Conan Christopher O'Brien (born April 18, 1963) is an American television host, comedian, and television producer. He is best known for hosting several late-night talk shows; since 2010, he has hosted Conan on the cable channel TBS. O'Brien was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, and was raised in an Irish Catholic family. He served as president of The Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, and was a writer for the sketch comedy series Not Necessarily the News.
After writing for several comedy shows in Los Angeles, he joined the writing staff of Saturday Night Live. O'Brien was a writer and producer for The Simpsons for two seasons until he was commissioned by NBC to take over David Letterman's position as host of Late Night in 1993. A virtual unknown to the public, O'Brien's initial Late Night tenure received unfavorable reviews and remained on a multiweek renewal cycle during its early years. The show generally improved over time and was highly regarded by the time of his departure in 2009. Afterwards, O'Brien relocated from New York to Los Angeles to host his own incarnation of The Tonight Show for seven months until network politics prompted a host change in 2010.
Known for his spontaneous hosting style, which has been characterized as "awkward, self-deprecating humor", O'Brien's late-night programs combine the "lewd and wacky with more elegant, narrative-driven short films (remotes)". He has hosted Conan since 2010 and has also hosted such events as the Emmy Awards and Christmas in Washington. O'Brien has been the subject of a documentary, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (2011), and has also hosted a 32-city live comedy tour.
O'Brien at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International
|Birth name||Conan Christopher O'Brien|
|Born|| April 18, 1963
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Genres||Improvisational comedy, sketch comedy, physical comedy, surreal humor, self-deprecation, black comedy, musical comedy, satire|
|Spouse||Elizabeth Ann Powel (m. 2002)|
|Notable works and roles|
O'Brien was born on April 18, 1963 in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, Thomas Francis O'Brien, is a physician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. His mother, Ruth O'Brien (née Reardon), is an attorney and partner at the Boston firm Ropes & Gray.
O'Brien attended Brookline High School, where he served as the managing editor of the school newspaper, The Sagamore. In his second year, O'Brien was an intern for Congressman Robert Drinan and in his senior year, he won the National Council of Teachers of English writing contest with his short story, "To Bury the Living". After graduating as valedictorian in 1981, he entered Harvard University. At Harvard, O'Brien lived in Holworthy Hall during his first year and Mather House during his three upper-class years. He concentrated in history and literature and graduated magna cum laude in 1985. O'Brien's senior thesis concerned the use of children as symbols in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. During college, O'Brien briefly served as the drummer in a band called "The Bad Clams", was a writer for the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine, and developed a spoof of the popular video game One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird in which the Boston Celtics play against a classical ballet troupe. During his sophomore and junior years, he served as the Lampoon's president. At this time, O'Brien's future boss at NBC, Jeff Zucker, was serving as President of the school's newspaper The Harvard Crimson.
O'Brien moved to Los Angeles after graduation to join the writing staff of HBO's Not Necessarily the News. He was also a writer on the short-lived The Wilton North Report. He spent two years with that show and performed regularly with improvisational groups, including The Groundlings. In January 1988, Saturday Night Live's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, hired O'Brien as a writer. During his three years on Saturday Night Live (SNL), he wrote such recurring sketches as "Mr. Short-Term memory" and "The Girl Watchers"; the latter was first performed by Tom Hanks and Jon Lovitz. O'Brien also co-wrote the sketch "Nude Beach" with Robert Smigel, in which the word "penis" was said or sung at least 42 times. While on a writers' strike from Saturday Night Live following the 1987–88 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. While living in Chicago, O'Brien briefly roomed with Jeff Garlin. 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; his most notable appearance was as a doorman in a sketch in which Tom Hanks was inducted into the SNL "Five-Timers Club" for hosting his fifth episode. O'Brien returned to host the show in 2001 during its 26th season. O'Brien and Robert Smigel wrote the television pilot for Lookwell starring Adam West, which aired on NBC in 1991. The pilot never went to series, but it became a cult hit. It was later screened at The Other Network, a festival of unaired TV pilots produced by Un-Cabaret; it featured an extended interview with O'Brien and was rerun in 2002 on the Trio network.
Things changed for O'Brien in 1991, when in quick succession, an engagement fell through; Lookwell was not picked up; and, burned out, he quit Saturday Night Live. "I told Lorne Michaels I couldn't come back to work and I just needed to do something else," O'Brien recalled. "I had no plan whatsoever. I was literally in this big transition phase in my life where I decided, I'll just walk around New York City, and an idea will come to me." Mike Reiss and Al Jean, then dual showrunners of The Simpsons, called O'Brien and offered him a job. The series was notorious in the writing community at the time; O'Brien recalls "everyone wanted to be on that show, but they never hired." O'Brien was one of the first hires after the show's original crew. With the help of old Groundlings friend Lisa Kudrow, O'Brien purchased an apartment in Beverly Hills. He and Kudrow became involved as well, and Kudrow believed he should begin performing rather than writing. O'Brien disagreed, feeling that Kudrow was being overly flattering and that asserting he was happy as a writer. 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 being hired for the show.
