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Conan O'Brien (1963)

Conan Christopher O'Brien

Type :  

  Summary  

Conan Christopher O'Brien is an American television host, comedian, writer, producer and performer. Since November 2010 he has hosted Conan, a late-night talk show that airs on the American cable television station TBS.

O'Brien was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, and raised in an Irish Catholic family. He served as president of the Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, and was a writer for the sketch comedy series Not Necessarily the News. After writing for several comedy shows in Los Angeles, he joined the writing staff of Saturday Night Live, and later of The Simpsons. He hosted Late Night with Conan O'Brien from 1993 to 2009, followed by seven months hosting The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, the only person to serve as the permanent host for both NBC programs.

  Biography  

 early life
O'Brien was born in Brookline, Massachusetts to Thomas O'Brien, a physician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Harvard, and Ruth O'Brien (née Reardon), an attorney and partner at the Boston firm Ropes & Gray. He is the third of six children. O'Brien's family is Irish Catholic and descends from pre-Civil War era immigrants. In a Late Night episode, O'Brien paid a visit to County Kerry, Ireland, where his ancestors originated.

O'Brien attended Brookline High School, where he served as the managing editor of the school newspaper. In his senior year, O'Brien won the National Council of Teachers of English writing contest with his short story, "To Bury the Living". After graduating as valedictorian in 1981, he entered Harvard University. At Harvard, O'Brien lived in Holworthy Hall during his freshman year and Mather House during his three upper-class years. He concentrated in history and literature and graduated magna cum laude in 1985. His senior thesis concerned the use of children as symbols in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. Throughout college, O'Brien was a writer for the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine. He also briefly served as the drummer in a band called "The Bad Clams". During his sophomore and junior years, he served as the Lampoon's president. At this time, O'Brien's future boss at NBC, Jeff Zucker, was serving as President of the rival The Harvard Crimson.

 career
 Saturday Night Live (1987–1991)


O'Brien moved to Los Angeles after graduation to join the writing staff of HBO's Not Necessarily the News. He was also a writer on the short-lived The Wilton North Report. He spent two years with that show and performed regularly with improvisational groups, including The Groundlings. In January 1988, Saturday Night Live's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, hired O'Brien as a writer. During his three years on Saturday Night Live , he wrote such recurring sketches as "Mr. Short-Term Memory" and "The Girl Watchers"; the latter was first performed by Tom Hanks and Jon Lovitz. O'Brien also co-wrote the sketch, "Nude Beach", with Robert Smigel, in which the word "penis" was said or sung at least 42 times. While on a writers' strike from Saturday Night Live following the 1987–88 season, O'Brien put on an improvisational comedy revue in Chicago with fellow SNL writers Bob Odenkirk and Robert Smigel called Happy Happy Good Show. While living in Chicago, O'Brien briefly roomed with Jeff Garlin. In 1989, O'Brien and his fellow SNL writers received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series.

O'Brien, like many SNL writers, occasionally appeared as an extra in sketches; his most notable appearance was as a doorman in a sketch in which Tom Hanks was inducted into the SNL "Five-Timers Club" for hosting his fifth episode. O'Brien returned to host the show in 2001 during its 26th season. O'Brien and Robert Smigel wrote the television pilot for Lookwell starring Adam West, which aired on NBC in 1991. The pilot never went to series, but it became a cult hit. It was later screened at The Other Network, a festival of unaired TV pilots produced by Un-Cabaret; it featured an extended interview with O'Brien and was rerun in 2002 on the Trio network.

 The Simpsons (1991–1993)
From 1991 to 1993, O'Brien was a writer and producer for The Simpsons and was credited as writer or co-writer of four episodes. Of all the episodes he wrote, he considers "Marge vs. the Monorail" to be his favorite. Along with this episode, he has sole writing credits on "New Kid on the Block," "Homer Goes to College," and "Treehouse of Horror IV," on which he wrote the episode wraparounds. He was an active producer during seasons 4 and 5 as well, meaning he would frequently contribute to scripts from those seasons as well as come up with story ideas, plot points, and jokes. The style of the show's comedy during this period was also influenced by his sensibilities, with "Marge vs. the Monorail" being cited by several former writers as the turning point in the show's history where more absurd and visual comedy became acceptable. He also developed a reputation as a "room guy," or a writer who performs comedy bits throughout the day to entertain other writers.

In his speech given at Class Day at Harvard in 2000, O'Brien credited The Simpsons with saving him, a reference to the career slump he was experiencing prior to his being hired for the show.

During his time at The Simpsons, O'Brien also had a side project working with former writing partner Robert Smigel on the script for a musical film based on the "Hans and Franz" sketch from Saturday Night Live. The film was never produced.

