several thousand dollars, and broke the per-scene cost down after each sketch. This was done on at least 8 separate episodes.
    • Inverted on his last couple of weeks on NBC, where he presented a series of one-off sketches supposedly constructed to be as expensive as possible to the network such as "Purchased fossil of a ground sloth from the Smithsonian spraying an original Picasso with beluga caviar." Generally, these sketches featured obvious fakes or donated loaners, although the rights to air the original recording of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones as a theme song for a character was apparently a significant expense.
  • The Show Must Go On: In one episode later in the run, guest Katt Williams didn't show up as planned (while Conan was unaware of the cause at the time, it was due to Williams being arrested on weapons charges that same day). With nothing else to fill the eight minutes of screen time, Conan decided to try to beat his "ring spinning" record.
  • Show Within a Show: "A Couple of Mutts", starring Conan and Triumph. Also "Quackers the Sh*t Eating Duck".
    • And there's all the weird shows in the GE Satellite Channels segments.
  • Skipping School: The work variant. In one episode, Conan was informed that one of his writers, Michael Koman, had called in sick. Since Conan didn't think Mike looked sick the previous day, he thought something was fishy and went to his apartment. He spent a whole sketch harassing Mike into admitting he just wanted to stay home from work that day, and eventually forced him to come into work.
  • Skyward Scream: In one of the entries for "Late Night Create Your Own Commercials Contest", a nerdy guy takes a woman to bed, leaving the sunglasses-wearing jock who was mocking him earlier to shout, "DAMN YOU, CONAN!" while looking upwards.
  • Something Completely Different: Two episodes took previous episodes and rendered them in different styles:
    • Claymation special: Everyone was animated in claymation. Aired in 2003.
    • "Skelevision" Halloween special: Everyone was replaced with skeletons on strings. Aired in 2006.
    • Unrelated to the two above: The episode that took place on a boat, which aired in 1995.
    • There was also an episode where the entire studio audience consisted of kids instead of adults.
  • Song Parody: Triumph parodied Bon Jovi's song "You Give Love a Bad Name" to "You Give Poop a Bad Name".
    Triumph: Humped a shar pei, / pulled out too late. / Now that bitch has a litter of eight! / They eat all the Alpo / right off my plate! / Why the hell / didn't I just masturbate?! / Oh, I'm a loaded gun! / Here comes Bon Jovi, / the pooping's begun! / Look at you guys; / have you no shame? / You give poop, / a bad name! / Crawl back in the butt, / from whence you came! / You give poop, / a bad name!
  • Sound Effect Bleep: On the episode where the duck Quackers took a dump on the floor and then ate it, Conan remarked, "There's a (bleep) eating duck over here." and immediately apologized: "I don't swear often, but that's what he did!"
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In one segment, the song "Baby Got Back" was dubbed over a medical drama. Conan declared the combination to be disturbing.
    • On the third attempt at a Lord of the Rings musical, the cast sang "Sweet Home Alabama" as the big finale.
  • Staircase Tumble: In an early 2008 episode, Conan picked out a guy from the crowd to take a GE tour with him. The two ran throughout the building, and at one point, scrambled down a stairwell. In the excitement, the guy briefly lost his footing and went down the stairs faster than he expected; thankfully he wasn't hurt.
  • Stealth Insult: When Don Rickles was a guest in 2005, he began to talk about how Johnny Carson was a great entertainer, and "you don't see that too much anymore." He then stared at Conan.
    Conan: (smiling at camera) It's very rare!
    • This was the Running Gag in a sketch where an irritated audience member (played by Brian McCann) claimed that every little thing Barack Obama said was a Stealth Insult towards Sarah Palin.
    Conan: It seems a lot of people are offended by Barack Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment. Personally, I've been thinking about it, I think they're reading too much into it. I don't think he meant to imply that Sarah Palin is actually a pig.
    Man: Man, what are you kiddin'? This was a direct attack on Sarah Palin. SHAME on Barack Obama! HE'S the pig!
    Conan: ...Okay, sir, I'm sorry, but I think you're overreacting.
    Man: "Overreacting"?! This is just the latest in Obama's laundry list of tasteless Palin jabs!
    Conan: Really? W-what are you talking about?
    Man: Yeah, first, he keeps talking about how he's against drilling in Alaska, a direct shot at Palin's pregnant daughter who was drilled in Alaska! Very funny, senator!
