Former “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien is back on late night television but this time with a different network and a different name. His new show airs on TBS and is simply called, Conan. Monday night’s debut marked the once-embattled talk show host’s triumphant return to television after poor ratings and company politics led NBC to replace him with the man he’d replaced less than a year before, Jay Leno. Although his switch to a cable network is seen as a step down, Conan is excited about the endless potential of the show because he will have full creative control and freedom he never had on broadcast television.
A no-holds-barred, less-censored O’Brien is a great thing! It means a return to the Conan everyone fell in love with when he was on the “Late Show”, not what we saw on “The Tonight Show” when he had to tweak his routine to appeal to the more conservative, mainstream audience of the show he inherited. As to how successful this stint will be, remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain. Conan belongs on late night TV and he will be here for quite some time. Conan O’Brien joined WQXI in Atlanta to talk about what is going to be new about ‘Conan’ on TBS, the notion that TBS is going to give him a lot of leeway, and whether there was a time while he was going through the drama with NBC that he thought was surreal.
What is going to be new about ‘Conan’ on TBS:
“Absolutely nothing. We are going to do the same old crap. There is nothing like over-hyping the same old thing. So tune in… I think what is going to be different, first of all, I think there is going to be a different spirit, a little bit, slightly because of what I have been through in the last year and so I have a little bit of a let’s-go-for-it-what-have-I-got-to-lose attitude, and also TBS, these guys are saying, ‘Look, we want you to do whatever you want to do and no holds barred.’ I think they are going to mean it for at least three shows. Then they are going to step in.”
On the notion that TBS is going to give him a lot of leeway:
“Yes, the one thing I think is indicative of what is happening so far is the promotion that I have done for this new show. They literally said to me, ‘What do you want to do for an ad?’ and I said, what I would like to do is pack a 1969 Dodge Dart with popcorn, fireworks, explosives, and drive it off a cliff. And they said, ‘What cliff? And where?’ Like do it and we did it and we shot it and they have been showing it in movie theaters and television, and that is a new experience for me, where I say, I come up with a crazy idea and people say ‘Let’s do it! What have we got to lose?’ That is just making the promos with these guys.”
On the success of his comedy tour after the drama with NBC and how the majority of the people had his back:
“Yeah it was really nice, and again, I was always careful to make it clear that, look I’ve had my problem, but I’m fine. I’m good and life is good and there are people that have real problems out there so I don’t want to complain and let’s turn this into something positive and that is what the tour was all about, was, I can do this thing that I wouldn’t have ever been able to do otherwise which was go from town to town and make a complete fool of myself.”
Whether there was a time during the ‘Late Night’ show that a skit was written and he thought it would “bomb” but became a hit:
“Oh god, more than half the things you try. Comedy is not a science. Comedy is just trying things and seeing what happens. It’s just like finding a stud in the wall, you know, and you are just like, ‘Uh maybe? Uh, I don’t know.’ We knew that Triumph, who would ever think that a rubber puppet that is insulting people, and a woman’s Russian accent would hit as big as it did? That was a huge surprise. The thing with the lips that we did on the show, the clutch car goes over the years. There is no reason in the year 2000 that should work. It was two idiots holding flashlights in front of their faces and predicting stupid things about the future that actually is the past. I would say most of the things that have been successful for us have been complete accidents.”
Whether there was a time while he was going through the drama with NBC that he thought it was surreal:
“Yes, it wasn’t just while it was happening. I mean, for, I still find it surreal now. Here it is months later and I still occasionally turn to my wife and say, ‘Did that really just happen? What was that?’ I mean it is a little like being in a car accident. When you are in it you react quickly, you get your family, you get to the side of the road, you call 911, you do all these things out of shear adrenaline and energy and then later on, three weeks later, you flip out, and I think that’s what this was to a certain degree.”