 Late Night (1993–2009)

As executive producer, Lorne Michaels invited O'Brien to audition to host the successor show to Late Night with David Letterman. Premiering on September 13, 1993, Late Night with Conan O'Brien received generally unfavorable critical reviews during its first few years. The show remained on multiweek renewal cycles while NBC decided its fate. O'Brien later poked fun at the first three years of the show, when on his 10th Anniversary Special Mr. T appeared to give O'Brien a gold necklace with a giant "7" on it. When O'Brien tried to point out that he had actually been on the air for ten years, Mr. T responded, "I know that, fool; but you've only been funny for seven!"

Beginning in 1996, O'Brien and the Late Night writing team were nominated annually for the Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series, winning the award for the first and only time in 2007. In 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004, he and the Late Night writing staff won the Writers Guild Award for Best Writing in a Comedy/Variety Series. In 2001, he formed his own television production company, Conaco, which subsequently shared in the production credits for Late Night.

A long-running joke, which stems from the recurring segment "Conan O'Brien Hates My Homeland", is that O'Brien resembles the first female president of Finland, Tarja Halonen. After joking about this for several months , O'Brien traveled to Finland, appearing on several television shows and meeting President Halonen. The trip was filmed and aired as a special.

O'Brien ad-libbed the fictional website name "hornymanatee.com" on December 4, 2006, after a sketch about the fictional manatee mascot and its inappropriate webcam site. NBC opted to purchase the website domain name for $159, since the website did not previously exist. The network was concerned that the Federal Communications Commission would hold NBC liable for promoting inappropriate content if a third party were to register the domain and post such material. For a period of time, the website hosted material concerning Conan's initial manatee joke and other Tonight Show references, but today the site just redirects to NBC's main web page.

A popular recurring bit on the show was "Pale Force", a series of animated episodes in which comedian Jim Gaffigan and O'Brien are superheroes who fight crime with their "paleness". As Gaffigan introduced each new episode, O'Brien protested the portrayal of his character as cowardly, weak, and impotent. , Late Night with Conan O'Brien had for eleven years consistently attracted an audience averaging about 2.5 million viewers. O'Brien is an avid guitarist and music listener. When Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band appeared on the show as musical guests, O'Brien joined the 17-piece band, along with the Max Weinberg 7 and guests Jimmy Fallon and Thomas Haden Church, playing acoustic guitar and contributing backup vocals for the song "Pay Me My Money Down". On the June 13, 2008, episode of Late Night, O'Brien simply walked onto the stage at the start of the show. Instead of his usual upbeat antics and monologue, O'Brien announced that he had just received news about the sudden death of his good friend, fellow NBC employee and frequent Late Night guest, Tim Russert. O'Brien proceeded to show two clips of his favorite Russert Late Night moments. On February 20, 2009, NBC aired the last episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The show consisted of a compilation of previous Late Night clips and included a surprise appearance by former sidekick, Andy Richter. Will Ferrell, John Mayer, and the White Stripes also appeared. O'Brien ended the episode by destroying the set with an axe, handing out the pieces of the set to the audience, and thanking a list of people who helped him get to that point in his career. Among those thanked were Lorne Michaels, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and O'Brien's wife and children.

The Colbert / O'Brien / Stewart mock feud

During the writers' strike in 2008, O'Brien staged a mock feud with Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert over a dispute about which of the three were responsible for giving a "bump" to Mike Huckabee's campaign to become the Republican presidential nominee. This feud crossed over all three shows during the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike.

 The Tonight Show (2009–2010)

In 2004, O'Brien negotiated a new contract with NBC. As part of the deal, O'Brien would take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2009. O'Brien was a guest on Jay Leno's final episode of The Tonight Show. On June 1, 2009, Will Ferrell became Conan's first Tonight Show guest on the couch and Pearl Jam appeared as his first musical guest.

During the taping of the Friday, September 25, 2009, episode of The Tonight Show, O'Brien suffered from a mild concussion after he slipped and hit his head while running a race as part of a comedy sketch with guest Teri Hatcher. He was examined at a hospital and released the same day. A rerun was aired that night, but O'Brien returned to work the following Monday and poked fun at the incident.

Departure from The Tonight Show


On Thursday, January 7, 2010, NBC executive Jeff Zucker met with Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien to discuss how to get Leno out of prime time, where his ratings were lackluster, and back into late night. A proposal was made that would see O'Brien remain as host of The Tonight Show, which would be moved to 12:05 am with Leno hosting a 30-minute show at 11:35 pm On January 10, NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin confirmed that The Jay Leno Show would indeed end at the start of the Winter Olympics on February 12, 2010, and be moved to 11:35 pm following the Olympics coverage. Sources familiar with the situation told the New York Post that O'Brien was unhappy with NBC's plan.