    Conan: No, I don't think-
    Man: Yeah, and then he wants to end the Iraq War with "honor". Get it? On her, like Bristol Palin's boyfriend was on her? It's a cheap shot, it's just tasteless!
    Conan: W- that's crazy!
    Man: No it's not! And how about Obama's constant call for change, implying that Sarah Palin had a sex change?!
    Conan: Okay, that's ridiculous. You're making a mountain out of a mole hill.
    Man: "Mole hill"?! That's a low blow, Conan, making fun of the giant mole on my hill-like penis. Shame on you!
    Conan: Okay sir, if you don't mind, I'd like to get back to my show.
    Man: "Right back"?! Now you're making fun of the other hill penis I have on the right side of my back?! Unbelievable!
    • In a 2006 episode, Conan complimented the band, saying they were on fire. He proceeded to say:
    Conan: Some nights, it's not there, but tonight...
    Max: (chuckles) Thank you, Conan.
    Conan: No, it's always there. You know I'm kidding you, giving you a hard time. Some nights, it's not there.
  • Stepford Smiler: Joel in sketches.
  • Stick Figure Comic: One of the Horny Manatee fan submissions was drawn in this style. Conan loved the story it told: Conan finds a manatee in his bed; he gives the manatee a meaningful look, the manatee gives Conan a meaningful look, and then the two go at it.
  • Stop Motion: A 2003 episode of Conan's Late Night was done in claymation style.
    • One "Late Night Create Your Own Commercial" entry was done in stop motion.
  • Streisand Effect: Invoked: In one "Walker, Texas Ranger lever" segment, Conan announced he'd be retiring the lever, since he didn't want to run the segment into the ground. Of course, doing so meant that the lever kept getting pulled without Conan's control, such as a man spitting a watermelon seed which ricocheted all around the studio and hit the lever, activating another Walker clip.
  • Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: In a "live via satellite" segment featuring Saddam Hussein, Saddam sang a cover of "Baby Got Back".
  • Stylistic Suck: How the "Car Chases" segments are executed: Matchbox cars driving on the floor.
  • Sublime Rhyme: One segment made fun of Jesse Jackson's "cut Obama's nuts off" remark, with the gimmick that Conan has just uncovered even more exclusive footage of Jackson speaking about cutting off Obama's testicles (with a dubbed-in voice, of course). They all rhymed:
    Jesse Jackson: I'm gonna take some cutting tools to his family jewels. / I want him to say "ouch!" when I deflate his pouch. / I'll show no restraint to that which hangs above his taint. / It's twice as zesty when I remove the testes. / I have no preference for his vas deferens. / Here's one I’m still working on: When I see Obama, it's a drag... something-something to his pastry bag.
    • Whenever Don King was a guest in "Live via Satellite", he would name the matches something that would rhyme.
  • Take That, Audience!: During 2008, Conan presented a "Late Night Create Your Own Commercial" contest, and showcased some of the entries. After a particularly bad entry:
    Conan: Folks, when I decided to do this contest, this is not what I had in mind. (laughs) These are like snuff films. We need more submissions, okay? And I'm changing the rules: They're allowed to be good.
  • That Came Out Wrong: In 2005, Roger Ebert was a guest and mentioned that he met Rosario Dawson, saying she was beautiful but also surprisingly smart. Realizing that has negative connotations, he reworded it to simply: "She is smart."
    • Similarly, when Conan interviewed Sylvester Stallone in 2006 to promote the new Rocky film, Conan remarked that it was great seeing Rocky beat the meat again. Conan instantly realized how dirty that line sounded.
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: In one "Walker, Texas Ranger" clip, Walker and a boy are looking at clouds. Walker says one of the clouds looks like a bear. After the clip, Conan disputed that, and had them show the clip again. He asked incredulously, "Where's the bear?!"
  • Third Time's the Charm: In a one-time sketch about recalled cat food, Joel Goddard said he wasn't bothered by the news, because he only buys generic brand. Conan then asked, "Joel, why would you eat cat food?", to which Joel was supposed to reply, "On what you pay me, I'm lucky I'm not eating paint chips!", but he took three tries to get the line right (the first two times, he was thrown off by actually eating the food).
