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Creator / Conan O'Brien

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"I had a show. Then I had a different show. Now I have a Twitter account."
O'Brien's former bio statement on his Twitter account

Conan Christopher O'Brien (born April 18, 1963) is an American television host, comedian and television producer, best known for hosting several late-night talk shows.

He served as president of The Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, and was a writer for the sketch comedy series Not Necessarily the News. After writing for several comedy shows in Los Angeles, he joined the writing staff of Saturday Night Live during the late 1980s (when the show was back to its former glory after several missteps and threats of cancellation by NBC).

O'Brien was a writer and producer for The Simpsons for two seasons (writing such memorable episodes as "New Kid on the Block"note , "Marge vs. the Monorail"note  "Homer Goes to College"note , and the wraparounds for "Treehouse of Horror IV"note , as well as the infamous unproduced Sequel Episode to "Stark Raving Dad"note  where the big, bald mental patient who thought he was Michael Jackson now thinks he's Prince and wants everyone in town to be free with their sexual sides) until he was commissioned by NBC to take over David Letterman's position as host of Late Night in 1993.

O'Brien being a virtual unknown to the public, the initial tenure of Late Night with Conan O'Brien received unfavorable reviews and remained on a multi-week renewal cycle during its early years. The show generally improved over time and was highly regarded by the time of his departure in 2009. Afterwards, O'Brien relocated from New York to Los Angeles to host The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, his own incarnation of The Tonight Show after the departure of Jay Leno.

The ratings for Leno's new show weren't stellar, but NBC was okay with it until local affiliates cried foul when their local news programmes suffered consequent ratings drops, leading NBC to cancel Leno's new show, and then try to fit Jay, Conan, and Jimmy Fallon into their late night line up given they had just locked Leno into a massive contract that mandated they put him somewhere. Conan said it would ruin the institution of The Tonight Show for the show to go into the next day (an inevitable result of cramming three comedians into less than three hours), and was ultimately let go from his contract (with $45 million mind you...) and Leno took back his old time slot. Regardless of whose side you were on, it's pretty universally accepted that NBC screwed up big. Go to Adored by the Network to see a few more details of this debacle.

On April 12, 2010, Conan announced a five-year deal with TBS to do an 11 PM talk show, to begin as soon as the no-compete clause in his NBC severance package expired that fall. After much speculation on what this show is to be called, Mr. O'Brien eventually came up with the single most original, most creative, most "I-want-to-watch-this-fine-basic-cable-programming" title ever known to mankind:


With the retirement of David Letterman on May 20, 2015, O'Brien became the longest-tenured of all current late-night talk show hosts in the United States, a position he would hold until his own retirement six years later, on June 24, 2021. It was announced that he would be moving to HBO Max with a "weekly, comedy-variety series", about which little else is known; it should be noted that this was before the Warner Bros.-Discovery merger which has since hugely impacted the programming available on HBO Max. Eventually, this show was revealed on May 18, 2023 to be Conan O'Brien Must Go, a Spiritual Successor to the "Conan Without Borders" specials. This four-episode limited series premiered on April 18, 2024 — his 61st birthday.

On May 23, 2022 (just six weeks after the merger on April 8th), O'Brien sold his Team Coco podcast and digital media business to SiriusXM, owned by rival conglomerate Liberty Media—essentially fulfilling one of his running-gag aspirations to be on free radio as well.

Not to be confused with Conan the Barbarian, although the similarities are uncanny.note 

Conan has written, hosted, or appeared in the following works:

