Once a Letterman wannabe, Conan O’Brien truly came out on his own. He was the host of Late Night with Conan O’Brien which ran successfully for 14 seasons, and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien for less than one season.
There’s no doubt about it — Conan has blossomed from a virtual unknown to one of the cornerstones of late night comedy. He has been currently hosting his most recent late night talk show, simply titled Conan, since 2010. Get to know everyone’s favorite redhead with more facts that you probably didn’t know!
Conan went to great lengths just to show his full support towards the marriage of one of his staff members. In 2011, he was ordained a minister by the Universal Life Church Monastery which would allow him to perform same-sex marriages in New York, where it is legal. Conan officiated a marriage between his staff member and his partner, and the ceremony was even broadcast on Conan.
When Conan took over the Late Night seat after former host David Letterman moved to CBS, NBC initially had zero confidence in his capabilities. That’s why the network offered the ex-The Simpsons and SNL writer a weekly contract as they were looking for a replacement. That didn’t happen, of course, and Conan stayed for the next 13 seasons.
Conan had some high expectations to meet within his family. His father, Thomas Francis, is a epidemiologist and a medical professor at Harvard University. His mother, Ruth, is a lawyer.
Conan himself is also impressive. He studied history and literature at Harvard and graduated there magna cum laude. During his college years O’Brien served as president for the satirical magazine The Harvard Lampoon. He is one proof that funny people tend to have big brains!
Even while attending Harvard, Conan still got a kick out of pulling a lot of pranks. The Harvard Lampoon, where he served as president, invited actor Burt Ward to speak at the university. Ward also decided to bring his 1960s Batman and Robin‘s Robin costume along.
While Ward was giving his speech, his Robin cape disappeared. It turned out that Conan masterminded the staged heist — he and his henchmen posed as fake security guards. Luckily, Ward took it in stride, and hours later Conan returned the costume to him.
Fans of Late Night will surely and fondly remember Stacey, the dorky kid “sister” of Conan’s sidekick Andy Richter. Wearing scary-looking head braces, Stacy had a huge crush on Conan, and her admiration (or obsession) towards him was both sweet and terrifying.
Comedian Amy Poehler would guest-star as Stacy a lot of times on Late Night. Of course, Poehler is now known as one of the cast members of Saturday Night Live.
Even if you’re a famous comedian like Conan, having stalkers who terrorize you on and off the clock is otherwise no laughing matter!
In 2006, Conan had been reportedly stalked by a priest in Boston named Father David Ajemian. After being denied a place in the Late Night audience, Ajemian became furious. As a result, he sent the talk show host a barrage of letters, always ending each of them with “your priest stalker,” and even hinted at a death threat. He also contacted Conan’s parents.
Ajemian was apprehended and arrested while he was trying to force his way into the NBC studios. After he stood trial, he pleaded guilty. He was also ordered to sign a 2-year restraining order which prohibited him from having any contact with Conan.
Conan briefly took over The Tonight Show in 2009, after its longtime host Jay Leno’s contract expired. He later found himself tangled in the middle of the “late night” conflict/PR mess in 2010 which prompted him to leave NBC. He then moved to TBS network to host his eponymous show Conan, a return to his late-night roots.
The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien‘s first guest was Will Ferrell, while Pearl Jam was the show’s first musical act.
Conan was also the oldest person to be named as The Tonight Show‘s new host (he was 46 at the time).
Hanks began to call Conan “Coco” while guesting The Tonight Show. Something which Conan — or Coco — wasn’t at all thrilled about. But the nickname stuck.
Some people who worked for Conan O’Brien during his Late Night years have become successful in their own right. They include Bob Odenkirk (best known for his role as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad), John Krasinski of The Office (who used to be an intern for Late Night), and Louis CK.
When Conan was offered to host Late Night, The Simpsons producers tried to make him stay as he still had one more year on his contract to fulfill. However, NBC agreed to pay half of Conan’s salary for the whole remaining year, and Conan paid the other half — it cost him up to $130,000. Fortunately, his decision to become a late night talk show host turned out quite favorably on his part.
