"LATE SHOW" MEETS "LATE
of Late Night With Conan O'Brien
After Dave left NBC for more money and a better time slot
on CBS, the network had to find a new host for Late
Night, which aired 12:35. NBC soon realized that the
one who would replace Dave was going to be someone who
had nothing to lose, because stepping into the shadow of
David Letterman, meant being under high pressure. When
they finally found a replacement, the question people
uttered while reading the paper was, "Huh, whom's
that Conan guy??"
"That Conan guy's" actual name happened to be
Conan O'Brien. He was born on April 18th 1963 in
Brookline (near Boston), Massachusetts as the third of
six children. His father, a doctor and professor at
Harvard Medical School, and his mother, a lawyer, are
After high school, Conan attended Harvard University
where he majored in American literature and history.
There he wrote for the humor magazine Harvard Lampoon
and even became president of it two times. After college
he moved to Los Angeles and joined the writing staff of
HBO's Not Necessarily the News, where he worked
for two years. During this period he performed regularly
with several improvisational groups, like The
Groundlings. In 1988 Saturday Night Live's
Executive Producer, Lorne Michaels discovered Conan and
hired him as a writer. During his three and a half years
with the show, Conan's work was recognized with an
Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or
Variety Series. In '91 he eventually got a job as a
writer and producer for the well-known Fox series The
Simpson?s (this writer can't help but mention that The
Simpson's are one of the greatest and funniest shows
on television ever!). There, it didn't take him very long
to become the show's supervising producer as well!
After Dave left NBC, the network asked Lorne Michaels to
find a new host for Late Night. Auditions were
held, but no one seemed to be the right one for the job.
Michaels eventually offered the job to Conan, who was
still working on The Simpsons the Producer's job.
Conan, however, turned him down because he felt that he
wanted to perform. Time went by and, although Conan had
never mentioned he wanted to be the host of Late Night,
Lorne Michaels suggested making him the new host.
According to Michaels, it was Conan's "particular
and unique mix of vitality, wit and intelligence"
that made him make the suggestion. Since NBC had nothing
to lose they agreed.
Conan did have experiences in performing, however, but
not as a host in front of the camera. NBC had him tape a
test show first and then finally made a decision. In
April of '93: 30-year-old Conan O'Brien was going to be
the new host of Late Night!
So Conan dropped his job on The Simpsons to start
a new career as a host. He was soon introduced on the Tonight
Show and presented to the media. Suddenly his name
could be found in newspapers and magazines all over the
country. And still: even hours before the premiere of his
show people were wondering whom he was. His unusual name
tended to cause problems. At one point, an NBC announcer
called him Conrad O'Brien.
With an all new set especially designed for Conan, the
funny 27-year-old Andy Richter as a sidekick, and a guest
list featuring such great celebrities as Drew Barrymore,
John Goodman and Tony Randall, Conan and his show were
ready to premiere on September 13th 1993. During the
taping, Conan's entire family was sitting in the
audience. The OBrien family consists of: Mom Ruth, Dad
Tom, three brothers and two sisters. (And this not
because the Late Night Staff couldn't find enough
bums and junkies to fill the empty seats...)
The start of Late Night with Conan O'Brien wasn't
an easy one though. The shows received loads of bad and
also mean reviews after the premiere. According to the
press Conan's show was condemned to fail from the very
first minute on. Well, some critics just don't know a
good host when they see him...
Of course it was Conan's first show, the first time as a
host in front of a camera, and considering the high
pressure it was to be David Letterman's successor, it was
only natural that Conan was nervous and made a lot of
mistakes. Insiders said his fear [to fail] made him act
"like a real geek" when he first began hosting Late
Despite of all this pressure the Late Night staff
tried to develop their own style. Sidekick Andy once said
that when they were writing bits for the show, they tried
to make it as little "Letterman-y" as they
could. This was not very easy, because
"Conan-y" had yet to be defined. Sketch comedy
and the interplay between Conan and Andy; turned out to
be an important part of the show.
Late Night with Conan O'Brien struggled the first
years and even got cancelled at one point. NBC didn't
know what else put on, so they put Conan back on. Growing
ratings eventually proved all the critics wrong and NBC
decided to extend the show past its one-year contract.
This was a decision that was appreciated by millions of
When Dave returned to the show (as a guest that is) on
February 28 1994, he was enthusiastic about what the new Late
Night staff had made out of the show. He loved the
new set and found it very comforting that they had
"carved out a completely new identity" for
themselves. He was pleased that it was Conans show was so
different from his show. He expressed that he found the
show really funny and praised the good comedy. According
to Dave, Conans comedy was at a "very high
level". Dave also pointed out that there's,
"nothing like this show anywhere on
television", which is, by the way, this writer's
For those of our readers who are interested in reading
the transcript of the show, please click on the following
web site address and look for the Transcripts of David
Lettermans visit to the Late Night with Conan OBrien.
Dave's visit to the show, and the positive comments that
he made regarding the show, gave Conan and his staff a
lot of encouragement. The encouragement that Conan
received, gave him the courage to deal with the critics -
who just don't know what good comedy, is about.