Conan is an American late-night talk show that aired each Monday through Thursday at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time on TBS in the United States. The show premiered on November 8, 2010, and was hosted by writer, comedian and performer Conan O'Brien, accompanied by his long-time sidekick Andy Richter. Describing itself as a traditional late-night talk show, Conan drew its comedy from recent news stories, political figures and prominent celebrities, as well as aspects of the show itself. For eight years, Conan aired as an hour-long show akin to O'Brien's previous NBC late-night shows.
The show was reformatted to a half-hour length starting January 22, 2019. In November 2020, TBS announced that the show would air its final episode in June 2021, with O'Brien expected to move to a weekly variety show on HBO Max; the series finale aired on June 24, 2021.
2010–2018: Hour-long format
Conan initially followed the established six-piece late-night format popularized by evening talk show hosts such as Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson and David Letterman, and previously executed during O'Brien's tenures as host of NBC's Late Night and The Tonight Show. Each episode of Conan from its first eight years runs 60 minutes in length, including commercials, and typically consists of:
Act 1: Monologue
Act 2: Comedy Bit(s)
Act 3: Celebrity Interview 1
Act 4: Celebrity Interview 1 continued
Act 5: Celebrity Interview 2
Act 6: Musical or Stand-Up Comedy Guest, Signoff
Guests come from a wide range of cultural sources, and include actors, musicians, authors, athletes and political figures.
The original hour-long show opened with Richter proclaiming "Coming to you from Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, it's Conan!", and introducing O'Brien, The Basic Cable Band, as well as the episode's guests. For the first several seasons, each episode had a title, which Richter would announce at the end of the opening sequence. The titles were in the style of old fashioned murder-mystery radio shows, television sitcoms, or other assorted jokes. The episode titles were dropped in early 2014.
The original title sequence was designed by Rob Ashe, Dan Dome and Eric McGilloway. There were several different variations of the opening credits, with the final product being inspired by graphic designer Saul Bass. The opening design process was described by Ashe as utilizing "organic-looking textures made of construction paper, soak them in soda, and light them in Photoshop."
O'Brien opened each episode with a monologue drawing from current news stories and issues. The monologue was sometimes accompanied by clips and brief comedy skits, in addition to occasional interactions between O'Brien and Richter, and the audience.
One or more comedy bits followed the monologue. Following the monologue, some comedy bits (such as those based on video clips) were presented from the monologue stage. Following the first commercial break, additional comedy sketches were typically presented from the desk area. Some sketches were original and appeared only once. Occasionally an additional sketch would air between the first and second guest.
Before the show is being recorded and while audience fills up audience seats a warm-up comedians Gary Cannon or Jimmy Pardo would usually warm up the crowd before the show.
2019–2021: Half-hour format
In May 2018, O'Brien and TBS announced the show would be reformatted into a 30-minute show, with a looser structure starting 2019.
In January 2019, O'Brien gave a more detailed description of the new format of his show. It would not feature a band or a desk area, and for the first time as host of a talk show O'Brien would not be wearing a suit. He commented, "I really don't miss the desk. It started to feel like I'm doing someone's taxes." The last hour-long regular episode aired on October 4, 2018. The new reformatted version premiered on January 22, 2019 on TBS. O'Brien's first guest for the new-look show was Tom Hanks.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program switched to a remotely-produced format from O'Brien's home beginning March 30, 2020. In July 2020, it was announced that Conan would continue with this format, but would now be filmed with limited on-site staff from the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles and no studio audience — making it the first American late-night talk show to return to filming outside of the host's residence (albeit still not from its main studio). O'Brien explained that "I got started doing improv at the Coronet in 1986 and I'm glad we've figured out a way to safely keep that theater going during this lockdown."
O'Brien has filmed several specials abroad. These episodes do not follow the traditional talk-show format, instead following O'Brien as he attempts to engage the locals and experience the unique cultural aspects of the area.
January 27, 2018: Conan Without Borders: Haiti: Conan visited the island nation in response to President Donald Trump's alleged description of the country and parts of Africa as "shitholes".
April 11, 2018: Conan In Italy: Conan and producer Jordan Schlansky visit Italy, with Conan hoping to expose Schlansky as a fraud.
