Conan O'Brien

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Conan O'Brien (2019)

Conan Christopher O'Brien (* 18th April 1963 in Brookline , Massachusetts ) is an American talk show - presenter , comedian , actor , television producer and author .

He became known as the presenter of his late night shows Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1993-2009) and the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (2009-2010) on NBC and his current show Conan (since 2010) on TBS .


Childhood and youth

Conan O'Brien was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston . He is a descendant of Irish immigrants and the third of six children. He has three brothers and two sisters. His father, Dr. Thomas O'Brien, is a medical researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School specializing in infectious diseases. His mother, Ruth Reardon O'Brien, works as a lawyer with the Ropes & Gray law firm in Boston. His sister Jane O'Brien is a comedy writer and producer.

After graduating from Brookline High School , Conan O'Brien studied at Harvard . Throughout his entire university career, he wrote for the satirical magazine Harvard Lampoon , for which he was the first person since the 1920s and the second person to serve as president for two consecutive years (two terms in office). He graduated magna cum laude in American literature and history.


Conan O'Brien (2006)

Conan O'Brien moved to Los Angeles immediately after graduating from college and became a member of the writing team for Not Necessarily the News on HBO . He held this position for two years, during which time he appeared regularly with improvisational comedians such as The Groundlings . In order to supplement his income, he also took part in long-term commercials ("Infomercials").

After Not Necessarily the News he became the FOX writer and fan of a new show called The Wilton North Report , a show that (the producers wanted) would revolutionize television. In a way, it did, it was so hated by the audience and had such bad ratings that when the dismissal was announced in a FOX meeting after just four weeks, there was spontaneous applause. The next station for Conan O'Brien was the Happy Happy Good Show , a stage show in Chicago .

In January 1988, O'Brien was hired by Lorne Michaels as a sketch writer for the classic comedy show Saturday Night Live ( NBC ). In the three and a half years he worked there, he created notable skits such as Mr. Short-Term Memory and The Girl Watchers , in which Tom Hanks and Jon Lovitz appeared. He also wrote the sketch Nude Beach , which caused a sensation because the word "penis" was used 42 times in it, mostly wrapped in one song. He also appeared in some scenes himself, occasionally with a speaking role. He and the other writers on Saturday Night Live received an Emmy in 1989 for their work .

He also wrote the pilot for a new television series, and when the station decided to produce it, O'Brien left Saturday Night Live in the spring of 1991 . The series was to be called Lookwell , with Adam West as the lead actor, and he was also involved in the script as a co-writer. It should go new ways, comedy without well-rehearsed laughter or studio audience, all previously applicable rules should be broken. When the pilot aired, it had the second worst ratings in the station's history. Conan O'Brien was again without a job.

In the fall of 1991, the broadcaster FOX took him as a writer and producer for the series The Simpsons under contract, where he also worked as a senior producer. In a speech he gave in 2000 at his alma mater Harvard, he paid tribute to his "rescue" by The Simpsons , as his career was somewhat stalled at that time. As the best Simpsons episode he wrote, he called "Marge vs. the Monorail ”(German“ Homer gets going ”). Overall, he was named as the author of four episodes, in other episodes he was listed as a producer, which, according to the customs of US television, means that his contributions were not extensive enough to be mentioned in the list of authors. O'Brien himself later had a brief guest role with the Simpsons in the episode "Bart Gets Famous" (Eng. "Bart Gets Famous").

When David Letterman moved from NBC to CBS in 1993 , a major casting was held on the set of the Tonight Show at NBC's Burbank Studio 1 in Los Angeles. With Letterman taking its late night show to its new broadcaster CBS virtually unchanged, NBC needed a completely new show.

O'Brien's guests on his April 13, 1993 test show were Mimi Rogers and Jason Alexander . On April 26, 1993 he was offered the job as the new late night host and the development of a new late night show, whereupon he left his contract with FOX. From then on he moderated the Late Night with Conan O'Brien .
On September 27, 2004, host Jay Leno announced that he would be leaving his Tonight Show in 2009 and Conan O'Brien would continue the show. On June 1st, 2009 the new Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien started . The Late Night Show on NBC has hosted comedian and actor Jimmy Fallon since March 2, 2009 .

