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Series / Late Night with Conan O'Brien

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Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an American late-night Talk Show hosted by Conan O'Brien that aired on NBC between 1993 and 2009. From 1993 until 2000, Andy Richter served as O'Brien's sidekick; following his departure, O'Brien was the show's sole featured performer. The show's in-house musical act was The Max Weinberg 7, led by E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg.

The second incarnation of NBC's Late Night franchise, O'Brien's debuted in 1993 after David Letterman, who hosted the first incarnation of Late Night, moved to CBS to host Late Show opposite The Tonight Show. In 2004, as part of a deal to secure a new contract, NBC announced that O'Brien would leave Late Night in 2009 to succeed Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show. Jimmy Fallon began hosting his version of Late Night on March 2, 2009.

In 2018 O'Brien announced that the entire series would be available for online streaming via his Team Coco website beginning in 2019. For whatever reason — most likely problems obtaining licensing for the musical guests' performances — this didn't come to fruition, but selected sketches and other clips can be found on the site's "Conan Classic" page, and the show's premiere episode is available in its entirely on Team Coco's YouTube page.

Tropes associated with Late Night with Conan O'Brien include:

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  • 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."
  • Accentuate the Negative: Invoked in "Conan on the Aisle": Conan rarely has anything good to say about the movie he's highlighting, in order to set up the Manipulative Editing joke in the clip.
  • 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 Running Gag in the Triumph segments is for Triumph to say he's reporting for the Conan O'Donnell Show.
    • Another 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.
    • Whenever Conan gets a phone call at his desk, whoever's on the other line (usually Sean Connery or the Queen of England) will repeatedly get his name wrong.
  • 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".
  • Acronym Confusion: In a sketch about the tightening rules of the FCC:
    Max: I agree with you; these FCC regulations are bogus.
    Conan: Really, Max?
    Max: Yeah. My brother owns a deli, and just because his refrigerator went out for two days, the FCC said he had to throw out all his lukewarm egg salad and cold cuts. But you know what, Conan? My brother stood up for his rights. He told the FCC to go to hell, and he'd sell his meat and dairy to whoever, whenever.
    Conan: Yeah, okay, Max, that's not the FCC, that's the FDA.
    Max: Oh. Well then a lot of people died for nothing.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Art Evolution: Triumph had a slightly different look in his early appearances. Lampshaded by Triumph in the intro to his "best of" DVD:
    Triumph: And by the way, you may notice that I look a little different on some of the older clips. Well, I'm not going to lie: I've had a little work done. That's right: The same guy who did Melanie Griffith's lips did my nut sack.
  • 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" 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.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: During a "Live via Satellite" with John McCain:
    Conan: Is there anything that you can point to that you think cost you the election?
    John: I can point to four things, my friends: Sarah, Todd, Bristol, and Levi.
    Conan: Oh, so you think the Palins?
    John: No, the Jeffersons, you pasty freckled foreskin!
  • 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.
  • Bad Boss: In sketches from behind-the-scenes Conan was perfectly willing to play himself as everything from a Know-Nothing Know-It-All, Small Name, Big Ego, Pointy-Haired Boss and general Jerkass depending on what is funny. This continued with Conan's later shows.
  • 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.
    • During an interview with Jon Lovitz, Conan brought up the VMA moment where Britney Spears and Madonna kissed. Jon was disgusted; at first it seems like he had a moral objection to same-sex kissing, but it was the opposite: He thought the kiss was too short.
  • 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.
  • Big "NO!"; Becomes a Running Gag having La Bamba do this in sketches.
  • 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.)
    • Many moments in "Photo Gallery", such as Joel having the ability to tuck his head inside his body like a turtle, or replacing his real eyeballs with eagle eyeballs.
  • 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.
    • Parodied when Kristin Davis was interviewed in 2004 about Sex Andthe City coming to TBS. Conan showed a clip of how an episode had to be edited to be aired on TBS, and it was only five seconds long.
  • Boy Band: Parodied in a segment where Conan assembles a band which he calls "Dudez A-Plenti".
  • Broken Record:
    • 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 successfully put his own spin on the Late Night set and formula. During his Letterman tribute on the episode of Conan that aired opposite the final Late Show with David Letterman, O'Brien recalled being a "national punchline at 30" during the disastrous first months of his Late Night, and credited Letterman's return appearance and verbal approval of all the changes they made for turning things around for his career.
  • By "No", I Mean "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."
  • 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!"
  • Careful with That Axe: Mark Pender's shtick whenever he sings about a particular topic. The ballad will start out normally, but after the first few verses he'll start screaming about the topic over and over until Conan tells him to calm down.
  • Catchphrase:
    • 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."
    • From 2000 through 2003-ish, Conan's impression of George W. Bush was merely a head rotate and a dumbfounded "Huh?"
  • 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.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: In the online version of the remote where Conan visited the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, montages where Black Sabbath songs played are replaced with similar-sounding instrumentals, with a new subtitle at the bottom calling attention to the fact that they can't use Black Sabbath anymore.
  • 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.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Conan was suspicious that the ESPYs cut his interview down to merely saying "Red Sox" because it aired on ABC, and other ABC stars (Drew Carey) got significantly longer sound bytes.
    Conan: (pointing into the camera) It's a CONSPIRACY, man!
  • 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 Apollo 13, 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."
    • One Triumph segment had him at the 2005 Grammy's. He was interviewing a guy who presumably spoke very little English, so he had to explain every joke.
    Triumph: Christina Aguilera got engaged. I downloaded her last album, and now my iPod has a painful rash. (guy smiles and doesn't laugh) You see, Christina Aguilera is a filthy whore. And, uh, so, when she'd marry someone, they're going to have, you know, have venereal disease.
  • 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:
    • 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.
    • During a 2004 interview with Gwyneth Paltrow, Conan said that he can't get the "Hop Hop Hippity" song out of his head, and that it will randomly pop into his head during interviews.
  • Everyone Is Christian at Christmas: Averted in a sketch suggesting that the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was overrated. Conan proposes other holiday landmarks that New York City should be famous for, such as the "World's Fastest Menorah" (a menorah on a platform which quickly zips back and forth past Conan's desk) and the "Kwanzaa Kinara in a Pimped Out Ride". Other honorable mentions include "Bungee Jumping Baby Jesus" and the "Rocket-Powered Fruitcake" (set to "La Grange", no less).
  • 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.
  • 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 mascot a rip-off of himself. retaliated by suing Robert Smigel.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
  • Fun with Acronyms: In "Live via Satellite", George W. Bush tells Conan he wants a little "PTL" ("pull that lever")Note . He also thought "CIA" stood for "Christmas is Awesome".
  • 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.
    • One "Conan on the Aisle" from 2004 had House of Sand and Fog getting this treatment, with every character commenting on how Ben Kingsley was in Gandhi.
  • Gaydar: One NCAA Mascot was a Gator with Gaydar. It rolled towards La Bamba and started beeping rapidly.
  • 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!"
  • The Heckler: One sketch had Conan install a V.I.P. seat behind his desk. Will Arnett won the raffle and proceeded to make a lot of noise in the V.I.P. seat, distracting Conan from trying to tell a joke about his mom. Eventually Will booed Conan, causing Conan to have security escort Will out of the studio.
  • 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 Call Him "Mister Happy": In the Live Via Satellite sketches, Arnold Schwarzenegger occasionally refers to his penis as "Popo".
  • 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.
  • I'm Going to Hell for This:
    • "I'm-a gonna go to Hell when I die."
    • In one "Photos" segment where Conan, Max, and Joel went golfing, a shot is shown of the trio responding to their tee time in an exaggerated manner, prompting a chuckle from Conan and this remark: "God... we're all going to Hell."
  • Incredibly Long Note: The last note of the theme song, with the trumpet being the dominant instrument.
  • 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!
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Guest Carson Daly mentioned how he was sick over Christmas and spent all his time Googling various things, and shared some science facts he learned. Conan asked: "Have you tried PORN on the computer? That's a better way to spend your time."