November 28, 2018: Conan In Japan: After finding out that the Japanese town of Hokuei, Tottori is also well known as "Conan-Town" (named for the popular anime/manga character Conan Edogawa, whose creator, Gosho Aoyama, is a Hokuei native), Conan makes a visit to the country.
April 17, 2019: Conan Without Borders: Australia. Conan traveled to Australia in response to a video sent by Hugh Jackman in which he points out that Conan had not gone to his country yet.
June 17, 2019: Conan Without Borders: Ghana along with Sam Richardson, following an invitation from the U.S. Ghanaian Embassy to visit the country during "The Year of Return", an initiative to bring awareness to African-American heritage, marked by the 400th anniversary of the African slave trade. The special aired on November 7, 2019.
September 3, 2019: Conan in Greenland: When President Donald Trump announced his plans to buy Greenland, Conan decided to travel to the country to secure the purchase.
O'Brien at a supporter rally held outside TBS headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia in June 2010
Following the 2010 Tonight Show conflict, O'Brien announced on the first day of The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour that he had signed a deal with cable network TBS to host a talk show on their late-night lineup, beginning in November 2010. Before the deal was announced, O'Brien initially had reservations about the move, as it would place comedian George Lopez's show, Lopez Tonight, one hour later to midnight, effectively doing to Lopez what NBC had wanted to do with O'Brien. However, Lopez reportedly called O'Brien and expressed his excitement about the move. Lopez went on to state, "I can't think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in [...] It's the beginning of a new era in late-night comedy."Lopez Tonight would be cancelled less than nine months later. In an official press release by Turner Broadcasting, it stated that O'Brien had only begun negotiations a week prior to the official announcement of the show.Steve Koonin, President of Turner Entertainment Networks, went on to comment of the announcement, "Conan has been the comedic voice for a generation. TBS already has a huge audience of young comedy lovers, and Conan's show will give these fans even more reasons to watch our network."
In his own statement about the deal, O'Brien stated, "In three months I've gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I'm headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly." O'Brien's production company, Conaco, reportedly owns all rights to the show. In addition to the announcement of the television series, TBS also announced a one-hour TBS Special, featuring several writers for Conan, as well as comedian Reggie Watts, who participated in O'Brien's Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour. The show was broadcast on June 27, 2010, leading up to the beginning of Conan in early-November. Additionally, in preparation for the show, a 24-hour "Live-Coco Cam" was set up on October 20, 2010, and featured various characters and staff members of Conan, including Richie Rosenberg, otherwise known as "LaBamba," as well as a short online broadcast from O'Brien's office entitled "Show Zero" on November 1, 2010. The show featured O'Brien as host, and was accompanied by Andy Richter, as well as Jerry Vivino, a member of the Basic Cable Band. The broadcast hosted several guests, including actor Jim Parsons and indie rock band Steel Train, and lasted a total of four minutes, and 51 seconds.
Weeks before the premiere, an orange Conan blimp was introduced to further promote the show. Designed by Blue Sky, an Atlanta firm, the dirigible provided aerial footage for 2010 Major League Baseball postseason games airing on TBS. It has since been incorporated into sketches on Conan, including a running gag where the blimp would follow actor Gary Busey around southern California, much to his chagrin.
Reviews of the premiere episode by television critics were positive, calling it "a looser, quirkier take on a late-night talk show, but still a late-night talk show." James Poniewozik of Time found the episode to be enjoyable, and compared it to O'Brien's tenure during Late Night. Itzkoff went on to state, "The message, overall [...] is that Conan the show is not so much about a reinvention of the talk show form as a restoration of Conan. He was doing something he wanted to do, a late-night talk show, and NBC made him stop doing it." He also praised the opening monologue, and Conan's performance with Jack White during the episode's conclusion. Frazier Moore of Associated Press went on to call the episode "a stylishly back-to-basics hour that radiated hard-won lessons from his brief stay hosting The Tonight Show," in addition to admiring O'Brien's "appealingly stoked yet comfortable" appearance on the show. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly also appreciated the Masturbating Bear cameo, and went on to call the show "pleasant, if a bit underwhelming." Less positive assessments of the show included Tom Gliatto of People, who accused the show of being a "modest, lowkey and slightly awkward affair."