  • The Harvard Lampoon, editor (post-Bored of the Rings)
  • Not Necessarily the News (writer) (1985-1987)
  • Saturday Night Live (writer) (1988-1991) (wrote the infamous sketch "Attack of the Masturbating Zombies", which got the show in trouble with advertisers over content. Conan is also one of three SNL writers who were never picked to be cast members to come back and host the show, joining Larry Davidnote  and John Mulaneynote )
  • The Simpsons (writer) (1991-1993)
    • Credited as sole writer on three episodes: "Homer Goes to College"note , "Marge vs. the Monorail"note  and "New Kid on the Block"note . He also wrote the Night Gallery-esque wraparounds for "Treehouse of Horror IV" and contributed to several other scripts, including the unproduced Sequel Episode to "Stark Raving Dad" where the big, bald mental patient who thought he was Michael Jackson now thinks he's Prince and wants everyone in town to be open and free with their sexuality.
    • Conan solely created at least one still running character - "Captain McCallister" (the sea captain and owner of The Frying Dutchman seafood restaurant) - and coined the name for Selma's pet iguana for the episode "Selma's Choice" - "Jub-Jub".
    • Had Conan remained at The Simpsons instead of leaving to start his late night career, several sources have indicated that he had been tapped to replace Al Jean and Mike Reiss as showrunner starting in the fifth season, a role which instead went to David Mirkin.
  • Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1993-2009)
  • The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (2009-2010)
  • The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour (2010), as well as a documentary about the tour: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop.
  • Conan, his new show on TBS (November 8, 2010-June 26, 2021)
  • David Endocrine in The Dark Knight Returns part 2 (2013)
  • The Riddler in The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
  • The Wandering MC in Death Stranding (2019)
  • Clarence Polkawitz and Chuck in Final Space
  • As Himself in Murderville (2022)
  • Andy Warhol in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022)
  • Farley Peterson in please don't destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain
  • T-shirts, mugs, and posters accentuating the size of his head
  • Finnish religious iconography (unconfirmed)

Some sources are convinced that Conan would do well on the internet.

Conan provides examples of:

  • Adam Westing: He voiced talk show host Dave Endochrine in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Tom Hanks gave him the nickname "Coco" during his brief tenure on The Tonight Show. Later, on Conan, Conan jokingly said to him "You've ruined my life!".
  • Appropriated Appelation: The aforementioned "Coco" has also subsequently become the self-proclaimed name of Conan's supporters during the 2010 Tonight Show controversy as Team Coco, as well as Conan's growing podcast network.
  • Arch-Nemesis:
    • The now-ex NBC CEO Jeff Zucker. Conan and Zucker were editors of rival newspapers in college. At one point in college, Zucker got Conan and the staff of the Harvard Lampoon in trouble for buying up and discarding all copies of the Harvard Crimson in a newspaper war worthy of a college movie, minus babes.
    • And also...STAAAAA-MOS!
  • The Band Minus the Face: During the Late Night era, the Max Weinberg Seven was often fronted by guitarist Jimmy Vivino and drummer James Wormworth while its namesake was touring with the E Street Band. When Weinberg chose not to rejoin the group for the TBS show, it was rechristened "Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band".
  • Benevolent Boss: Paid his staff out-of-pocket during the writers' strike. Also held up his exit negotiations with NBC due to his insistence that his staff be well taken care of, and has paid out-of-pocket for staff members who aren't fully covered by the NBC contract. And then he did a nationwide comedy tour, using the proceeds to pay his staff.
    • It's generally understood that his rapport with his employees is beyond that of any other talk show, to the point that his skits and sketches featuring his employees, especially Sona and Jordan Schlansky, are considered his best material and what fans love to see the most. In fact, Sona herself, despite the turbulent relationship they portray on-screen, readily admits in interviews and podcasts how much she loves Conan and how generous and nice he and his wife Liza really are.
    • In character, however, he plays a Bad Boss whose employees' children are interviewed in the TBS show's "Staffers' Kids Say the Darnedest Things" sketches.
  • Berserk Button: Apparently vegetarians and the whole vegan lifestyle, though it comes off as a tongue-in-cheek thing.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: NBC, obviously (see Take That!, below). On the premiere of Conan, Conan did a nerd impression and immediately thought better of it, as he stated the people he makes fun of are who supported him back when there was the Tonight Show controversy.
    Conan: Talk about biting the hand that feeds me!
    • The next night he did a skit which involved TBS' standards office to see what the standards of Basic Cable were compared to network television. Assless chaps (to see how much of his ass could be shown) and a fishtank underwear (with a submarine covering the buttcrack) were tested; the TBS standards guy turned out to be an extra on the movie Road Trip. The NBC ordeal gave him this Trope to use as joke material, basically.
    • Many of Conan's skits about nerds count as Biting-the-Hand Humor, as admitted by Conan himself. Neener neener!
  • Black and Nerdy: Graphic designer Pierre Bernard.
  • Bromance: Andy Richter.
  • Butt-Monkey: LaBamba is often this.
  • Character Tics: The string dance. And oh so many more: The growl, the cat claws jump, etc...
  • Chuck Norris Facts: The "Walker, Texas Ranger Lever" skits were an inspiration for Chuck Norris Facts thanks to Memetic Mutation. Thus placing Conan among the elite of Memedom, alongside such worthies as Angry Hitler, Dramatic Chipmunk, and the Masturbating Bear. The last of which also came from his show.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land: To promote the TBS show, an HD webcam was set up next to a stairwell at the new offices. Apparently an "average day" includes dancing Tacos and Taco Bell buildings, a girl with green pants, puppet shows, raptor attacks, spontaneous Shakespeare lectures as Conan himself eats an apple, jolly ranchers used in eating contests, and a very irate Andy yelling at everyone to get back to work.
  • Cool Car: A 1992 Ford Taurus SHO that he's owned from new.
  • Couch Gag: The new TBS show has a different, murder-mystery style title introduced for every episode, and the opening animation of a family rushing home to watch TV is different on Thursday shows.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Conan's dry, intellectual brand of humor occasionally goes into anti-comedy or meta-comedy, such as his recitation of news followed by a Staring Contest.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Played with. On occasion, he would tell a bad joke, which would lead to his audience groaning in appall...and then applauding. Conan would always point out those "schizophrenic responses" from his crowd.
  • Driving a Desk: Literally, as a recurring sketch.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Conan has frequently said he got picked on for it as a kid. "Where's your sword, barbarian?"
  • Fan Disservice: Conan's blinding white skin is a plot point on various occasions, and/or possible superpower for defeating enemies on-sight. One time, however, he reversed the tables by fooling Andy Richter to go on the set of the Today Show nude.
