Conan O'Brien is an Emmy-winning American television personality best known as the host of the late-night talk/variety show Late Night With Conan O'Brien.
O'Brien took over from Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show in 2009.
Conan was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, to Ruth Reardon, an attorney, and Thomas Francis O’Brien, M.D. O'Brien excelled at English; he served as managing editor of his school newspaper and interned for Rep. Barney Frank.
After graduating from high school, O'Brien entered Harvard University and, in his three upper-class years, lived in Mather House.
Throughout his college career, he was a writer for the Harvard Lampoon humour magazine. During his sophomore and junior years, O'Brien served as the Lampoon's president, making him only the second person ever to serve as president twice, and the first person to have done it in 85 years.
He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1985 with a B.A. in U.S. History.
O'Brien is a regular supporter of the gay community as well as supporting gay rights and helping to achieve better equality for homosexuals around the globe.
O'Brien moved to Los Angeles after graduation to join the writing staff of HBO's Not Necessarily the News. He spent two years with that show, and performed regularly with improvisational groups like The Groundlings. He also acted in corporate infomercials to earn money during this period.
After Not Necessarily the News, O'Brien partnered with Harvard classmate Greg Daniels (who went on to be the executive producer of King of The Hill and The Office) as staff writers on the short-lived Wilton North Report for Fox Broadcasting. He also occasionally served as that show's live audience warm-up person.
Wilton North, with former Letterman producer Barry Sand as executive producer, lasted only four weeks, and is noteworthy mostly as the show that bumped the Arsenio Hall-hosted Late Show off the air.
In January 1988, Saturday Night Live's executive producer Lorne Michaels hired O'Brien as a writer. During his three years on SNL he wrote such recurring sketches as "Mr. Short-Term Memory" and "The Girl Watchers," the latter of which was first performed by Tom Hanks and Jon Lovitz.
O'Brien also wrote the sketch "Nude Beach", in which the word "penis" was said or sung at least 42 times.
While on a writers' strike from Saturday Night Live following the 1987-1988 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.
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, including a role as a doorman in a sketch in which Tom Hanks was inducted into the SNL "Five Timers Club" for hosting his fifth episode.
Years later, when Hanks was a guest on Late Night, O'Brien showed the clip and jokingly claimed their appearance together was the source of all of Hanks' subsequent success.
From 1991 to 1994, O'Brien was a writer and producer for The Simpsons, credited as writer or cowriter of four episodes. Of all the episodes he wrote while writing for The Simpsons, he considers "Marge vs. the Monorail" to be his favourite.
Years later, 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 hiring for that show.
Conan's office at the Simpsons is currently not being used by anyone - it's storage.
On April 25, 1993, Lorne Michaels chose O'Brien to be David Letterman's successor as host of Late Night with David Letterman, with Andy Richter signed on to be his sidekick.
Premiering on September 13, Late Night with Conan O'Brien received generally unfavourable critical reviews for the first 2-3 years after its debut. O'Brien himself, an almost total unknown among the general public before being named host, was seen by many as not being worthy of the program.
NBC even poked fun at this perception in a radio ad which aired shortly before the show's debut and had Conan relaying an anecdote where someone recognised him on the street and said, "Look, honey, there's the guy who doesn't deserve his own show!"
Another source of criticism was the fact that Conan himself appeared to be very nervous and awkward during the show's early days. As a self-deprecating nod to this, the original opening sequence for Late Night With Conan O'Brien was animated and featured a caricature of Conan who sweated and pulled at his collar nervously (later on, when Conan gained more confidence, the animation was changed to reflect this.)
The show was reportedly canceled by network executives, but was allowed to remain on a week-to-week basis when NBC realised there was no programming available to replace it.
By 1996-97, O'Brien's writing and comedic style was thought to have improved, and he began to develop a growing fan base, especially with high school and college students, as well as the respect of critics and his peers.
O'Brien would later poke 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 Conan tried to point out that he's actually been on the air for 10 years, Mr. T responded, "I know that, fool...but you've only been funny for seven!"
Since then, O'Brien and the Late Night writing team have consistently been nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series, though they have not won as of 2006.