Conan O’Brien provided entertainment as a writer for the Simpsons and Saturday Night Live, as well as being a late-night host. With these fun facts about him, you will get to know him more.
Did you Know?
- The host of the Tonight Show Johnny Carson was a significant influence on O’Brien. His father would permit O’Brien to stay up late on Fridays to watch Johnny Carson’s Monologue. Additionally, SCTV and Warner Brothers cartoons had a big impact on O’Brien.
- O’Brien traveled to Cuba in 2015 with the cast of his show to tape several remote segments. Since Jack Paar’s The Jack Paar Tonight Show was recorded there in 1959, no late-night television host had previously taped a show there.
- Dennis Leary, an actor, and comedian from New England is a third cousin of O’Brien.
- On the set of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, O’Brien conducted his initial audition for the position of host of the new Late Night show. Jason Alexander and actress Mimi Rogers attended O’Brien’s audition as guests. It is reported that O’Brien was chosen for the role over others who auditioned, including Jon Stewart, Drew Carey, and Paul Provenza.
- One Late Night with Conan O’Brien episode from 2003 was entirely animated with claymation. David Bowie, Richard Lewis, and Johnny Knoxville were among the show’s guests.
- O’Brien had no other work lined up and had no idea what he was going to do when he left his position as a writer for SNL in 1991. He said, “I had no plan whatsoever. I was literally in this big transition phase in my life where I decided, I’ll just walk around New York City, and idea will come to me.” Soon after, O’Brien received a call from The Simpsons offering him a job as a writer. With that, O’Brien believes that The Simpsons saved his professional life.
- For years, O’Brien tried to get the well-known gonzo author Hunter S. Thompson to appear on his show. Thompson had always refused until he accepted O’Brien’s offer on one condition: O’Brien and his crew would fly to Thompson’s farm in upstate New York to film the segment remotely from the farm, and O’Brien and Thompson would engage in gunplay and drink hard liquor. O’Brien agreed and filmed a wild scene in which he shot the NBC peacock with a machine gun while drunk.
- O’Brien’s nose is not the one he was born with. Not because he sought out cosmetic surgery but because of what happened to him in his High School days. O’Brien revealed during his interview on Marc Maron’s podcast that he was beaten by a street gang while still in high school.
- In September 2006, David Ajemian, a Roman Catholic priest, started stalking O’Brien. The problem got started when the priest got denied entry into the audience of a Late Night taping. Ajemian threatened O’Brien using letters and once he attempted to break into a Late Night taping before being arrested.
- About 50 staffers did not receive anything as part of the $45 million deal by which NBC bought out O’Brien’s Tonight Show contract. The generous O’Brien paid the six weeks’ worth of severance pay of the staffers out of his pocket.
- While writing on The Simpsons, O’Brien occasionally made up a character he called “Nervous Writer” just to make the other writers in the room laugh. The character would nervously open a can of Diet Coke and spray it all over himself and attempt to tell a joke.
- O’Brien was still bound by The Simpson’s contract when he left to host Late Night with Conan O’Brien. The Simpsons were reluctant to let O’Brien leave and insisted that he either uphold the terms of the agreement or pay penalties for breaching them. In the end, to break the contract, NBC agreed to pay half and O’Brien agreed to pay the other half.
- O’Brien met his wife while filming a Late Night skit. O’Brien filmed a skit at the advertising firm Foote, Cone, and Belding in 2000, where Liza Powel was a young copywriter there. O’Brien and Powel connected while the skit was being filmed, and they dated for 18 months before getting engaged.
- Conan O’Brien comes from an intellectual family. His mother is a lawyer and a partner at a renowned Boston Law firm, while his father is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
- O’Brien was the managing editor of his high school newspaper and the valedictorian of his class. He later graduated magna cum laude from Harvard majoring in history and literature.