From 1991 to 1993, O'Brien was a writer and producer for The Simpsons. When O'Brien first arrived at the Fox lot, they temporarily gave him writer Jeff Martin's office. O'Brien was nervous and self-conscious, feeling that he would embarrass himself in front of what he regarded as an intimidating collection of writers. O'Brien would pitch characters in their voices as he thought that was the norm until Reiss informed him that no one did such. He fit in quickly, commanding control of the room frequently; Josh Weinstein called it a "ten-hour Conan show, nonstop". According to John Ortved, one of his fellow writers ventured that if Conan hadn't left to do Late Night, he was a shoo-in to take over as showrunner on The Simpsons.
When not contributing to others' scripts, O'Brien managed to craft what are regarded as some of the series' most memorable and finest episodes: "Marge vs. the Monorail" and "Homer Goes to College". Generally, critics, fans and even those who worked on the show agree that its sensibilities changed following "Marge vs. the Monorail." The show was initially a highly realistic family sitcom; after O'Brien's debut, the show took a rapid shift in the direction of the surreal. Along with those episodes, he has sole writing credits on "New Kid on the Block" and "Treehouse of Horror IV", on which he wrote the episode wraparounds. Wallace Wolodarsky described a "room character" Conan put on for the writers: "Conan used to do this thing called the Nervous Writer that involved him opening a can of Diet Coke and then nervously pitching a joke. He would spray Diet Coke all over himself, and that was always a source of endless amusement among us." Occasionally, fellow writers from the show would stop by O'Brien's Beverly Hills apartment.
Meanwhile, Late Night host David Letterman was preparing to leave, prompting executive producer Lorne Michaels to search for a new host. Michaels approached O'Brien to produce; then-agent Gavin Polone stressed that O'Brien wanted to perform, rather than produce. He arranged with Michaels that O'Brien would do a test audition on the stage of The Tonight Show. Jason Alexander and Mimi Rogers were the guests, and the audience was composed of Simpsons writers. Wolodarksky recalled the experience: "Seeing this friend of yours, this guy that you worked with, walk out from behind that curtain and deliver a monologue was like something you could only dream up that you couldn’t ever imagine actually happening." The performance was beamed by satellite to New York, where Lorne Michaels and NBC executives watched. O'Brien was picked as the new host of Late Night on April 26, 1993. As the writers headed to the voice record for "Homer Goes to College", O'Brien received a phone call from Polone informing him of the decision. "He was passed out facedown into this horrible shag carpet. He was just quiet and comatose down there on that carpet," recalled postproduction supervisor Michael Mendel. "I remember looking at him and saying, 'Wow. Your life is about to change, in a really dramatic way.'"
Fox, however, would not let O'Brien out of his contract. Eventually, NBC and O'Brien would split the cost to get him out of the contract. After O'Brien's departure, the writers at The Simpsons would watch videotaped episodes of Late Night at lunch the day following their midnight broadcast and analyze them. During his time at The Simpsons, O'Brien also had a side project working with Smigel on the script for a musical film based on the "Hans and Franz" sketch from Saturday Night Live, but the film was never produced.
Late Night with Conan O'Brien, originating from Studio 6A at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, premiered September 13, 1993 to unfavorable reviews from contemporary critics. This reception was not completely unsurprising; O'Brien wrote a self-deprecating New York Times piece titled "O'Brien Flops!" on the day of the show's premiere. Critics attacked O'Brien: Tom Shales of The Washington Post suggested that "the host resume his previous identity, Conan O'Blivion." Generally, critics viewed O'Brien as nervous and fidgety on-camera, and that he was "too smart, too East Coast, too sophisticated, too young and even too tall to be successful." The show was constantly at risk for cancellation; at one low point in 1994, NBC threatened to put him on a week-to-week contract. Executives were anxious to replace him with Greg Kinnear, who followed O'Brien with Later at 1:30 am. Interns filled empty seats in the audience while affiliates began to inquire about replacement hosts. In one installment after a short stretch of reruns, sidekick Andy Richter described his vacation activities as follows: "I sat back and reminded myself what it's like to be unemployed." The in-joke referenced the rumors floating in the trades that NBC was near canceling the program.