  • Invented Linguistic Distinction: Invoked by Conan during some ad-libbing in one episode; after Max said he had a good "respite" (pronouncing it "re-spite"), Conan thought he should say it as "res-pit" instead. Then he noted you can do that with any word: "I hurt my fingur". "Don't you mean "finger"?" "I've heard it both ways."
  • Is This Thing Still On?: In one of James Spader's interviews, James was talking when all of a sudden a voice played over the studio sound system: "Now that's a good Friday." Conan and James were both baffled, and when Conan asked what that was, producer Jeff Ross said the crew backstage was preparing a comedy bit for a future episode and their recording accidentally got fed into the studio.
    Conan: And they're pre-recording it now while we're doing the show now? What kind of crappy show is this?!
  • 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!
  • Lampshaded 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?!
  • The Last Of These Is Not Like The Others: A gag in "Decision 2000". The first two photos that appear are, appropriately, of George W. Bush and Al Gore. The third photo will be a random celebrity like Slash. This gag was also used during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
  • 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, baby!
    • Done a couple times when Howard Dean was on "Live via Satellite":
      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-
    • And later:
  • Losing Horns: The theme music for "Late Night Budget Cuts" is done in this manner, ending with a gong.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: How Bill Clinton is portrayed in the "Live via Satellite" skits.
  • 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.
  • Milestone Celebration: Invoked: One sketch started out seemingly as yet another tribute to the 30th anniversary of A New Hope, until Conan said it was the 30th anniversary of another classic film: Breaker! Breaker!, and revolved a sketch around that movie instead.
  • 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.
  • Mister 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 The 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 Loincloth 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 Modesty 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.
  • New Year Has Come: For a time, Late Night did new episodes on New Year's Eve, in which Conan would comedically celebrate the arrival of midnight in the Central Time Zone (at the time, The Tonight Show had typically aired a special episode with live coverage of Times Square, since midnight ET falls within its traditional timeslot. Likewise midnight CT fell within the Late Night timeslot) with jokes specific to the midwest. This practice ended in the mid-2000s with a combination of the writers' strike, New Year's Eve falling on a weekend, and the advent of New Year's Eve with Carson Daly as a dedicated special (nowadays reruns of The Tonight Show and Late Night air following the special).
    Conan: The only show with the guts to do it, the creativity to do it... [dismissively] And we're on that late....
  • Niche Network: The premise of the recurring "G.E. Satellite Channels" sketch, with such weird, oddly-specific channels as the "Mother Teresa Trashing Her Hotel Room Channel" and the "How to Cook and Eat a Porcupine Channel".
  • 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 Helping Your Case: In one of the interviews with Harrison Ford, Conan noted that because of many of the roles Ford has taken, some have come away with an impression that he's intimidating or not a nice guy. Ford's response is classic:
    Harrison Ford: That's horse(shit).
  • "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".
  • Older Than They Look: Parodied; Conan often jokes that he's older than he is ("I'm 64 years old."), or that the show's been running since the '50s.
  • 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", except that instead of highlighting mistakes from actual newspapers, Conan presented blatant edits that he insisted were real.
  • Perp Sweating: Parodied in the sketch where Conan tried to get Pierre Bernard to admit he was a serial killer. He sprayed Pierre's face with water, and then asked him if he could go to his house and examine his basement. Cue a reaction shot of Pierre "sweating".
  • 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.
  • Potty Failure: In "Live Via Satellite":
    John McCain: I'm not Obama, "look at me, I'm Obama, oh, I'm Superman! I can choose when I sleep and pee!"
  • 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.
  • 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?!"
    • Conan lampshaded an instance where he observed a duck eating his own feces on stage. He offhandedly shouted "There's a shit-eating duck over here!" and quickly apologized for it.
  • 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 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 Shrek 2, 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.
  • Retool: 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]".
    • Many episodes in mid-2003 had Conan making fun of monkeypox, which was a new thing at the time. Conan found the term amusing so he worked it into many moments.