  • Friendly Enemy: Conan was a direct rival to David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and (formerly) Craig Ferguson ... but all five were completely disgusted with how NBC treated him upon his getting The Tonight Show, proceeding to bitterly skewer the network and/or Jay Leno. When Conan balked at taking the 11:00 PM slot at TBS (knowing that doing so would push George Lopez back an hour and not wanting to subject Lopez to the same ill treatment he had faced), Lopez himself called Conan and urged him to take the deal. Lopez himself reportedly said "It means I get to come into work an hour later, What Mexican doesn't want that?"
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • An episode of his Late Night show was done entirely in Claymation.
    • For one Halloween Episode, a rerun was done entirely in Skelevision.
    • The annual "State of the Show" episodes on Late Night.
    • A 1994 show was done from aboard a Circle Line tour boat cruising the Hudson River.
    • "Time Travel Week" in 1996, which sent Conan and Andy back to Ancient Greece, The American Civil War, and The '80s (where they encountered David Letterman when they tried to enter the Late Night studio).
    • A 1997 episode was taped in front of a Studio Audience consisting entirely of young children.
    • The show of October 10, 1996 was taped from a makeshift outdoor set after a five-alarm fire at 30 Rock left NBC's studios unavailable. The following night's show was taped at the Today studio.
    • When the northeastern United States (including New York City) was hit with a massive power outage on August 14, 2003, that night's scheduled Late Night was replaced with about five minutes of Conan reporting from the darkened, empty studio before introducing a rerun show.
    • An episode of Conan was dedicated entirely to Breaking Bad, from the title cards, to the guests, and to the band that played at the end. After the show, the entire Breaking Bad cast then threw fake bags of meth at the audience.
  • I'm Going to Hell for This: He'd say this after a lame or bad joke, and even say it in a sing-song manner.
    I'mma gonna go to hell when I die! [Clap clap, clap clap]
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Andy Richter. Where to begin? Andy was a writer who was hired as Conan's sidekick to help him from being too nervous during the show. The producers had noticed that they had great chemistry, and they hung out so frequently that people started assuming that they were gay. Even when NBC executives demanded that Conan get rid of Andy, he refused. Andy's last episode of Late Night (before leaving to pursue an acting career) was one of only two moments wherein Conan cried on camera. There were also no guests in that episode, because it was all one big going away party for Andy. Andy eventually came back for the Tonight Show and stuck with Conan — angrily defending him from Leno and NBC — throughout the whole debacle. He hasn't left Conan's side since, and even off-camera, the two are still frequently seen together. It's also widely known that every time Conan does something dangerous (like taunt an animal on the show to get laughs), Andy gets so concerned and angry that he refuses to talk to Conan for at least a day.
  • Ivy League: People are surprised whenever they find out that Conan graduated from Harvard. And magna cum laude, no less.
  • Large and in Charge: He stands at an impressive 6'4.
  • Leno Device: Conan O'Brien has appeared as himself, hosting his show, in a few films including Now You See Me.
  • Long Runner: Has the third-longest run of any American talk show host at 28 years, behind Johnny Carson and David Letterman.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: He often portrays himself as a loud and obnoxious Bad Boss with a violent streak who is constantly looking for ways to antagonise people and make himself look good. Ask anyone who's ever met him or worked for him however, and they'll tell you he's one of the nicest, funniest, generous and respectful people you'll ever meet. He also loves to play up how much much distaste for others he has on-screen, but Conan himself is very social, and can make friends basically anywhere in the world no matter the situation, as evidenced by his Conan Without Borders series.
  • Mouth Flaps: Made fun of in a commercial for his talk show about two weeks before the 2012 World Series, which was delayed until the teams were confirmed, so that he could exaggeratedly flap his mouth at the part where he mentions the names of the teams involved, and had flat audio edited in of the team names.
  • Neologism: Fan of Crunk Core? Thank Conan for coming up with the word "crunk".
  • New Year Has Come: On Late Night, Conan took advantage of his later time slot to conduct a New Year's celebration for the Central Time Zone during his show (The Tonight Show and Late Night aired new episodes on New Year's Eve, with the former containing a live segment covering Times Square since its scheduling naturally overlaps midnight), as a Take That! to other networks focusing too much on New York City. They often ended up featuring bizarre sketches, leading into an equally silly countdown; one year featured busts of Chicagoans James Belushi and Oprah Winfrey french kissing at midnight, and another featured a reporter who got into a police chase trying to race to Hudson Lake, Indiana (a town right on the border between the Eastern and Central time zones) to celebrate "properly". This sketch was effectively discontinued in 2006: New Year's Eve in 2006 and 2007 fell on the weekend, the Writers' Strike was still going on in 2008, and NBC introduced a dedicated special hosted by Carson Daly instead (thus The Tonight Show and Late Night air re-runs after it instead).