    • During the 2007/2008 Writer's Strike, one sketch featured turtles on remote-controlled vehicles and rockets, with the premise being that each turtle represented a different football team that was playing in the 2008 Super Bowl. However, they encountered an unplanned problem when the two turtles crossed the finish line virtually simultaneously; they had to re-do it the next night, and in order to make things fair, they did it for a third time the night after that. The third night's results were the official ruling, as one of the turtles finished way ahead of the other one.
  • Toilet Humour: Naturally occurs with Triumph.
    • One "Live via Satellite" with Donald Trump's baby had the baby saying what a great poop it just took, in typical grandiose Trump fashion.
    Baby Trump: Conan, this poopie was yuuuuuge.
  • Tongue-Tied: Occurs on occasion. One instance occurred in "Small Talk Moment", which is no surprise since it's very easy to trip up when you're talking really fast.
    • Another blooper involved Aqua King, God of the Sea, appearing in the studio:
    Aqua King: My power, is virtuiantly linit- limitless. (smiles)
    Conan: Apparently, not your power of speech.
    • In one sketch, Max was supposed to say "Hold it, Conan", but it came out as "Ho-do-de Cannon." Addressed on the next episode.
  • Too Much Information: In one of the segments with animal expert Jarod Miller, Conan congratulated Jarod for "turning 13" (in reference to how young Jarod looked), and Jarod replied, "I have pubes now." Conan asked incredulously, "What the hell was that?!"
  • Trash the Set: Conan did this on air immediately before leaving the show.
  • The Unintelligible: How Dennis Kucinich was portrayed in "Live via Satellite", speaking in high-pitched gibberish except for a couple random intelligible words ("Rhode Island!"; "health care!").
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal:
    Triumph: What happened to Sally Jesse Raphael? Now that was a guy you could trust!
    Dr. Phil: Sally Jesse was a woman.
    Triumph: That was a woman? Excuse me... (immediately projectile vomits... and vomits... and vomits)
  • Vocal Dissonance: In a "Live via Satellite" from 2006, Donald Trump's baby sounded exactly like the regular Donald Trump.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Vomiting Kermit certainly didn't hide it whenever he appeared.
    Conan: How do you know when he's done?!
    • In a skit where Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was interviewed by Dr. Phil, Triumph vomited when he found out that Sally Jesse Raphael was actually a woman.
  • What Are Records?: In one of the "live via satellite" segments, Conan interviewed Donald Trump, who was advertising his Trump Steaks, which were being sold exclusively at The Sharper Image. When Conan remarked that this was odd, Trump said that people who shop at supermarkets were fat losers. He further went on to claim that only a couple decades from now, steaks will overtake television in popularity.
    Trump: Mark my words! Mark my words! In twenty years, your kids will say, "What? You used to watch images on a screen, instead of just eating a steak?! Are you kidding me?!"
  • Widget Series
  • With Friends Like These...: A recurring sketch was "Joe's", a bar where Conan would go to and be relentlessly harassed and insulted by the bartender and another patron. It would always end with Conan snapping and shouting, "I'll pay my tab WHEN I'M GOOD AND READY!!!" and throwing his mug against the wall.
  • Worst Whatever Ever: In a "Live via Satellite" where Arnold discussed an L.A. earthquake in 2008:
    Arnold: When the quake started, it was 9.12! Yeah! But I acted quickly: I wrapped a chain around my waist and tied it to my Hummer and dove head-first into the fault line! Then I punched the tectonic plates, crushed the sub-duction zone with my massive biceps, then I karate-kicked it in his igneous testicles! Then I turned to the camera, took the cigar out of my mouth, and said, "Let's get ready to not rumble."
    Conan: That's... that's the worst line I've ever heard.
    • On the third night of Horny Manatee fan submissions, Conan showed a fan's manatee cosplay, which was clearly thrown together at the last minute. Conan declared his costume the worst thing ever.
  • You Get What You Pay For: Conan occasionally says something to the effect of, "This show is free, what do you want?" if the audience boos one of his jokes.
  • You Make Me Sick: Triumph says this to Richard Belzer in the "Hollywood Squares" segment when he's treating him like an actual dog.

Tropes from the Jimmy Fallon era include:

  • Audience Participation: One of the few American late night shows that use this. Audience members often participate in quirky games between the monologue and when the guests come out.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of everything from Lost to Jersey Shore. The elaborate taped parodies of popular TV shows, all set within the Late Night universe, have become a hallmark of Fallon's run on the show.