As it soon came to disagreements between Conan O'Brien and NBC, this left the Tonight Show again, which was hosted again from March 2010 to February 2014 by Leno, before he was in turn inherited by Fallon. O'Brien, on the other hand, received millions in compensation from NBC. Since November 2010 O'Brien has a new show on the US cable broadcaster TBS .

Conan O'Brien hosted the Emmy Awards Show in 2003 and 2006 . He also runs the television production company Conaco , which works with NBC to develop new programs. The first result of this co-production was the series Lost (2001), of which only three episodes were broadcast. In 2006 he was executive producer and co-writer of the pilot for the Andy Barker PI series with Andy Richter in the title role. This series was also canceled after a few episodes due to poor ratings. In 2012 he made a cameo on an episode of How I Met Your Mother (season 7, episode 17).

On November 11th, 2016, he was on Gute Zeiten, Bad Zeiten in the guest role of Johnny J. Smith, for which he recited a few sentences in German.

The show Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1993-2009)

The beginnings

On April 26, 1993, Conan O'Brien received an offer from producer Lorne Michaels to replace David Letterman with the famous Late Night with on NBC. The show went on the air on September 13, 1993 and received almost consistently bad reviews for the first two to three years. It is reported that those in charge of the station had already given up on the show and it was about to be canceled, but it was allowed to continue on a weekly decision as there was nothing better to broadcast on that slot. O'Brien has attributed the lack of popularity in the early days of the show to his interview technique, which was still in need of improvement. In an early opening credits of the show, these inadequacies were self-deprecatingly caricatured by depicting O'Brien as a cartoon character breaking into a sweat and nervously fiddling with his tie. Until 2000, O'Brien had Andy Richter at his side as a sidekick , i.e. as co-moderator, contact person and keyword.


The show got better and more successful over time and developed into a figurehead of the late night format on US television. It stood out from the rest of the genre and was able to record guests who otherwise closed themselves to this form of public relations. Although the target group was actually more the young audience, the show had its most loyal fans, especially among seniors. O'Brien and his team have been nominated annually for an Emmy since 1996 and eventually won an Emmy in 2007 for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program . In 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004, Late Night with Conan O'Brien was awarded the Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy. In 2003, a two-hour special broadcast of the show was on the tenth anniversary. By 2006, Late Night with Conan O'Brien had an average of 2.5 million viewers over eleven years, making it the most successful show in this broadcast time frame.


The show usually consisted of the monologue in which O'Brien made fun of events and people from the world of politics and celebrities, a comedy main part and the talk (usually two guests), followed by an appearance by a musician , a band or a comedian. Additional bits (small sketches) were often shown between these fixed components . Numerous bizarre characters, rituals and rubrics were developed for these bits , which were used at irregular intervals. For example the Masturbating Bear , the photo story , Little Jay Leno , In the Year 2000 , the String Dance (O'Brien as a marionette ), Cloppy the Horse or Vomiting Kermit ("puking Kermit"). The announcer of the show, Joel Godard , the band leader Max Weinberg and (with minor roles) the musician Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg, as well as the American actor Abe Vigoda were often involved in these sketches.


The show's own character Triumph, The Insult Comic Dog , became internationally known in 2005 when Eminem recorded the song Ass Like That with her , which was also released as a single. This character, a hand puppet in the shape of a dog, was led and spoken by comedian and author Robert Smigel .

In Europe, particularly in Finland, O'Brien caused a sensation in 2006 when he tried to influence the Finnish presidential elections with his show, but he made strict use of comedy. The reason was a certain resemblance between O'Brien and Tarja Halonen , the Finnish president who was up for re-election in January 2006. Conan O'Brien sided with Halonen on his show because of this resemblance alone and produced absurd campaigns in Finnish that were shown on Finnish television. The similarity between O'Brien and Halonen became a running gag and O'Brien traveled to Finland to film a one-hour special, which made him even more popular there. Halonen, who eventually won the election, received O'Brien in her office during his visit to Finland. What influence O'Brien's campaign actually had on the rather narrow election result was not commented on in more detail.

