Happy Thanksgiving everybody! We made it this far into 2020 and I hope we make it this far into 2021!! Hope everyone is staying home and enjoying their heavily spiked egg nog and have their feet up on the couch enjoying not dying from some horrible virus.
Let’s talk about a true anomaly in the biz – Conan O’Brien.
Conan, as goes the lore, attended and completed a degree at the prestigious Harvard University. If you were not aware, Harvard is where National Lampoon Magazine was born, which is where the National Lampoon movies came from. Conan was President of the magazine twice while in Harvard – which is a feat that was only accomplished once before, by Peter Benchley in 1912. So apparently his classmates thought he was a riot, or as they say, the cat’s pajamas.
After Harvard, Conan went to Los Angeles to begin a comedy writing career. I’d say he was rather successful. He began with a writing stint on the HBO hit – Not Necessarily The News. After that he went on to the big time and began writing for SNL and Lorne Michael’s crazy team. It was there he won an Emmy for his comedy writing. Conan stayed there for 3 years before moving on to the historic animated series, The Simpsons. It was at The Simpsons that he began getting Supervising Producer credit as well as writing credits. Conan stayed there for about a year before Johnny Carson retired and turned the world upside down.
Once Carson retired, the late night talk show format and world would change forever. Jay Leno wanted it, Letterman wanted it, other comic power houses showed interest in it. I think we all remember what happened so long ago. Jay Leno took it, Letterman quit NBC and went to CBS, creating a void and Lorne Michaels chose Conan to try and fill Letterman’s shoes at Late Night.
Conan was not a favorite of the NBC brass – he was never in front of the camera and they were leery about him to say the least. Everyone knew he could write, but could he connect with a crowd, be natural on camera and deliver jokes and punchlines? NBC was so leery about Conan, they only renewed his Late Night show in 13 week intervals. Talk about performing with a gun to your head. Maybe this made him better, who knows. Obviously, he not only survived, he thrived. O’Brien lasted from 1993-2009 on the show. A great 16 years as host of Late Night for NBC.
Jay Leno retired at that time, and the NBC brass gave the show to Conan, for 7 months.
After the embarrassing debacle of giving Conan the show and taking it back, Conan went to TBS to do a show, and there he stayed … until now.
After an unreal 28 years later – Conan will stop doing nightly shows. He has just signed on to HBO MAX to do a weekly show, which his company will produce, so nobody loses their job. Something both Jay Leno and Conan are very stern about. They are extremely loyal to their amazing staff and will always try to find work, mostly for their sake, more so then for their own.
Conan began his relationship with WarnerMedia (HBO) when they hired him to do a show called Conan Without Borders. Kind of a take on chef Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Where a celebrity travels to new places and gets immersed in their culture and their food. The show was enough of a success that WarnerMedia wanted to go deeper into business with Conan and he jumped at the chance.
28 years hosting a nightly talk show is no easy feat. Carson, the king of late night – did it for 30 years, and was the number 1 rated show for all 30. Letterman did it for 33 years, not being number 1 for most of his run on two networks, and Jay Leno did it for 22 years, all on NBC’s The Tonight Show. Those are the big legends in daily Late Night Talk shows, and now I think we can put Conan O’Brien up there, who was always on the outside looking in, for some unknown reason. No network ever put their faith in him, even TBS made him change his format to a one hour to a half hour show, and he did so gracefully.
This year at Thanksgiving, I want us all to be grateful for a talent like Conan O’Brien’s. A funny, smart, quick-witted man who was bullied and bossed around but never gave up. Let us wish him well on his new venture into streaming, and hope he has as much success there as he has had his whole career. Conan O’Brien, 28 years in the daily late night show biz – scrimped, scrounged, was pushed, was fired, and came back time and time again to make us laugh and to do what he loves to do.
This year, I know I am thankful for Conan.
Thanks for reading – see ya next thursday here at PlaceToBeNation.com