Conan O’Brien, the longtime host of “Conan” on TBS, is leaving his show after a 28-year run as one of the most influential and longest-serving late night hosts ever on television. “Conan” first aired in 2010, however, O’Brien’s legacy in late-night and comedy goes back much further. The finale of “Conan,” which aired on June 24, featured a number of special guests including Bill Hader, Dana Carvey and Jack Black along with a one-hour finale special.
After cutting his teeth in the writers rooms for shows such as “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons,” O’Brien started his late-night career in 1993 when he took over NBC’s “Late Night” following the departure of David Letterman. Going in as an unknown talent and facing media scrutiny, O’Brien made quite the impression on his audience, and is the longest-serving host of “Late Night” to date. After 16 years as the show’s host, he was promoted to hosting NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” taking over after Jay Leno’s departure.
Despite only hosting “The Tonight Show” for one year, O’Brien left NBC with a large and supportive audience. In 2010, he moved networks and began hosting “Conan” on TBS. Alongside his late-night show with the network, Conan is also the host of “Conan Without Borders,” which takes the comedian to various parts of the globe, and his hit podcast “Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend.” Both of these projects will continue with TBS and O’Brien’s production company, Conaco, after “Conan” is off the air.
O’Brien’s work as a writer and comedian have arguably shaped modern comedy. One of the most popular stand-up comedians working in the country today, John Mulaney, shared on “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” that “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” was a staple show for him during his childhood, and greatly shaped his desire to perform comedy. Like O’Brien, Mulaney would go on to write for “Saturday Night Live,” greatly influenced by the humor that Conan O’Brien brought to comedy on television. Mulaney’s idolization of O’Brien as a comedian doesn’t come without reason, and he isn’t alone. Other comedians such as Bill Hader, who appeared this week as one of O’Brien’s last guests, have expressed similar admiration for Conan’s work. After taking over “Late Night,” O’Brien changed the game, creating a more absurd and biting show than most that came before him, and it has made him stand out.
O’Brien, who has already shortened the length of his show from one-hour to thirty minutes in recent years, is excited to move onto the next chapter of his career. In a segment with Andy Daly last week, O’Brien poked fun at his new bosses, learning the ins and outs of the “HBO pyramid scheme.” As of right now, the contents of O’Brien’s new show on HBO Max are unknown, however, fans are confident that the comedian will continue to reinvent his show as it yet again morphs into something new.
“In 1993 Johnny Carson gave me the best advice of my career: ‘As soon as possible, get to a streaming platform.’ I’m thrilled that I get to continue doing whatever the hell it is I do on HBO Max, and I look forward to a free subscription,” O’Brien shared. Like a good comedian, he sticks to the jokes; however, the sentiment and love for what he does underlies his comments.
By Emily Frantz