Late Night with Conan O'Brien

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Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an American late night television talk show on NBC featuring varied comedic material and celebrity interviews. From the show's inception until May 2000, Andy Richter served as co-host alongside Conan O'Brien. O'Brien is currently the sole host of the show and is scheduled to leave in 2009 to take over The Tonight Show. Various sources have hinted towards comedy writer Robert Smigel as the replacement for Conan's 12:30 ET slot, with NBC possibly trying to repeat the success they had with Conan of ushering in another relatively unknown writer to the Late Night circuit, although nothing has been confirmed.

Late Night has followed The Tonight Show on the NBC network since 1982. The Tonight Show has always had more viewers than Late Night. However, Late Night has always had a stronger hold on the much sought-after 25 to 35 age bracket than The Tonight Show, which tends to attract older viewers.

In September 1993, O'Brien replaced David Letterman, long time host of the Late Night with David Letterman, when Letterman left NBC to host the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. Since Letterman's new program was similar to his NBC show, many sources consider O'Brien's program to be a new and separate entity, although it is technically a continuation of Letterman's Late Night.

 and O'Brien in .
Christina Applegate and O'Brien in 1998.

O'Brien's comic style was influenced greatly by the absurdist farce of Monty Python and the physical comedy and wild vocalizing of Robin Williams. Like his Late Night predecessor, David Letterman, O'Brien's humor also has a streak of biting sarcasm. O'Brien often playfully chides his audience for underwhelming or overly enthusiastic response to his jokes.

The show's first three years under O'Brien were generally considered mediocre, but by 1996 he had found his comic voice and it quickly returned to the cult status it had enjoyed under Letterman's tenure. During the 10th anniversary show in 2003, Mr. T observed that fact by handing Conan a chain with a large gold "7" on it:

Conan: But Mr. T, we've been on the air for ten years!
Mr. T: I know 'dat, foo', but you only been funny for seven!

O'Brien began his stint at Late Night after serving as a writer for The Simpsons.

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Conan poking fun at the show's new HDTV format.

O'Brien's show also launched the career of Robert Smigel's Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

Drummer Max Weinberg of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band fame, leads the "Max Weinberg Seven."

Late Night began broadcasting in 1080i ATSC on April 26 2005, with a downscaled letterboxed NTSC simulcast. Conan celebrated the conversion to the widescreen HDTV format with jokes throughout the week.