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 has since shared in the production credits for Late Night.
In 2005 Jay Leno named Conan as his replacement when he leaves the "Tonight Show" in 2009. According to speculation, NBC asked Leno to do this so Conan, who was a vital asset to the network, wouldn't jump ship for a more lucrative offer.
It was rumoured that at the time of the announcement ABC was talking to Conan about possibly replacing Jimmy Kimmel.
As of October 2005, Late Night with Conan O'Brien had for nine years consistently attracted an audience averaging about 2.5-million viewers.
Letterman and Conan O'Brien
After Letterman left "Late Night" on NBC, his hosting duties were given to Conan O'Brien. During O'Brien's rookie year as host of Late Night, Letterman was very supportive, making an amicable appearance as one of O'Brien's first guests and later filling O'Brien's audience with the stand-by audience from his own show.
Letterman would also invite O'Brien as a guest on The Late Show With David Letterman. In 1996, when O'Brien celebrated his 3rd year on the air, Letterman showed up again in a bit involving a "Stray" hairpiece that once belonged to him. Years later, when NBC announced that O'Brien would take over The Tonight Show, Letterman congratulated O'Brien on his show.
In 2005, O'Brien appeared in The White Stripes' music video, "The Denial Twist". The band had previously been a week-long musical guest on Late Night when they were promoting their 2003 album, Elephant.
He has appeared on another late-night talk show, Space Ghost Coast to Coast (SGC2C), in Episode 77: Fire Ant, in which he and Space Ghost argue between themselves about a number of things, including whether or not anyone actually watches SGC2C.
Space Ghost later quips, "Well, that's very stupid, and you won't make it in television," an obvious parody of early reviews of O'Brien's show.
After a while, Space Ghost ignores the interview entirely to follow a fire ant that bit him (for about 11 straight minutes). As Space Ghost is crawling out of the studio, O'Brien gripes that "For all these people know, my show is a cop show on Fox or something!" to which Space Ghost replies, "Isn't it?"
O'Brien "interviewed" Pootie Tang on The Chris Rock Show, and shocked the audience into uproarious laughter when the usually clean-languaged O'Brien uncharacteristically said: "I'm sorry, but what the fuck are you talking about?"
O'Brien had a brief guest spot on an episode of Robot Chicken, in a quick, SNL-esque sketch called "Randy, the Oblivious Pizza Delivery Guy." He also played the cowboy in the jury on the same episode in a sketch about a murder trial.
On September 27, 2004, NBC announced the planned 2009 retirement of Tonight Show host Jay Leno. O'Brien was named Leno's successor.
On March 7, 2006, NBC announced that it had ordered a pilot episode for Andy Barker P.I., a new comedy executively produced by O'Brien, who will also co-write the pilot. The show will star O'Brien's former sidekick Andy Richter.
Conan also hosted the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards on August 27, 2006, to widespread critical acclaim. He had previously hosted the Primetime Emmys in 2002.
O'Brien is a founder of Labels Are For Jars, an innovative anti-hunger organisation based in Lawrence, MA.
On January 12, 2002, O'Brien married former advertising copywriter Elizabeth Ann 'Liza' Powel of Seattle, Washington. Officiating at the wedding was O'Brien's long-time friend, Father Paul B. O' Brien, with whom he founded Labels Are For Jars.
They met in early 2000 when Powel's employer Foote Cone & Belding (FCB), redesigned the television commercials for O'Brien's Houston sponsor Hilton Furniture.
Conan and Liza have a daughter Neve born October 14, 2003 and a son Beckett born November 9, 2005, both born in New York City.
Comedy and Mannerisms
On Late Night, Conan has become known for his more active and spontaneous hosting style. His stage habits include, but are not limited to: pantomime, self-deprecation, dramatic expressions, various impressions and use of awkward pauses or responses.
One of his trademarks is the "string dance," which is often recreated by his guests who have seen him do the dance. He also does unique impressions of celebrities that reflect his goofy sense of style.
His most notable are Arnold Schwarzenegger and Donald Trump.