  • 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.
  • Screw Yourself: "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.
  • Shameless Self-Promoter: Donald Trump in the "Live via Satellite" segments. One example, when discussing Iraq:
    Conan: Mr. Trump, how is all this possibly going to solve the problems in Iraq?
    Donald: ...The Apprentice Los Angeles, 9 o'clock Sunday night, Rosie's fat, you're fired!
  • Share the Male Pain: In a 2006 monologue, Conan told a "news of the weird" story where a man cut off his own penis and threw it at some cops. It particularly grossed out Jimmy Vivino, which of course Conan ran with.
    Conan: What's your problem? Man, Jimmy couldn't handle that one. He cut it off and threw it at them! I'm gonna keep saying it unless you drop it. Not the, you know what I mean.
  • 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.
  • 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!
    • Triumph also parodied Eminem's "Lose Yourself" with "Lick Yourself".
    • And his first album was called "Come Poop With Me".
    • "Where in the Building is Andy Richter?", a parody of "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?", which in itself was a parody of the theme song to Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego.
    • When NBC slipped into fourth place in the ratings in 2005, a singer sang a parody of "We Are the Champions" called "We Are in Fourth Place".
    • Preparation H Raymon's theme song is set to "Camptown Races".
  • 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 CSI: Miami. 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.
    • In a 2004 edition of "Conan on the Aisle", a scene of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was accompanied by "Who Let the Dogs Out?".
    • In an interview with Harrison Ford in 2003, Conan noted that part of what makes Ford's angry stare into the camera so effective is the creepy music accompanying it. He wanted to try a different set of music with the same stare: A The Benny Hill Show-style piece.
  • 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.
    • A frequent gimmick in "Late Night Budget Cuts".
  • 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.
  • Sudden Name Change: A Running Gag in the "Dudez-a-Plenti" sketch. As the boy band that Conan was manufacturing had made-up names for the five guys to begin with, he would routinely change their name at a moment's notice.
  • Take That!: "Conan O'Brien Hates My Homeland".
  • 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.
  • Telethon: One of the more famous earlier sketches was Conan singing "Consider Yourself" on the Jerry Lewis Telethon. His singing is so ridiculous that the big board shows the total actually going down.
  • 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 Rocky Balboa, Conan remarked that it was great seeing Rocky beat the meat again. Conan instantly realized how dirty that line sounded.
    • Shia LaBeouf made a comment he immediately had to clarify:
    Conan: Your love life, (...) how's it going?
    Shia: Love life's terrible. My father, see this is what happened: My father screwed me at a young age... see, when I was thirteen-
    Conan: ...What?? (audience laughs)
    Shia: No. Not like that, Conan. You molester.
  • 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 and his "...for me to poop on!"
    • 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.
    • During an "If They Mated":
    Conan: Talk about a good looking cuppy: Naomi- (to producers) what'd I say? Did I say... what? I said "Good looking guppy"? Wow. Let's just not even air this show tonight. Let's just show an old Happy Days instead. People will think Richie Cunningham is me and won't notice.
    • In an interview with Ray Liotta in 2003, he mentioned how he had to gain a lot of weight for a role. Except he said "geighted a lot of wain." Conan didn't let it slip by, and ended the interview by saying the movie is "pow naying".
  • 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.
    • One satellite channel showed various famous people trashing their hotel rooms. The one featured was Mother Teresa, who trashed her room because the front desk forgot to give her a wake-up call.
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: When Jeff Goldblum found out that guest stars aren't paid for their appearances on the show:
    Jeff Goldblum: One word, O'Brien, one word: No pay, no Goldblum.
    • In one "Live via Satellite":
    George W. Bush: I've got two words for you: Yale.
  • 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!").
  • Unishment: In the episode where the audience consisted entirely of kids, Conan warned that anyone who misbehaves will be sent to Naughty Land. Said place apparently takes place in The Wizard of Oz with costumed mascots who give the kids $500 for the Disney Store.
  • 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]
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Disscused in an interview with Emma Watson, who reported that her brother once vented his frustration with her by throwing benches at Hermione in the game (here's the clip).
  • Vocal Dissonance: In a "Live via Satellite" from 2006, Donald Trump's baby sounded exactly like the regular Donald Trump.
    • In the same segment, Barbara Bush is voiced like a gruff man.
    Barbara Bush: Somebody's gotta wear the jock in this family.
  • Vocal Evolution: Triumph sounded a bit different in his first appearance.
  • 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?!"
  • Who Dares?: The Running Gag in "Live via Satellite" whenever Zell Miller was on. He would tell Conan, "How DARE you" and then challenge him to a duel.
  • 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.
    • Jim Gaffigan and Conan are good friends, so he's able to get away with portraying him in his Pale Force animated series as an extremely wimpy, high-pitched, fraidy-cat sidekick. Conan still seems mildly annoyed about it, though.
  • 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.
  • Wunza Plot: The fictional crime drama/action show starring Conan and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Ford on SWars Holiday Special

Conan O'Brien surprises and embarrasses Harrison Ford by showing a clip of the Star Wars Holiday Special.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / CreatorBacklash

Media sources: