A late night favourite signs off with a special one-hour episode
CTV ComedyConan O’Brien is no stranger to signing off from hosting a talk show, but that probably doesn’t make it any easier for him now.
Famously a relative unknown when he was tapped to succeed David Letterman in NBC’s late-late-night slot in 1993 (though he had written for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons), the gangly redhead won over an audience—primarily a young one—with his offbeat humour and eye for production. He then inherited The Tonight Show in 2009 after Jay Leno left... only for Leno to return in 2010, prompting O’Brien to leave NBC. Now, after 11 years, and despite the fact that it had been renewed through 2022, O’Brien’s subsequent talk show, TBS’s Conan, will end its run with a special one-hour episode.
While Conan began in 2010 with a very traditional late-night structure, starting its hour with a topical monologue and then proceeding through comedy bits and celebrity interviews, its main difference has been (as it has in all of his talk-show ventures) O’Brien himself. Working within the genre’s familiar format while eschewing it as much as he could (with assists from his affable longtime sidekick, Andy Richter), he has distinguished the program in part by taking it on location fairly often. And to some locations quite out of the ordinary, moreover.
First, O’Brien emulated talk-show legend Jack Paar by taking Conan to Cuba in 2005. Later that year, he went to Armenia (his personal assistant and podcasting co-host Sona Movsesian’s native land), and subsequent years and episodes have seen him visit Qatar, Korea, Berlin, Mexico, Israel, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Australia, Ghana and Greenland.
That’s a lot of passport-stamping, but at the start of 2019, Conan’s length was reduced from an hour to a half-hour, loosening the typical constraints of a talk show in several ways. O’Brien’s wardrobe was more casual, and the host’s desk was jettisoned... decisions that would play through later when O’Brien did the show from his home during the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In July 2020, production moved to Los Angeles’ Coronet Theater, where O’Brien did improvisational comedy early in his career.
Even though O’Brien is ending Conan, he’s not ready to give up being a public presence completely. He’ll be staying in the WarnerMedia “family” by moving from TBS to the HBO Max streaming service, where he will produce a weekly variety series of some sort (premiere date and Canadian network still TBA).
While that may give O’Brien an easier schedule, the pace of doing a nightly program may turn out to be something he’ll miss, having done it for so long—so after the talk-show rebirths he’s already had, don’t be surprised if another one lies in wait for him.
Conan airs Monday to Wednesday at 11:46 p.m. and Thursday at 11:45 p.m. on CTV Comedy