  • Calvinball: The "Wheel of Carpet Samples" game. Even worse, the "losers" get $300 Apple Store gift cards, while the "winner" gets a carpet sample.
    • Taken further with "Wheel of Game Shows", where the joke either involves an Unexpectedly Obscure Answer, or Fallon not mentioning the rules for a game at all (i.e. "Brownie Points", where he only gives out plates of brownies and expects the contestants to know what to do next)
  • Crosscast Role: The "Real Wives of Late Night" have the cast of the show playing their wives. Lampshaded when the Indianapolis Colts' wives (the players also in drag) come over for a party and Higgins wife offhandedly mentions they look like dudes.
  • Oh, the Humanity!: Directly parodied with the "Who Cares Hindenburg". After bringing up some useless news stories, usually celebrity gossip, Fallon declares that all those stories are going into the "Who Cares Hindenburg". Then we see Stock Footage of the Hindenburg exploding while an announcer sarcastically mourns the loss of all those stories, ending with "Oh, the humanity! WHO CARES?!"
  • Precious Puppies: From "If Puppies Could Vote" (Gary Frick, you stop it!) to their 2011 Emmy nomination reel, which featured a puppy dressed up as each member of the writing staff, this incarnation certainly loves a puppy gag.
  • Homemade Sweater from Hell: During the twelve days before the show takes its Christmas break, Fallon gives them away to members of their audience.
  • Muppet Cameo: There have been quite a few Sesame Street characters coming to visit.
    • In his very last scene on Late Night, he accompanied the Muppets on drums as they sang "The Weight" by The Band, and then he left the stage and walked down a hallway(with the camera following) to the set of The Tonight Show.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: The "Head Swap" segment.
  • The Show Must Go On: The show was taped without an audience while New York City was battening down the hatches for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. (David Letterman did a Sandy show in a similar manner.)
  • Spit Take: There's a game centered around it on the show.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Jimmy Fallon used this in a joke while hosting the 2010 Primetime Emmys:
    "NBC asking the host of Late Night to come to Los Angeles to host a different show, what could possibly go wrong?" Camera cuts to Conan O'Brien in the audience.
  • Zonk: Some of the contestant games involve these. In "Doll Posin'", the losers get a doll-sized "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" T-Shirt. In the Spit Take game, the losers get moist towelettes.

Tropes from the Seth Meyers era include:

  • Affectionate Parody: Seth's very first opening featured him writing a thank you note of his own:
    "Thank you, Jimmy Fallon, for taking over The Tonight Show at 11:30 so I could take over Late Night at 12:30. I promise to treat it with respect and dignity, and to only use it to do completely original comedy pieces... starting now."
  • Audience Participation: He seems to have taken after Fallon, since one of his first episodes featured a game called "Fake or Florida"
  • Blatant Lies: A frequent theme with Fred Talks.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Frequently subverts this.
  • Homage: As a tribute to David Letterman, the night before his last show, Late Night recreated the original 1982 opening sequence.
  • N-Word Privileges: The segment "Jokes Seth Can't Tell" attempts to circumvent this via Loophole Abuse, bringing two female writers (one black, one gay) out to deliver the punchlines of jokes that would seem inappropriate coming from a straight white man. The sketch always ends with the women encouraging Seth to tell a joke of his own, getting deeply offended by it when he does, and the whole thing devolving into a shouting match.
  • Once an Episode: A mug with a logo from an NBC affiliate is on his desk nightly.
  • Only in Florida: "Fake or Florida?", where audience contestants have to guess if a sample newspiece is an actual story from Florida or a fake story.
  • Retool: In mid-2015, the program began to shift towards a news comedy-oriented format not unlike The Daily Show (even more notable is the fact that this happened right around the time that Jon Stewart was preparing for his final episode), with longer segments focused on political stories. In September, Meyers' set was also redesigned, seeing him perform his monologue entirely from his desk rather than standing. Meyers explained that he had originally used a more traditional format so that viewers wouldn't view it as simply a continuation of Weekend Update, but began to tweak the format over time to ease his writers into topical content.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: Seth tends to find it really amusing when one of his jokes doesn't go over well with the audience. The meta-commentary he provides when this happens is often a lot funnier than the joke itself.
  • Take That: The "Ya Burnt!" segment exists simply so that Seth can deliver a rapid-fire round of insults to various people, places, and things that annoy him.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/LateNight