Conan O’Brien is one of the most iconic names in late night television history. He made his start in show business, writing for The Simpsons and, as you’ll find out, is responsible for some of the most iconic shows in the series’ history. From there, he was able land a job hosting a late night television show, which was always one of his dreams. From 1993-2009, Conan hosted Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and after 2,725 episodes, Conan got the promotion to replace Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show.
In what ended up being one of the most controversial, and damaging moves, NBC decided to pull Conan’s show off the air after only 146 episodes. The show was only on the air for seven months and three weeks. After what must have been a devastating blow, Conan was able to pick up the pieces and land another talk show – this time on TBS.
Conan has aired for 862 episodes so far, and continues to keep Conan in the mind of all viewers. One of the greatest talk show hosts of all time, it is only fitting that he has a life that is just as engrossing. From his pranks against Burt Ward, his time at Harvard, or his experiences working on some of the most iconic shows and episodes of all time, here are 10 amazing facts from the life of Conan O’Brien.
10. How He Would Break The Tension On The Simpsons
Conan had a great run writing for The Simpsons, helping create some of the most iconic moments in the show’s history. When Conan was nervous though, he had a running joke where he would open a can of Diet Coke, then nervously pitch a joke. No matter the reaction to the joke, Conan would proceed to spray the Diet Coke all over himself, always eliciting a laugh from his co-workers.
It’s that fantastic type of awkward nervous energy that helped solidify Conan as one of the most likeable people on television.
9. He Stole Burt Ward’s Robin Costume
Conan O’Brien made sure that his time at Harvard was filled with memorable moments outside of the classroom. One of his best had to be the prank that he organized to steal Burt Ward’s infamous Robin costume.
The Harvard Lampoon, which Conan edited, invited Ward to speak at the school. Ward also decided to bring along his costume, which was being guarded by school security.
In the middle of his speech, someone cut out the lights and sent in a man dressed in a Penguin costume to ask “When is a security guard, not a security guard?”
The clearly fake security guards stole the costume and ran away. Conan and the others involved proceeded to call Ward for the next few hours, impersonating different Batman villains.
Thankfully, Ward took it all in stride, and the costume was eventually returned in one piece.
8. Who Has Worked For Him
When you spend as long on television as Conan has, it is only natural that some people with aspirations of show business are going to want to work with you.
John Krasinski, better known as Jim on The Office, was an intern on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. The original writing staff also included Louis CK and Bob Odenkirk (known for playing Saul on Breaking Bad). It is easy to see why, with a writing staff like that, Conan was able to create some of the most memorable skits in late night history.
7. He’s Ordained As A Minister
In 2011, Conan O’Brien went to great lengths to show his staff member that he was supportive of his marriage. Conan was ordained by the Universal Life Church Monastery, which allowed him to ordain a same-sex marriage in New York. The marriage was between a member of Conan’s staff and his partner, and was broadcast on Conan. Talk about one way to make sure your wedding day is a memorable experience! Not to mention, you must feel blessed to be getting married, and wanting your boss of all people to be an active part of the day.
6. He Was The Victim Of Stalking
Conan may have a life that is full of laughter, but one not-so-laughing matter was when he was a victim of stalking in 2006.
Conan was stalked by Father David Ajemian, who was furious at Conan after being denied a spot in his audience. As a result, he sent Conan several letters, some of which were threatening, ending them with “your priest stalker.” The Priest Stalker also got in contact with Conan’s parents.
When he was caught trying to force his way into the studio, he was arrested. After standing trial, Ajemian pleaded guilty to stalking and signed a 2-year restraining order, barring him from having any contact with Conan.
In 2010, Ajemian was charged with harassing TV host, Anthony Everett.
5. He Paid To Leave The Simpsons
You’d have to be offered a pretty sweet job opportunity to leave The Simpsons, right? Such a gig came along for Conan when he was offered the job of hosting The Late Night Show.
The Simpsons producers tried to get him to stay, as he was under contract for another year, but NBC agreed to pay half the value of Conan’s salary for the year, and Conan paid for the other half. This was reportedly a gesture that cost Conan upwards of $130,000. Probably a good thing that the whole hosting thing worked out for him, eh?
4. His Family’s History
There is no doubt that Conan has been incredibly successful, but he also had some incredibly huge shoes to fill. Conan’s father is a doctor and professor of medicine at Harvard University and his mother was a partner at the Ropes & Gray Law Firm.
O’Brien is impressive in his own right, graduating Harvard magna cum laude. During his time there he was also elected twice to be the president of the parody magazine The Harvard Lampoon.
3. His Favorite Simpson Episode
Conan helped contribute on several episodes of The Simpsons during his time there. One of the most memorable episodes that he worked on also just happens to also be his favorite.
“Marge vs. the Monorail” is an iconic episode for many Simpsons fans, featuring a catchy song and classic lines such as “I call the big one bitey.” Leonard Nimoy also made a guest appearance on the episode. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly ranked the episode as being the 4th greatest in the show’s history, with arguably the highest throwaway-gag-per-minute ratio of any episode of The Simpsons.
2. He Pulled A Prank To Meet Bill Cosby
Burt Ward is not the only celebrity out there who fell to the pranking ways of the great Conan O’Brien.
While Conan was still attending Harvard, he wrote a letter to Bill Cosby convincing him that he had earned a lifetime achievement award and that he should come receive it.
Conan was convincing enough to have Cosby put on a suit and fly to Boston, where Conan met him at the airport in his parents’ station wagon. Given that Conan did not have any prestigious award to give him, he instead handed Cosby an old bowling trophy.
I suppose when you get to say that the school you represent is Harvard, you have a little bit more of a pull when it comes to convincing celebrities to fly out and receive a, um, bowling trophy.
1. He Paid For Some Employees’ Severances
Conan got outright screwed out of his job as the host of The Tonight Show. Being given the reigns from Jay Leno, a role he outright earned, it was taken from him far too soon and was one of the most controversial moments in NBC history. It caused a huge backlash against the company that publicly turned its back on a man who had made NBC his home for over 15 years.
During the final negotiations between Conan and NBC, he stressed the importance of making sure his employees were paid a comfortable severance package. When all was said and done, Conan was bought out of his contract for $45 million and his staff received roughly $12 million.
Unfortunately, not included in the severance pay were about 50 stagehands and various crew members. As a result, Conan paid severance out of his own pocket to all of these employees for roughly 6 weeks to help them during a difficult transition.