In the last few weeks of 2007, the show was completely suspended due to the strike by the writers' guild of America . O'Brien went back on the air in 2008, initially without authors. In the programs he left out typical, especially political gags. On his own initiative and conception, he did what he could think of for his show. To do this, he consistently used absurdity. For example, he competently turned his wedding ring on the table and let the time be taken, he let guests of the audience plunder the internal candy machines for $ 500 and gave everything away to the audience, or he satirically portrayed a typical German light show in an imaginary disco , accompanied by scraps of German-like language.


The stylistically very versatile band of the show, made up of top-class musicians, was led by drummer Max Weinberg, who became known for his many years as a studio and tour musician for Bruce Springsteen . Weinberg's formality, along with the occasional nod to his alleged sexual debauchery, made up one of the show's running gags . Guitarist and arranger Jimmy Vivino and Jerry Vivino (saxophone) are brothers of the entertainer "Uncle Floyd" Vivino. The theme music for Late Night with Conan O'Brien was written by John Lurie , who had also applied to be the band leader.

Recording and broadcast

A ticket to Late Night with Conan O'Brien .

Late Night with Conan O'Brien was produced in New York at NBC's Rockefeller Center studio 6A. The show, which was free to enter, was usually recorded in the afternoon. In Europe, the show was broadcast on the stock exchange channel CNBC Europe until the end of 2008 .

The show The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (2009-2010)

Takeover of the Tonight Show

On February 20, 2009, the last episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien was recorded. On September 27, 2004, for the show's 50th anniversary, NBC had announced that O'Brien would take over the Tonight Show in 2009 . Since June 1, 2009, the Tonight Show was hosted by O'Brien, who succeeded Jay Leno on this broadcast slot. Jay Leno took on a new prime time show . Both programs continuously lost viewers in the following months. NBC decided to return Jay Leno's show to its old airtime. O'Brien refused to agree to postpone his show, which is why in late January 2010 The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien was discontinued.

The last episode aired on January 22, 2010 on NBC. Guests were Tom Hanks , Steve Carell , Neil Young and Will Ferrell . NBC paid $ 45 million in compensation, of which $ 33 million goes to O'Brien and the remainder to his team.


The broadcast was recorded in a specially built studio on the premises of Universal Studios in Los Angeles . Much was taken from O'Brien's old show after the Tonight Show was taken over and carried over to the new show. Most of his team and his show band, the Max Weinberg 7 (under the name Max Weinberg and the Tonight Show Band ) followed him to Los Angeles. The successor to long-time Late Night with Conan O'Brien Show announcer Joel Godard was Andy Richter as a sidekick , who had already accompanied O'Brien's first Late Night Show from 1993 to 2000. The basic structure was largely retained and tailored to a wider audience.

In addition to the monologue as the introduction to his show and the talk with mostly two prominent guests, there were well-known rituals and rubrics, such as In the Year 3000 , but also new bits , such as the Twitter tracker , in which O'Brien and an off-camera are -Voice made fun of statements made by celebrities on the microblogging service Twitter . His sidekick Andy Richter tried it in the Andy'll try it! discovered bizarre objects on television and assessed them. Another column was Conan's Tabloid Moments , in which O'Brien had himself spontaneously photographed in embarrassing situations. A musical guest or a comedian usually performed at the end of the show.

The show Conan (since 2010)

Conan , the new late night show from Conan O'Brien, has been running on TBS since November 8, 2010 . The show is recorded in Studio 15 at Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles. Both Andy Richter and the show band (now as Basic Cable Band ) are part of the new show again, but Max Weinberg decided to return to his former home in New York and Jimmy Vivino became the new band leader.

The show has so far (as of May 2017) dispensed with most of the characters and rubrics introduced in Late Night with Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien . The character Triumph has so far been the only old character to appear on Conan . There have been reports that NBC owns the rights to these elements and therefore cannot use them at TBS. Other sources say that O'Brien made a conscious decision not to use these elements at first and it is entirely possible that some of them will appear in the future.


Since January 12, 2002, Conan O'Brien has been married to advertising specialist Elizabeth Powel. The couple have two children.


After O'Brien, Conan , a male Belgian Malinois and military dog ​​of the US Delta Forces, was named.

Web links

Commons : Conan O'Brien  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  2. Good times, bad times: US presenter Conan O'Brien on his GZSZ guest role . RTL Television . November 12, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  3. by whom, where?
  4. Star talker O'Brien is defeated by Leno. In: Spiegel Online , January 21, 2010.