Conan O'Brien on his new show: 'You'll see me sink to a new low. In a good way'

conan-obrien_320.jpg Image Credit: NBCThe countdown to Coco is almost over: One week from today, Conan O’Brien unveils his new late-night talk show on TBS, mysteriously titled… Conan. To get a taste of what’s to come, you can check out “Show Zero” on at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT, or you can keep reading to see what the former host of Late Night and The Tonight Show has to say about launching his new show.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How are you feeling as you prepare for your return to TV? Nervous? Nauseated? Tingling sensation?
Highly medicated. I’m on something that they use to euthanize racehorses when they break a leg. I walk around with an IV bag full of this stuff, so it’s going to be a different Conan that people see. It’s going to be a Conan that really has trouble moving, and shows very few facial expressions.

What can fans expect from the TBS version of a Conan talk show?
This is the show that someone does after they’ve survived a serious car accident. There’s a little bit of — and I think in a good way — a “let’s just go for it” kind of feel. I’ve been doing one show or another for about 17 years, and then you have this razor’s edge nine months that I’ve had recently and you think about things a little differently. So, there’s more of a feeling of “Screw it, I’m not going to second-guess anything” and “If it makes me laugh, I’m just going to go for it.” And that, I think, is going to serve me well for about 3 months.

Can you tease some surprises that will happen on the first show?
I’m hoping for it to be a very loose, silly reintroduction to Conan O’Brien — it’s me dropping by again. I want there to be some really special moments, especially near the top of the first show. We are going to unveil a major new technology that is going to turn the economy around the way Silicon Valley did in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. There’ll be some major medical breakthroughs in the first 40 minutes, which are quickly forgotten and in no way benefit mankind.

Will you be doing anything with Jack White, who’s one of the guests?
We’re going to have a special moment with him at the end of the show. We’re hoping to make it something a little unusual, maybe something that’s a little reminiscent of the tour. [O’Brien embarked on the 32-city stage show, titled “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on TV Tour,” a few months after leaving The Tonight Show.] I want to take some of that tour mojo into part of the first show, and short of having women take their tops off, this is the closest we were going to get to that.

There’s a poll on your website that asks fans to choose the first guest on your first show. Can you say whom you’re rooting for—or would that corrupt the process?
There are so many choices and there’s a lot of activity on the web. And it’s going to [put] an incredible amount of pressure on the person who wins to make an appearance…. I have a lot of things to ask the Pope, just as a kid who was raised Catholic. So I’m rooting for the Pope, but then again, I don’t want to fracture the audience. I know there are many faiths watching.

What’s one thing you guarantee about the new show?
You’ll see me sink to a new low. In a good way.

You mentioned the difficulty of the last nine months. Have the wounds healed, or do you still wake up in the middle of the night, screaming, “Leno!!!!”?
Some of it’s going to be with me the rest of my life, but for the most part I’ve been shocked at how many interesting, fun, cool, creative opportunities have come out of it all. So I prefer to look at it that way.

What lessons did you learn from that experience?
I don’t know. I do think that I went with my instinct 10 months ago, and that was the right way to go. There have got to be ways in which this has altered me a little bit, but my basic goal in television is going to be the same, which is to make people laugh and slightly irritate them at the same time.

And what did you take away from the tour?
It was really fun. I was telling people that it had a little bit of a Make A Wish feel to it. As we were doing the tour, I thought, “Am I dying and no one’s got the guts to tell me?” He hasn’t got long, everybody. He’s always wanted to play rockabilly guitar in front of huge stadium audiences. Let’s let him have this. That’s what it felt like a little bit. I got to be REO Speedwagon circa 1978 for a very short time. Okay, that’s not a good example. But it was nice after all these years of doing submarine duty on a television show where you’re in a concrete pen. Whenever we would take our show out on the road, you’d be connected to how excited the people are, and that’s a jolt of just pure energy. I think that’s what was great: I got to put my hands on a lot of the fans, and I mean that in the creepiest way possible.

NBC provided you with a lot of fodder for The Tonight Show. Will TBS offer enough stuff to poke fun at?
Oh my god, yes. Their primetime lineup is reruns. And I’m taking them to court over the claim that everything is “very funny,” using several of my shows as evidence.