Famous sketches

  • Actual Items - A parody of Jay Leno's Headlines segment on The Tonight Show in which Leno finds humorous mistakes in various newspapers. Conan's bit takes regular newspaper ads and stories and adds blatantly fake text, repeatedly insisting "these are real" and "you can't make this stuff up" while showing them.
  • Assassination - Conan invites a guest who supposedly is privy to an upcoming, well-kept secret, who is shot before he can reveal what he knows. For example, shortly before the final episode of Seinfeld, an actor appearing on the show began talking about what the final episode would be about; a few words in, an assassin shoots him in the chest.
  • Car Chases - Conan explains that television shows' ratings go up when they cut to a car chase in action. He tells the audience that Late Night will begin doing this, however there are no car chases in Manhattan due to traffic congestion. So Late Night stages their own car chases using model houses and toy cars to replicate a car chase. The toy cars are pulled by thin cord as a camera gets a shot that looks like it might be from a helicopter.
  • Fake Celebrity Interviews - This sketch relys heavily on the low budget filming method Syncro-Vox. A TV screen is lowered down to the seat where the interviewed would actually sit. On the screen is a still image of a celebrity, with live video of the mouth of the back stage impersonator superimposed—because of this method, the fake interviews are also called the "Clutch Cargo routine," after the 1959 cartoon, that is the most widely remembered user of Syncro-Vox. Commonly impersonated celebrities are Arnold Schwarzenegger, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson, and Donald Trump.
  • Celebrity Secrets - Features celebrities of different genres (musicians, actors, etc.) in a jail cell, smoking a cigarette and downing hard liquor, usually telling some humorous "secret" that we did not know about them previously.
  • Celebrity Survey - This is where Conan supposedly sent out surveys to celebrities and he reads off their replies. Usually the first two read off are normal and expected. Then the 3rd is funny and often relates to some sort of scandal or movie the celebrity is known for.
  • Clive Clemmons Inappropriate Response Channel - supposedly a new cable TV channel, short skits ending with wildly inappropriate comments are punctuated by heavy-metal guitarist Clemmons playing a blistering solo and screaming the word "Inappropriate".
  • Conan O'Brien Hates My Homeland - The premise of the skit began when O'Brien alleged to have received angry letters from viewers in Ukraine after mocking that nation in another recurring skit, New Euro Coins. Unaware that his show was even airing in Ukraine, O'Brien reads fast-paced insults of each of the nations of the world in alphabetical order supposedly to determine where else the show is being aired without his knowledge. O'Brien insults about 5-10 countries (with a bell ringing between each one) each time the bit airs. A sample insult: "Georgia: It's where Europe and Asia get together to dump their trash." Announcer Joel Godard then requests more angry letters from insulted viewers around the world. For reasons unknown the viewers in Finland began sending mail before the bit had even gotten to the letter F. Starting with only one post-card that was shown on the show it was quickly followed by overwhelming amount of post-cards that apparently forced Conan to give Finland a formal apology, going as far as having the flag of Finland shown in the background during his speech and slandering the Finns' hated neighbour Sweden with a board with the words "Sweden Sucks!" printed over the flag of Sweden.
  • Conan on the Aisle - Conan reviews movies currently in cinemas and comments on the good qualities, then he shows an edited scene. An example: When Conan was reviewing Jurassic Park III, he mentioned that the movie had scenes that were disgusting and weird. An edited scene then appeared where the main characters ran and were surprised by a dinosaur which opened its mouth to roar. Edited by Late Night into the dinosaur's mouth was the parents' lost child, who says hello to the parents.
  • Conan Sings a Lullaby - Conan explains that many viewers are new parents trying to get their baby to sleep and he will help them, so he begins with a nice lullaby, then takes advantage of a baby's lack of understanding of language and mentions things adults would find horrible in a soothing way while shocking images appear on screen after soothing ones. The show's musical guests occasionally take part in this skit as well.
  • Desk Drive - Conan invites an audience member to ride his desk around out side with him. He actually is in front of a blue screen and he holds a steering wheel. The bluescreen displays scenes of the road and the out doors. Usually they get into humorous situations on the road. For example as they went through a rural area animals "humped" or attempted to mate with him.
  • Donald Trump Impression - Conan's impression of Donald Trump has him tugging on his hair, sucking his cheeks in, and using Trump's catchphrase "You're fired!" as the Max Weinberg Seven plays the intro to "Money" by the O'Jays. Usually performed any time Trump is mentioned in the monologue.
  • Frankenstein Wastes A Minute of Our Time - This sketch is performed before any celebrities are introduced. Frankenstein's monster (played by crew member Brian Stack) appears by one of the doors leading from the main set, acting excited about something, and inviting the cameraman (and the audience, vicariously) to come with him to take a look. Invariably, what he finds is extremely mundane, although it is usually near something that is considerably more interesting, and it may seem at first, to the unfamiliar, that it is that more interesting item that is being shown. Sometimes, a celebrity guest will be the more interesting item (Tom Hanks is an example, as he was in the building during the sketch, and Frankenstein moved him out of the way to show off an electric socket). Being as NBC owns Universal, the Frankenstein monster looking like the one from the movies and sharing the same logo in the sketch title as Universal's monster is no coincidence; neither is the sketch also appearing shortly after the buy-out.
  • Guest Autographs - Conan shows the audience some autographs supposedly from guests on his show (although the fictitious autographs are often from celebrities which have never appeared on the program). The messages left by the celebrity often mock a movie or scandal the celebrity is currently involved in, or may mock O'Brien in some way.
  • The Hole In The Floor - A hole on the floor in front of Conan's desk that is actually a special effect projected into the scene. Conan throws objects through it and generally hassles the office worker below.
  • In the Year 2000 - The sketch is typically performed after a celebrity guest has been introduced, as the guest participates in the sketch, although during Andy Richter's tenure as Conan's sidekick, he would participate. Its introduction is as follows:
Conan: ... It's time, once again, to look into the future.
Andy/Guest: The future, Conan?
Conan: Yes, the future. All the way... to the year 2000.
During an "In the Year 2000" sketch, O'Brien and either Andy or the celebrity, as well as band member Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg, each wear a futuristic-looking collar and hold a lit flashlight to their face. Between La Bamba's otherworldy wails of "In the year 2000...", O'Brien and Andy/the celebrity guest trade jokes, some based on current events, in the form of fake predictions. The sketch was invented prior to the actual year 2000, but the show's writers decided to keep the year the same, in a sort of ironic twist. A compilation book of "In The Year 2000" predictions from the show was released in 1999.
  • New Characters - Conan tells us that it is time for new additions to be added to Late Night's current characters, such as The 'Masturbating Bear'. New additions are often more ridiculous than ones before. Such as 'Cactus Chef Playing "We Didn't Start the Fire" On Flute'.
  • New College Mascots - New fictional college mascots are introduced and often make fun of the college or its surrounding area.
  • Holiday Pictures - Conan, Max, and Joel have recently had a party and he displays the ridiculous and fictional events of this party celebrating a recent holiday. Invariably, these events typically include heavy drinking and rather gory violence/homicide on the part of one or all of the cast.
  • If They Mated - Features pictures of two famous celebrities (who are usually dating) are shown; the pictures are then combined into a grotesque new picture of what their offspring would look like if they mated. The segment became so successful that it later spawned a book.
  • "I'ma Gonna Go To Hell When I Die" - a rousing gospel-styled song, started on November 12, 2004, that has no lyrics other than its title. Often sung by Conan during his monologue after the audience finds one of his jokes distasteful.
  • Krunk - During the first two seasons of the show, beginning in early 1994. O'Brien encouraged guests to insert the word Krunk into their conversations. On April 30, 2004, American Idol judge Randy Jackson used "krunked" during the show, but by then O'Brien had no idea what Jackson was talking about.
  • Kids' Drawings - Children have recently visited the Late Night studio for school. They all drew pictures of their field trip. However they are odd and fictional. They most often center around supposed guests on the show, although other themes are common (such as band leader Max Weinberg's various sexual indescretions).
  • The Walker, Texas Ranger Lever - It sprung from NBC's purchase of entertainment company Universal in early 2004, thus forming the media conglomerate NBC Universal. Conan introduced this lever, which allowed him to play a video clip from the television show Walker, Texas Ranger at any time he wanted to, without paying a dime in royalties. The clips from the Chuck Norris series were sometimes taken out of context, other times not. Each clip was often extremely funny and Conan would comment on each clip's absurdity after it aired. In late summer 2004, the bit seemed to have been retired as Chuck Norris walked in and fired a prop gun at Conan. A pre-taped bit also showed Norris "beating" Conan up with karate. On March 8, 2005, the lever returned to the show. The clips are so random that once, the lever triggered a Walker, Texas Ranger clip and the Beverly Hills Cop theme song simultaneously. Notably, the premise of the bit was technically incorrect, since Walker was owned by CBS, Sony Pictures Television, and a few other companies; Walker just ran on NBC Universal-owned USA Network at the time.
  • The Man with Bulletproof Legs - an obnoxious man, in a mock-Vaudeville dance, sings that he "has bulletproof legs." Invariably, a shadowy figure pulls out a gun and shoots him in the chest, which apparently isn't bulletproof.
  • New Reality-TV Formats
  • New Stamps/State Quarters/Euros - Conan says he has 'connections' and has been given designs for new commemorative stamps, state quarters, or Euros that insult the state or country.
  • Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage - A long-running comedy bit in which Late Night staffer Pierre Bernard Jr. sits in a recliner and relates a story that has angered him personally recently. This tale is always a long, drawn-out personal tale delivered in a soft-spoken tone that usually involves some sort of comic-book, sci-fi-related, or similarly esoteric medium.
  • Pleasing the Affiliates - Conan attempts to please local affiliates by responding to their fictional requests for positive mention.
  • SAT Analogy - Conan helps students with their standardized exams by providing satirised SAT analogies based on current events. Although, the newest SAT format has dropped analogies, Conan has said that the segment will continue to be aired.
  • Satellite TV - Conan shares the extra channels that the large satellite dish fictionally picks up. Some channels are named things like 'Looks Like A Gentile - Sounds Like A Jew' - this particular channel displayed clips of people that looked like a gentile speaking with a stereotypical Jewish voice.
  • Staring Contest - a famous skit held while Andy Richter still served as O'Brien's co-host. A homage to the game show Make Me Laugh, Andy (unlike Conan) would be subjected to a series of purely physical-comedy skits taking place behind O'Brien, usually insulting and disgusting, which would eventually force Richter to look away. On the last episode Richter served as co-host, the show subjected O'Brien to the skits instead; this was the only time Richter ever won the staring contest.
  • Small Talk Moment - Conan and Max make small talk about something, for instance reality television or college basketball. The result is usually that both Max and Conan end up talking a lot about a single event speaking in rapid sucession ending usually with an agreement. Once they are done they stare at one another in dull fashion has the camera goes back and forth on them. A recent occurrence of this bit ended with Conan and Max discussing a recent television movie based on the series "Mork and Mindy."
  • String Dance - A common trait of Conan's monologue, Conan mimes attaching strings to his hips and pulls them, shaking his hips back and forth until he "cuts" one of the strings, dropping the attached hip.
  • What in the World? - Conan is shown an extremely zoomed in portion of a picture. He throws out a wild guess as to what he is looking at, at which point the picture zooms out. Then Conan tries again, although it's not yet evident what the picture is of. It zooms out again, and the picture is now recognizable and fairly mundane, for instance a celebrity or other normal situation. The final time it zooms out, something has been added or changed in the picture to produce comedy. The opening audio cue for this bit is an annoying sounding man saying "What in the world?" which Conan often asks to have repeated.