This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (November 2020)
In overnight Nielsen Ratings, the series premiere of Conan drew 4,100,000 viewers, leading all late-night talk shows, more than tripling the audience of its direct competition, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. In the 18–49 demographic, Conan drew a 2.5 rating and 3,285,000 viewers. It was also watched by 2,451,000 adults in the 18–34 demographic. Ratings throughout the rest of the week fell, and ended with over 2.02 million viewers on Thursday, November 11, 2010. The fourth episode still led every talk show in the 18–34 and 18–49 demographics, however, delivering 980,000 adults and 1,361,000 adults respectively. The median viewer age for the first week of shows was projected to be at 32, significantly younger than that of The Tonight Show and CBS's Late Show. The show also premiered in Canada, on The Comedy Network at midnight, drawing 171,000 viewers, and the repeat broadcast at 1 AM on CTV drew 302,000 viewers.
During O'Brien's second week, ratings remained somewhat consistent, and peaked on November 16, 2010, with 1.84 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings. The week would go on to average 1.7 million viewers, and earn an average rating of 1.0 in the 18–49 demographic. During the week of December 13–17, 2010, Conan has fallen behind in the weekly overnight Nielsen Ratings, averaging only 1.3 million viewers, compared to NBC's The Tonight Show (4.2 million), CBS's Late Show (3.6 million), ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! (1.6 million), and Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (1.6 million).
In January 2011, Michael Wright, head of programming of TBS, said the show was "landing right about where we expected it to. At this number, Conan will run as long as he wants it to."
For the month of June 2011, Conan fell for the first time to fourth among U.S. late-night cable talk shows, behind The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Chelsea Handler's Chelsea Lately; Conan attracted an average of 743,000 total viewers, compared with 808,000 viewers for Chelsea Lately. Among viewers 18-to-49, O'Brien averaged 503,000 viewers vs. Handler's 559,000.
Following the cancellation of Lopez Tonight, Steve Koonin of Turner Entertainment stated he "could not be happier with Conan as a show or Conan O'Brien and Team Coco as people and an organization," going on to say that "what Conan has already won is the absolute [embrace] of young people."
In August 2011, TBS secured the cable syndication rights to The Big Bang Theory at a reported $4 million per episode to serve as a lead-in to Conan three nights a week. "[O'Brien's] program is the signature show of our line-up and the centerpiece of our network," Koonin said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
In March 2012, it was revealed that Conan draws more Hispanic viewers than any other late night program.
On May 14, 2014, TBS renewed the show through 2018.
For January–October 2013, Conan attracted $67.4 million in advertising for an audience that is the youngest compared with seven late-night shows on CBS, NBC, ABC, Comedy Central, and E!. Viewership in 2013 was 808,000, down from 914,000 in 2012.Conan does well in ratings among low income inner city viewers. As a result, many of the show's advertisers often use Conan as a bridge to reach them.
By fall 2015, in the face of new competition from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Conan's live audience had fallen to 299,000 viewers in the demographic of persons 18 to 49, the lowest of all of the major national late-night talk shows. In contrast to its live audience, Conan boasts strong online revenues with a particularly young viewership that TBS has leveraged into lucrative advertiser relationships targeting digital and social media. TBS has also cited O'Brien's role as executive producer on shows such as People of Earth, Final Space and a Clueless Gamer spin-off series as evidence of the host's value to the network as a brand and partner beyond the talk show, further stating, "We're going to be in business with him for a long time."
On May 16, 2010, O'Brien announced that his new show would launch at Stage 15 on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California. Taping of each episode began at 4:30 p.m. PST, which usually followed a rehearsal lasting from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
At its outset, O'Brien noted the new show's effort to not to reuse any of the previous Late Night or Tonight Show sketches, despite the difficulty, and they were unsure if some sketches were going to work. However, O'Brien noted in interviews that he might bring back certain bits in time. Characters and bits that eventually made appearances on Conan included The Masturbating Bear, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, Celebrity Survey, The Audiency Awards, Clutch Cargo interviews, and an update on the "Late Night" sketch If They Mated called If They Melded. The final day of longtime writer/performer Brian Stack in 2015 also saw the one-time return of one of his characters, The Interrupter.