How many of the characters and bits from the NBC years can you bring with you? What will we see on the new show?
You could see me get arrested on the air. We’re not sure yet exactly which characters in the past can and can’t show up. We don’t know what’s going to happen with all that, so it could end with like the end of Let it Be when the constables come on the roof. Because that’s who that other network will send over: late ’60s constables. They’ll have sticks and we’ll all run around in fast motion, and “Yakety Sax” will play.

So you’re still working out what you can and can’t use?
It’s kind of uncharted territory, so we’re going to play it by ear. Honestly, people tend to think that show business is painstakingly thought out and it really isn’t. And there are some places where we haven’t decided yet what we’re going to do. What I’m committed to doing is if something’s really funny I want to do it, or if it’s right for us, I want to do it. And I am very much committed to us coming up with new stuff, and using this as an opportunity to reinvent some of this. I’m also curious to see what friends from the past reappear. And what we call them. And how they’re disguised.

(Twitter: @dansnierson)

Comments (38 total) Add your comment
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  • As I See It

    *Yawn* zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Wake me when it’s over.

    • coup

      and yet, like a retard, you clicked on the article and probably read it too.. seriously, thanks for pointing out to us your stupidity

      • Jason

        Hahaha, well put. And you know how happy he was that he was first.

  • LR

    this interview was funnier than anything jay leno has done in the last 20 years

  • Lindsay

    Can’t wait til Nov 8th! I missed you Conan!

  • Creighton

    Can’t wait, biggest television event of the year.

    • Eye Roll


      • Sarah

        Ya really.

      • Mary

        Yeah, I’m sure you’d rather celebrate any of the Real Housewives of whatever city reunion, but for the rest of us Conan is what we call entertainment

  • Suelle

    Highly medicated? Idiots like this should NOT be on the television. He has basically admitted to being a drug addict. He needs to go to rehab and stop acting like a stereotypical celebrity. What a shame too.

    • Jenny

      It’s a JOKE!

      • Katja

        No worries, I thiiiink Suelle might be trollin’ with the homies.

    • Sarcasm

      Hello Suelle, pleasure to meet you, you silly, poor creature you… ;-)

    • JoAnn

      Calm down, Suelle. That was a joke.

    • Diana

      Don’t worry. Dr. Gregory House practiced medicine under the influence of Vicodin, and everything is alright.

  • etm

    The commercials promoting his new show are so unfunny. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is so old hat now.

    • JoAnn

      Yeah, give me “Tennis Night in America” *any* day over this Chip Whitley character with his hilarious promotional spots!

      • I can’t tell…

        Are you being sarcastic?

  • Kelly

    Can you stop using photos of Conan from NBC? he doesn’t work there anymore. Use some of his new and current press photos please! Thanks!

    • Brian


    • Krystal

      Yeah the ones where he looks hot in a beard!

  • Dave

    This interview is hilarious!

    I’m a total Conan fan, and I was going to like this interview anyway. Nevertheless, I am always amazed at how quick-witted Conan is.

    The guy is a comic genius. If you don’t realize that, there’s something wrong with you.

  • Jimminy Glick

    Damn good interview. Are we gonna see alot of these Conan interviews for the next week? Hope so, unfortunately he’s not appearng on any of the Late Night shows though.

  • Jeff

    Please, please, PLEASE bring back the “Clutch Cargo” interview bit! With Smigel providing the mouth! It’s been far too long since we’ve hard Arnold plug JEEEENNNGGGLLLEEE ALL DE VEYYYYYY!!!

    • ashy elbowz

      why do some idiots like Jeff get off on endless repetition of the same joke? is it comforting to you or something? sorry your mom hated you.

    • Sarah

      Jeff, your comment made me disturb the entire Library from a cackle attack. JEEENGLE ALL DE VEEEEEY!!!!! oh God how I miss clutch cargo!

    • Al

      Is Smeigel still contracted to NBC? None of his stuff seems to be on SNL anymore.

  • dandi

    This guy is a burn-out. Why should anyone want to watch this guy. He should just fade away with the 40 million that NBC paid him to leave the Tonight Show.

  • Janizzle

    Loved the interview, can’t wait to see Conan premiere next Monday!

  • Togah

    I’m loving the new attitude.

  • Karen

    I have been looking forward to Conan’s new show almost this entire year.

  • khm

    I can’t wait for Conan’s new show! There’s really only two things I wish he’d bring back- the awesome “In the year 2000″ sketches and Amy Poehler as Andy Richter’s little sister Stacey.

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