  • Odd Couple: Conan and Martha Stewart, Conan and Mr. T picking apples together, Conan and Ozzy Osbourne cheering up NBC office workers, Conan drinking whiskey and firing automatic weapons with Hunter S. Thompson, Conan and James Lipton...
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Conan could have kept on working on NBC if he was willing to push his show and Jimmy Fallon's back a half-hour to accommodate Jay Leno being on at 11:35 PM. Saying that that would be the end of The Tonight Show, he stood his ground and basically dared NBC to fire him.
  • Self-Deprecation: Conan frequently makes fun of himself and the show in general. In one instance on Late Night, Conan even remarked in jest "This is the worst show on television." On the first episode of Conan, made barely a year after the first episode of his seven-month-only tenure in The Tonight Show, he introduced the show with "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my second annual first show."
  • Serious Business: O'Brien is a massive Boston sports fan. When doing promotions for the 2013 World Series between the Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, he made it quite clear in his ads which team he supported, and would not give even a single word of encouragement to the Cardinals. Following the Sox' 4-2 series win, he hosted Shane Victorino on his show almost immediately after to congratulate him.
  • Sidekick: Andy Richter.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Conan and Jordan Schlansky, though it's one-sided on Conan's part.
  • Smarter Than You Look: If you're introduced to Conan via Masturbating Bear or other lowbrow comedy bits, it may come as a surprise to learn he graduated from Harvard (and was valedictorian of his high school class). On a slightly less lowbrow note, you may have been introduced to him via The Onion or The Simpsons.
    • And another had him going to Cuba to do a documentary-style spy about the country and its people.
  • Take That!:
    • Combining Take That! with Biting-the-Hand Humor, Conan started sticking it to NBC as soon as the deal to return Jay Leno to the 11:30 PM spot was announced.
      • One of his best was a comedy skit in which a Bugatti Veyron (with mouse ears on the roof, no less!) simply sat onstage while the original master recording of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" played in the background — a skit which cost $1.5 million, and was done simply because NBC was footing the bill for the show.
      • He topped it by having 2009 Kentucky Derby-winning horse Mine That Bird wearing a mink Snuggie watching restricted NFL Super Bowl footage. Total cost? $4.8 million. Also on that show was Robin Williams yelling at the fake Burbank backdrop "You idiots!" and flipping it off, then singing an Irish folk song which Conan got up and danced along to.
      • Finally, to cap it all off, his final Tonight Show episode featured a fossilized ground sloth shooting caviar out a fire hose onto a Picasso. The cost? Over $40 million (or was it 60?...). And then Tom Hanks walked out to The Beatles' "Lovely Rita", which drove the price up an extra $500,000.
      • After O'Brien was criticized for wasting money that could be helping Haiti or something, he admitted on-air that the expensive items were either fake or donated for free. The rights to the music, however, were very real. (The first time it aired cost NBC nothing, but re-airing would have been very expensive, which is why NBC refuses to re-air them or make them available on the internet.)
    • Another Take That! comes in the form of the new Jimmy Smits vehicle Outlaw, about a Supreme Court justice who resigns to become a private lawyer, produced by Conan's production company, Conaco, and airing on...NBC. Which was, subsequently, canned after only four episodes aired. It's almost as if Conan made them a mediocre show on purpose...
    • In an episode of Conan where Conan and a professional organizer go try to clean associate producer Jordan Schlansky's office, Conan found an old NBC envelope. Even the studio audience groaned at the awkwardness. The organizer asked if the box he found it in was garbage, Conan held out the envelope and said, "Oh, THIS is garbage."
  • Those Two Guys: In addition to Conan's Odd Couple pairings above, the teaming of Conan and Bob Saget strikes some as Conan's definite non-Andy OTP.
  • Unperson: To NBC, at least.
    • Conan's website, any reference to O'Brien on their network and even YouTube and Hulu clips of O'Brien's shows have been under watch or removed by NBC with two exceptions (an episode of Saturday Night Live he hosted and a Season 1 episode of 30 Rock in which he and his show play an integral part in the plot). They even removed
    • Conan also appeared in the the final episode of 30 Rock, but this likely only happened due to Tina Fey's Protection from Editors.
    • On the NBC Studio Tour, upon arrival of Conan's old studio (also previously David Letterman's, currently Dr. Oz's), the studio page will say the former two "disappeared from the network".
    • His Unperson status would finally be lifted in 2019 when Team Coco struck a deal with NBC to reupload all of his Late Nightcatalog online.
  • Verbal Tic: Rrrrrow.
  • Weird Moon: The huge moon in the background of his TBS show can be controlled via remote, and possibly be used to crush Andy Richter. It even has "that lunar wobble"! On one occasion, it had Charlie Sheen's face on it.