Annual sketches

  • Central Time Zone New Year Countdown - Aired each New Year's Eve, Late Night is the only show to do a countdown to midnight for the Central Time Zone of the USA. Each year the Late Night staff creates a skit when the New Year starts. In 2003, the skit was announcer Joel Godard lying down on a table while an Asian man wearing a Speedo lands on top of him at the stroke of midnight. The 2005 celebration had O'Brien joined by a group of costumed characters to represent various midwestern locales including Abraham Lincoln (Springfield, Illinois), a Green Bay Packers 'cheesehead' fan, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (Kansas), and Prince (Minneapolis). Because the next two New Years Eve holidays fall on weekends, O'Brien will be unable to do this special show again until December 31, 2007. The sketch's premise fails in at least one market, where other programming is aired between The Tonight Show and Late Night.


  • Abe Vigoda, an actor who sometimes appears on the show and acts senile
  • Adrian Foster ("but my friends call me Raisin"), a hippie folk singer playing an autoharp (Brian McCann)
  • Artie Candle, the singing ghost from the late 1930's (Brian Stack)
  • Cactus Chef playing 'We Didn't Start The Fire' on a flute
  • Cameltoe Annie
  • Carl 'Oldy' Olsen (William Preston)
  • Chinese Fabio
  • Cloppy, the Late Night Horse
  • Cobb, the Living Ear of Corn
  • Coked-Up Werewolf (Kevin Dorff)
  • Eyeballs O'Shaughnessy (Brian McCann)
  • FedEx Pope (Brian McCann)
  • Fidel Castro Rabbit DJ
  • Frankenstein of "Frankenstein Wastes a Minute of Our Time" (Brian Stack)
  • Gun-Toting, NASCAR Driving Jesus (Andrew Secunda)
  • The Guy Who is Protected From Three-Inch Bees
  • Hannigan the Traveling salesman (Brian Stack)
  • Hunky Newcomer (Eli Newell)
  • Jerry Butters, the 4 AM timeslot talkshow host (Brian McCann)
  • Joel Godard, the Late Night Announcer (himself)
  • Kilty McBagpipes (Brian Stack)
  • Leonard Diesel, Vin Diesel's Brother (Andy Blitz)
  • Little Jay Leno (Joe Fatale)
  • Mansy, the Half Man/Half Pansy
  • Masturbating Bear (Michael Gordon)
  • Max Weinberg, drummer of the Max Weinberg Seven, often portrayed as a pervert and sexual deviant (himself)
  • Pierre Bernard, graphic designer, of "Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage" (himself)
  • Pimpbot 5000 (Brian McCann)
  • Preparation H Raymond (Brian McCann)
  • Robot on a Toilet
  • Shoeverine, a Wolverine-like character with shoes instead of metal claws
  • Stacy, Andy Richter's little sister (Amy Poehler)
  • They Might be Slipnuts (formerly known as Slipnuts, a band that 'just happened' to be actually booked on the same show with Slipknot, and later with They Might be Giants) (Andy Blitz, Jon Glaser, Brian Stack)
  • The Trekkie, wearing a costume of Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Protests any non-Trek sci-fi movie or television series.
  • The World's Fastest Menorah, Bungee-Jumping Baby Jesus, and the Rocket-Powered Fruitcake, rivals to the Christmas Tree outside the show's building, Rockefeller Center. The tree stump left from the tree when it was cut down is also a Late Night monument.
  • Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog
  • Vomiting Kermit

External links

fi:Late Night with Conan O'Brien


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