On January 12, O'Brien released this statement: "I sincerely believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t The Tonight Show." On January 21, 2010, it was announced that Conan had reached a deal with NBC that would see him exit The Tonight Show the next day. The deal also granted him $45 million, of which $12 million was designated for distribution to his staff, who had moved with Conan to Los Angeles from New York when he left Late Night.

The final Tonight Show with Conan aired January 22, 2010, and featured guests Tom Hanks, Steve Carell (who did an exit interview and shredded Conan's ID badge), Neil Young (singing "Long May You Run"), and Will Ferrell. For Ferrell's appearance, Conan played guitar with the band and Ferrell sang "Free Bird" while reprising his SNL cowbell. Ferrell's wife, Viveca Paulin, together with Ben Harper, Beck, and ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, also joined the band for this final performance.

Jay Leno returned to The Tonight Show following NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Under the $45 million deal with NBC, Conan was allowed to start working for another network as soon as September 2010. Conan's rumored next networks ranged anywhere from Fox to Comedy Central.

 After Tonight

On February 8, 2010, it was reported that O'Brien was attempting to sell his Central Park West penthouse in New York with an asking price of $35 million. He purchased the apartment in 2007 for $10 million. Two years earlier, O'Brien had purchased a home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles for over $10.5 million. Some industry insiders have speculated that O'Brien had chosen to stay on the west coast in order to facilitate a return to late night television and because he did not want to put his children through another move.

On February 24, 2010, O'Brien attracted media attention for starting a Twitter account. His tweets, although primarily jokes, amounted to his first public statements since leaving The Tonight Show one month earlier. After about one hour, O'Brien's subscriber list had rocketed to over 30,000 members and approximately 30 minutes later, he was on the brink of passing 50,000 followers, already 20,000 more than the verified @jayleno account. After 24 hours, O'Brien had well over 300,000 followers. In late May 2010, he surpassed the one million mark for number of Twitter followers, and he has over 4 million followers.

O'Brien has been named to the 2010 Time 100, a list compiled by TIME of the 100 most influential people in the world as voted on by readers. After being prohibited from making television appearances of any kind until May, O'Brien spoke about the Tonight Show conflict on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes on May 2, 2010. During the interview with Steve Kroft, O'Brien said the situation felt "like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. And I was just trying to figure out what happened." He also said he "absolutely" expected NBC to give him more of a chance and that, if in Jay Leno's position, he would not have come back to The Tonight Show. However, Conan said he did not feel he got shafted. "It's crucial to me that anyone seeing this, if they take anything away from this, it's I'm fine. I'm doing great," said O'Brien. "I hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous. And I don't regret anything."

The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour

On March 11, 2010, O'Brien announced via his Twitter account that he would embark on a 30-city live tour beginning April 12, 2010, entitled "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour". Co-host Andy Richter, along with members of the former Tonight Show Band, joined O'Brien on the tour. Max Weinberg, however, was not able to join, except for a guest appearance at one of Conan's New York City shows. VIP tickets for $695 offered the opportunity to meet O'Brien in person. On the same day, teamcoco.com—an apparently official website—was launched.

On April 12, 2010, O'Brien opened his two-month comedy tour in Eugene, Oregon, with a crowd of 2,500 and no TV cameras. The tour traveled through America's Northwest and Canada before moving on to larger cities, including Los Angeles and New York City, where he performed on the campuses that house both of the NBC-owned studios he formerly occupied. The tour ended in Atlanta on June 14. With ticket prices starting at $40, "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" was effectively sold out.

 Conan (2010–present)

On April 12, 2010, just hours before the start of his tour in Eugene, Oregon, O'Brien announced that he would host a new show on cable station TBS. The show debuted on November 8, 2010, and airs Monday through Thursday beginning at 11:00 pm ET/10:00 pm CT. O'Brien's addition moved Lopez Tonight with George Lopez back one hour to midnight ET/11:00 pm CT. Refusing at first to do to Lopez what had happened to him at NBC, O'Brien agreed to join the network after Lopez called to persuade him to come to TBS. In Canada, CTV will air the show and in Turkey, CNBC-e will air the show.

Other networks that were reportedly interested in O'Brien include TBS' sister networks TNT and HBO, Fox, FX, Comedy Central, Showtime, Revision3, and even the NBC Universal-owned USA Network.