Things would improve slowly. Banter between O'Brien and Richter improved, and sketches grew in popularity ("If They Mated", "Desk Drive", "In the Year 2000"). A reliable staple involved a TV screen, lowered behind O'Brien's desk and displaying a still photo of news figure. The lips and voice of these characters – frequently a party-crazed hillbilly interpretation of Bill Clinton – were supplied by writing partner Robert Smigel. A turning point was David Letterman's February 1994 appearance. "It was a morale boost," said O'Brien. "I'm thinking, If the guy who created the 12:30 thing comes on and says we're smart and funny, let's go." The show went through a temporary wobble in January 1995 when Robert Smigel, feeling burned out, quit as head writer. The show's quality improved slowly over time, and most credit O'Brien's growing comedic performance. Within a year, a comedic formula began to arise: the show would combine the lewd and wacky with a more elegant, narrative-driven remotes. Regular characters would typically include a "Masturbating Bear" and a famous remote found Conan visit a historic, Civil War-era baseball league. That piece was one of O'Brien's personal favorites, later remarking, "When I leave this earth, at the funeral, just show this, because this pretty much says who I'm all about."
O'Brien's audience, largely young and male (a coveted demographic), grew steadily and the show began to best competitors in the ratings, which it would continue to do for 15 seasons. In the early days of the Internet, fans launched unofficial websites, compiling precise summaries of each episode. Even Tom Shales was a convert: he called the show "one of the most amazing transformations in television history." Beginning in 1996, O'Brien and the Late Night writing team were nominated annually for the Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series, winning the award for the first and only time in 2007. 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 subsequently shared in the production credits for Late Night.
As of October 2005, Late Night with Conan O'Brien had for eleven years consistently attracted an audience averaging about 2.5 million viewers. The apotheosis of the Late Night remotes centered on the realization in 2006 that O'Brien bore a striking resemblance to the then female president of Finland, Tarja Halonen. "We took the show to Helsinki for five days," O'Brien recalled, "where we were embraced like a national treasure."
On February 20, 2009, NBC aired the last episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The show consisted of a compilation of previous Late Night clips and included a surprise appearance by former sidekick Andy Richter. Will Ferrell, John Mayer, and the White Stripes also appeared. O'Brien ended the episode by destroying the set with an axe, handing out the pieces of the set to the audience, and thanking a list of people who helped him get to that point in his career. Among those thanked were Lorne Michaels, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and O'Brien's wife and children.
During the writers' strike in 2008, O'Brien staged a mock feud with Comedy Central's Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show) and Stephen Colbert (of The Colbert Report) over a dispute about which of the three were responsible for giving a "bump" to Mike Huckabee's campaign to become the Republican presidential nominee. This feud crossed over all three shows during the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike.
In 2004, O'Brien negotiated a new contract with NBC. As part of the deal, O'Brien would take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2009. O'Brien was a guest on Jay Leno's final episode of The Tonight Show. On June 1, 2009, Will Ferrell became Conan's first Tonight Show guest on the couch and Pearl Jam appeared as his first musical guest.
During the taping of the Friday, September 25, 2009, episode of The Tonight Show, O'Brien suffered from a mild concussion after he slipped and hit his head while running a race as part of a comedy sketch with guest Teri Hatcher. He was examined at a hospital and released the same day. A rerun was aired that night, but O'Brien returned to work the following Monday and poked fun at the incident.
On Thursday, January 7, 2010, NBC executive Jeff Zucker met with Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien to discuss how to get Leno out of prime time, where his ratings were lackluster, and back into late night, where O'Brien's ratings had collapsed before Leno's prime time series began. A proposal was made that would see O'Brien remain as host of The Tonight Show, which would be moved to 12:05 am with Leno hosting a 30-minute show at 11:35 pm On January 10, NBC Universal Television Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin confirmed that The Jay Leno Show would indeed end at the start of the Winter Olympics on February 12, 2010, and be moved to 11:35 pm following the Olympics coverage. Sources familiar with the situation told the New York Post that O'Brien was unhappy with NBC's plan.
On January 12, O'Brien released this statement: "I sincerely believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t The Tonight Show." On January 21, 2010, it was announced that Conan had reached a deal with NBC that would see him exit The Tonight Show the next day. The deal also granted him $45 million, of which $12 million was designated for distribution to his staff, who had moved with Conan to Los Angeles from New York when he left Late Night.
The final Tonight Show with Conan aired January 22, 2010, and featured guests Tom Hanks, Steve Carell (who did an exit interview and shredded Conan's ID badge), Neil Young (singing "Long May You Run"), and Will Ferrell. For Ferrell's appearance, Conan played guitar with the band and Ferrell sang "Free Bird" while reprising his SNL cowbell. Ferrell's wife, Viveca Paulin, together with Ben Harper, Beck, and ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, also joined the band for this final performance.
Jay Leno returned to The Tonight Show following NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Under the $45 million deal with NBC, Conan was allowed to start working for another network as soon as September 2010. Conan's rumored next networks ranged anywhere from Fox to Comedy Central.