Prior to the show's airing, O'Brien and Richter indicated that the show would more closely represent Late Night than Tonight in regard to content and material, meaning that edgier or questionable content excised as a result of the move to the earlier time slot will no longer be an issue at TBS. On the July 12, 2010 episode of Marc Maron's WTFpodcast, Richter said that they no longer have to "worry about living up to a respected franchise", and that on The Tonight Show certain sketches "that just felt too 12:30" would be cut and how "it'll be nice to not have to worry about that anymore". During an appearance at the 2010 San Francisco Sketch Comedy Festival, O'Brien told the audience he was "no longer interested in 'broadening' the audience or trying to reach everybody of all ages," further implying the content would not be toned-down.
On September 1, 2010, O'Brien announced that the new show's title was simply Conan. Prior to the show's debut, set designers John Shaffner and Joe Stewart, who designed O'Brien's previous sets, cited The Legally Prohibited Tour as inspiration for the new set, adopting more of a "theatre" appearance than the previous shows. Shaffner commented on the choice of the show's chair, stating, "You find one that you like and then you build it yourself to make it a little shallower and a little more upright and the cushion a little firmer [...] But not too firm or every time the guest sits down they'll say, 'Oooh this is a hard chair.'" The rest of the set was described as being "filled with warm wood tones and electric blue screens," and was compared to the set of his most recent stint on The Tonight Show. The new set featured several differences, however, including a remote-controlled moon, and the backdrop being transformed into a giant blue ocean.
In keeping with a change made during The Tonight Show, Richter joined O'Brien during celebrity interviews on the main set rather than remaining behind a lectern after the monologue. In May 2017, TBS renewed the show through 2022. The first show of 2018 saw the debut of a new set by production designer Christopher Goumas, which replaced the ocean backdrop with one depicting a studio backlot reminiscent of the Warner Bros. lot where the program was recorded. O'Brien began entering through a doorway on the left of the stage rather than a curtain on the right. O'Brien explained that the space was also deliberately tighter to promote a more "intimate" atmosphere, and jokingly demonstrated the ability for the set to be moved even closer to the audience on demand.
With the debut of the half-hour format in 2019, a new set was introduced with an even more compact design than before, which Richter jokingly compared to looking like "a strip club from Grand Theft Auto", with the desk area replaced by a series of armchairs around a coffee table. In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and the associated lockdown, the show relocated to the Largo following several months broadcasting from his home. The show remained at the Largo until the conclusion of the series. On November 17, 2020, O'Brien announced that the show would end after the conclusion of its tenth season, and that he was moving on to produce a weekly "variety" show on WarnerMedia's streaming service HBO Max.Conan's 75-minute series finale aired on June 24, 2021, and featured highlights from the TBS era, appearances by Homer Simpson and Will Ferrell, Jack Black as the series' final guest, and an extended farewell message from O'Brien.
The Basic Cable Band started out as The Max Weinberg 7 on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 1993, and was initially fronted by longtime E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg. It was renamed The Tonight Show Band with Conan's move to The Tonight Show in 2009. For the length of Conan's 2010 North American tour, the band was called The Legally Prohibited Band, with Weinberg largely absent. Citing recent open heart surgery and a desire to remain on the East Coast, Weinberg officially departed in September 2010. For the launch of Conan, the band was newly christened The Basic Cable Band, with Vivino officially taking over as bandleader.
For Conan, O'Brien sought to revamp the show's title theme song from its previous incarnations. In an interview with New York Magazine, O'Brien expressed his desire to create a new introduction from the previous compositions, which were used for O'Brien's entire 17-year relationship with NBC: "It just felt like the right thing to do [...] There's this feeling of, 'Let's try and build something new.' I came out to that theme for seventeen years and it does feel like, you know what? Let's try some new stuff. Let's try and change it up." The new theme song was co-written by Vivino and O'Brien.
Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band's final appearance as house band took place on October 4, 2018. However, a smaller version of the band, christened Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Four, returned to serve as the house band for the final two weeks of Conan in 2021.
"Finland Wants Conan" demonstrative gathering in Helsinki, Finland. Finnish fans wanted to see Conan's new show air in Finland.
In Australia, the program was aired on GO!, a multichannel of the Nine Network from August 2012 following the 2012 Olympic Games but eventually dropped by GO! mid-2014. Originally it was intended to screen within 12 hours after its original U.S. broadcast at 11:30pm weeknights,.The Comedy Channel which aired the previous versions of Conan's shows announced it would not air the program as the Nine Network had exclusive rights to Time Warner programs. Between November 2010 to July 2012, Conan was aired on GEM.
In Israel, the program began airing in early 2011 on the newly launched Comedy Central Israel channel. episodes were aired 4–5 days after their original TBS broadcasts. However, the channel has discontinued airing Conan in October 2011.
From November 8, 2010 to August 30, 2013, the program aired in Canada on cable channel The Comedy Network on Monday to Thursday nights (Tuesday to Friday mornings) at midnight ET/PT, with a repeat on broadcast network CTV at 1:07 a.m. local time. The program was only initially announced for CTV, leading to some concern about the unusually late time slot, two hours after its airing in the United States for viewers in the Eastern Time Zone (the program airs on CTV Atlantic at 1:05 a.m. AT / 12:05 a.m. ET). This is due to local and national newscasts in the 11:00 p.m. hour, and CTV's commitments to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at 12:05 a.m. and The Colbert Report at 12:35 a.m.[needs update] CTV executives later said the program would likely air earlier on The Comedy Network, which is owned by CTV. However, that channel also had a conflict, since it has long aired both Daily and Colbert during the 11:00 p.m. ET hour, simulcasting the Comedy Central feed.
The Comedy Network then attempted to move up both programs to 10:00 p.m. ET beginning in September 2010, presumably to make room for Conan at 11:00; however, there were intermittent "technical difficulties" with getting the shows in time for the earlier airing, particularly for a series of special live Daily episodes in late October, which meant re-runs were aired in their place. After viewer complaints about the missed episodes, Comedy elected to move both shows back to their previous timeslots, meaning that Conan was rescheduled on that channel to midnight, on a one-hour delay from TBS. On September 3, 2013, Much Music began broadcasting the program every Monday to Thursday at 11 p.m. ET (8 p.m. Pacific), though it was moved back to its time-delayed midnight airing the following month. The repeat on CTV was moved to 1:37 a.m.
On September 3, 2014, the program began airing on Much at 12:30 a.m. after @midnight. On January 9, 2017, Conan began airing at 11 p.m. ET again, only to again be moved back an hour to midnight in April of that same year. Conan aired on Much until September 1, 2017. The program aired solely on CTV until April 2020, when it began airing again on the renamed CTV Comedy Channel at 11:30 after The Daily Show following Comedy Central's cancellation of Lights Out with David Spade. The show was pushed back another 15 minutes to 11:45 after Comedy Central expanded The Daily Show by 15 minutes.
Selling rights to a Canadian channel was necessary, since TBS ceased being available in Canada in October 2007. The local Atlanta station through which Canadian cable subscribers had previously received TBS programming then adopted a distinct schedule as WPCH-TV. Some speculated that WPCH might pick up the program anyway, since the revamped station continues to air some of the same syndicated series as TBS, but WPCH later indicated explicitly that it had no plans to broadcast the new O'Brien program.
In the UK and Ireland, the show aired on the channel truTV since its launch in August 2014, though it has been absent from the schedules as of August 2017.
In Portugal, Conan was retitled Conan O'Brien. The show aired on SIC Radical, in the same timeslot as his previous NBC shows, with daily broadcasts beginning on October 5, 2009. The show aired Monday to Friday beginning around 20h45 to 21h30, following The Daily Show, with occasional reruns interspersed among new shows. New episodes aired about two weeks after US broadcast. Although since January 2016, SIC Radical stopped airing the show because of the show's international distributor has ceased shipping the show outside USA (answer from the Distributor Sic Radical).