On September 1, 2010, O'Brien announced via his Twitter account and Team Coco YouTube page that the title of his new show on TBS would simply be Conan.

 Television writer/producer (2002–present)
In 2004, O'Brien apologized to Canadians for engaging in Quebec bashing, something which some felt reflected prejudice against Francophones. On March 7, 2006, NBC announced a new adventure/comedy series entitled Andy Barker, P.I., starring O'Brien's former sidekick, Andy Richter. O'Brien was executive producer and co-wrote the pilot. After six episodes and low ratings, the show was canceled despite being named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the Top Ten Shows of 2007. USA Network has handed out a 90-minute, cast-contingent pilot order to the medical-themed Operating Instructions from O'Brien's production banner. O'Brien will serve as an executive producer through his Conaco label. The script comes from Just Shoot Me veterans Judd Pillot and John Peaslee who will also executive produce." NBC ordered two pilots from Conaco in January 2010, the one-hour courtroom drama, Outlaw, and a half-hour comedy. Outlaw was later green-lit to series and premiered on September 15, 2010.

 Voice work and guest appearances
O'Brien's first guest appearance after beginning his late-night career was on the show he used to write for, The Simpsons. He played himself in the season five episode "Bart Gets Famous", interviewing Bart Simpson during his rise to fame as a catchphrase comedian. The episode was produced after O'Brien's audition to replace David Letterman, but before he was hired for the show. O'Brien recorded his part after his own show went on the air, though he believed his show would be canceled by the time "Bart Gets Famous" aired. In 2006, he voiced himself in a short South Park scene as part of the opening of the 2006 Emmy Awards. In 2005, he provided the voice of Robert Todd Lincoln in the audio book version of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.

O'Brien has made multiple voice appearances on the Adult Swim series Robot Chicken, including the specials Robot Chicken: Star Wars, and Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II as the voice of the bounty hunter Zuckuss. On the TV show 30 Rock, O'Brien is depicted as an ex-boyfriend of lead character Liz Lemon, who works in the same building. In the episode "Tracy Does Conan," Conan appears as himself, awkwardly reunited with Lemon and coerced by network executive Jack Donaghy into having the character Tracy Jordan on Late Night, despite having been assaulted in Jordan's previous appearance.

O'Brien made an appearance on Futurama in the second-season episode "Xmas Story". O'Brien plays himself as a head in a jar and still alive in the year 3000. O'Brien performs a stand-up routine at a futuristic ski lodge while being heckled by Bender the robot.

O'Brien also made a cameo appearance on the U.S. version of The Office. In the episode "Valentine's Day", Michael believes that he spots former SNL cast member, Tina Fey, but has actually mistaken another woman for her. In the meantime, Conan has a quick walk-on and the camera crew informs Michael, when he returns from talking to the Tina Fey lookalike.

In January 2010, O'Brien appeared in The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – In 3-D! On Ice! to honor the show he had written for in the early 1990s.

O'Brien created a superhero character with veteran DC Comics animator Bruce Timm during one episode of Conan. Named "The Flaming C", the superhero bears a likeness to O'Brien, with a typically muscular superhero body and costume with chest insignia, but also with idiosyncrasies arbitrarily suggested by O'Brien like an oven mitt, a jai alai glove, marijuana leaf buckle, golf shoes, sock garters and fishnet stockings. O'Brien later aired a clip in which the character appears in Young Justice.

In 2011, O'Brien hosted the Christmas in Washington special for TBS' sister network, TNT, featuring performances from Justin Bieber, Victoria Justice, Cee-Lo Green, The Band Perry and Jennifer Hudson; with a special appearance by the Obama family.

 Emmy host
O'Brien hosted the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards on August 27, 2006, to critical acclaim. He had previously hosted the Primetime Emmys in 2002, and co-hosted in 2003.

 Commercials and product placements
According to Marketing Evolutions, the company that produces Q Scores measuring the familiarity and appeal of celebrities and brands, almost 74% of U.S. consumers are familiar with O'Brien. In spite of that high score, O'Brien hasn't done many commercials for corporate America; two recent examples are a 2009 appearance in a Super Bowl XLIII commercial for Bud Light, and one for American Express, which debuted on the same day as Conan. He donated his proceeds from the Super Bowl commercial to the Fresh Air Fund, a charity which sends inner-city New York children to the country for vacations. According to The Wall Street Journal, O'Brien was paid more than one million dollars to do the American Express commercial, which required him to spend three days in Jaipur, India filming it.

While O'Brien has done few commercials, he "does do plenty of promoting, weaving product pitches into his show"; he has said "it's increasingly incumbent to help with tie-ins if it can't be funny, I'd rather go hungry."

 Comedy and mannerisms
On Late Night, O'Brien became known for his active and spontaneous hosting style, which has been characterized as "awkward, self-deprecating humor".

 personal life
O'Brien met Elizabeth Ann 'Liza' Powel in 2000 when she appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in an advertising skit involving Foote, Cone & Belding, where she worked as senior copywriter. The couple dated for nearly 18 months before their 2002 marriage in Powel's hometown of Seattle. O'Brien and Powel have a daughter, Neve and a son, Beckett .

O'Brien repeatedly affirms his Irish Catholic heritage on his show. On a 2009 episode of Inside the Actors Studio, he stated that both sides of his family moved to America from Ireland in the 1850s, subsequently marrying only other Irish Catholics, and that his lineage is thus 100% Irish Catholic.

He has been a staunch Democrat since casting his first vote for President in 1984 for Walter Mondale, although he considers himself a moderate on the political spectrum. O'Brien's longtime friend and former roommate at Harvard is Father Paul B. O' Brien, with whom he founded Labels Are For Jars, an antihunger organization based in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and helped open the Cor Unum meal center in 2006. The two are not related.

In January 2008, after his show was put on hold for two months owing to the strike by the Writers Guild of America, he reemerged on late-night TV sporting a beard, which guest Tom Brokaw described as making him look like "a draft dodger from the Civil War." After leaving The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on Jan. 22, 2010, O'Brien again grew a beard, which he kept until May 2, 2011, when it was partially shaved on the set of his TBS talk show, Conan, by Will Ferrell with battery-operated clippers (and completely shaved off-screen by a professional barber). The event was dubbed on the show as "Beardocalypse," and included a contest for fan-submitted artwork.

O'Brien purchased a $10.5-million mansion in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, to prepare for his move there in 2009 from New York City to host The Tonight Show at Universal Studios Hollywood. As part of a long running gag, he brought his 1992 Ford Taurus SHO with him to California, showcasing it on both the inaugural episodes of The Tonight Show and Conan.

On October 21, 2011, O'Brien was ordained as a minister by the Universal Life Church, allowing him to perform a same-sex marriage while back in New York to tape a week's worth of shows. The wedding, between a member of O'Brien's staff and his partner, was held on the stage of the Beacon Theatre on November 3, 2011, and broadcast on Conan.

 Victim of stalking
It was reported that since September 2006, O'Brien had allegedly been stalked by Father David Ajemian of the Archdiocese of Boston, who, despite multiple warnings to stop, had been sending O'Brien letters signed as "your priest stalker" and coming in contact with O'Brien's parents. Frustrated that he had been denied a spot in the Late Night audience, Ajemian sent a letter to O'Brien stating that he flew to New York "in the dimming hope that you might finally acknowledge me." He stated in another letter, "Is this the way you treat your most dangerous fans??? You owe me big time, pal." In another letter, Ajemian seemed to make a death threat, saying, "Remember Frank Costello once dodged a bullet in your building and so can you." Ajemian then tried to forcefully enter a taping of Late Night but was caught and arrested. He was previously warned by the NBC security team to stay away from the studio. After a psychological evaluation, he was deemed fit to stand trial. He has since been bailed out of jail. He was then reported missing by his father on November 10, 2007. He was found and underwent evaluation at a hospital. It is known that the two had attended Harvard University at the same time. He was found fit to stand trial on April 4, 2008. On April 8, 2008, Ajemian pleaded guilty to stalking, stating that he "never meant to cause anxiety or to upset anyone." He was ordered to pay a $95 US$ court charge and to sign a two-year restraining order barring him from coming near O'Brien. On September 11, 2008, Ajemian checked himself out of his treatment at a hospital against the wishes of his bishop, Seán Patrick O'Malley. Cardinal O'Malley then released a statement saying that because he violated his bishop's wishes, Ajemian could no longer serve as a priest in the Catholic Church. As of late 2010, Ajemian has moved on to stalking Anthony Everett.

 Nicknames

Conan acquired the nickname "Coco" after its use in the first "Twitter Tracker" sketch during the second episode of his Tonight Show run. Guest Tom Hanks used the nickname during his subsequent interview, even getting the audience to chant it. In reaction to the moniker, Conan remarked to Hanks in jest, "If that catches on, I'll sue you."

In a March 23, 2011, interview with WWE Champion The Miz on Conan, The Miz dubbed Conan "The Ginja Ninja", a reference to Conan's red hair and the fact that he came back fighting to get his new late-night talk show. A week later, "Team Ginja Ninja" T-shirts were available on TeamCoco.com.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Conan O'Brien", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.