On February 8, 2010, it was reported that O'Brien was attempting to sell his Central Park West penthouse in New York with an asking price of $35 million. He had purchased the apartment in 2007 for $10 million. Two years earlier, O'Brien had purchased a home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles for over $10.5 million. Some industry insiders have speculated that O'Brien had chosen to stay on the west coast in order to facilitate a return to late night television and because he did not want to put his children through another move.
On February 24, 2010, O'Brien attracted media attention for starting a Twitter account. His tweets, although primarily jokes, amounted to his first public statements since leaving The Tonight Show one month earlier. After about one hour, O'Brien's subscriber list had rocketed to over 30,000 members, and approximately 30 minutes later he was on the brink of passing 50,000 followers, already 20,000 more than the verified @jayleno account. After 24 hours, O'Brien had well over 300,000 followers. In late May 2010, he surpassed the one million mark for number of Twitter followers, and as of March 2015 he has over fifteen million followers.
O'Brien has been named to the 2010 Time 100, a list compiled by TIME of the 100 most influential people in the world as voted on by readers. After being prohibited from making television appearances of any kind until May, O'Brien spoke about the Tonight Show conflict on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes on May 2, 2010. During the interview with Steve Kroft, O'Brien said the situation felt "like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. And I was just trying to figure out what happened." He also said he "absolutely" expected NBC to give him more of a chance and that, if in Jay Leno's position, he would not have come back to The Tonight Show. However, Conan said he did not feel he got shafted. "It's crucial to me that anyone seeing this, if they take anything away from this, it's I'm fine. I'm doing great," said O'Brien. "I hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous. And I don't regret anything."
On March 11, 2010, O'Brien announced via his Twitter account that he would embark on a 30-city live tour beginning April 12, 2010, entitled "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour". Co-host Andy Richter, along with members of the former Tonight Show Band, joined O'Brien on the tour. Max Weinberg, however, was not able to join, except for a guest appearance at one of Conan's New York City shows.
On April 12, 2010, O'Brien opened his two-month comedy tour in Eugene, Oregon, with a crowd of 2,500 and no TV cameras. The tour traveled through America's Northwest and Canada before moving on to larger cities, including Los Angeles and New York City, where he performed on the campuses that house both of the NBC-owned studios he formerly occupied. The tour ended in Atlanta on June 14.
On April 12, 2010, just hours before the start of his tour in Eugene, Oregon, O'Brien announced that he would host a new show on cable station TBS. The show debuted on November 8, 2010, and airs Monday through Thursday beginning at 11:00 pm ET/10:00 pm CT. O'Brien's addition moved Lopez Tonight with George Lopez back one hour to midnight ET/11:00 pm CT. Refusing at first to do to Lopez what had happened to him at NBC, O'Brien agreed to join the network after Lopez called to persuade him to come to TBS. In Canada, CTV would air the show and in Turkey, CNBC-e would air the show.
On September 1, 2010, O'Brien announced via his Twitter account and Team Coco YouTube page that the title of his new show on TBS would simply be Conan. TBS has recently extended the show through 2018.
In February 2015, following the onset of the Cuban Thaw, O'Brien became the first American television personality to film in Cuba for more than half a century. Conan O'Brien then visited Armenia. In April 2016, O'Brien visited South Korea in response to a fan letter urging him to visit, as well as a growing fan base online. His visit included a trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which resulted in O'Brien and Steven Yeun to also 'visit' North Korea by stepping across the border line at the DMZ. Conan commented on the significance during the sketch, claiming, "The idea that you and I could be in North Korea, talking and communicating freely, seems like kind of a cool message."
In 2004, O'Brien apologized to Canadians for engaging in Quebec bashing, something which some felt reflected prejudice against Francophones. On March 7, 2006, NBC announced a new adventure/comedy series entitled Andy Barker, P.I., starring O'Brien's former sidekick, Andy Richter. O'Brien was executive producer and co-wrote the pilot. After six episodes and low ratings, the show was canceled despite being named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the Top Ten Shows of 2007. USA Network handed out a 90-minute, cast-contingent pilot order to the medical-themed Operating Instructions from O'Brien's production banner. O'Brien served as an executive producer through his Conaco label. The script came from Just Shoot Me veterans Judd Pillot and John Peaslee who also executive produced." NBC ordered two pilots from Conaco in January 2010, the one-hour courtroom drama, Outlaw, and a half-hour comedy. Outlaw was produced in eight episodes and premiered on September 15, 2010.
O'Brien's first guest appearance after beginning his late-night career was on the show he used to write for, The Simpsons. He played himself in the season five episode "Bart Gets Famous", interviewing Bart Simpson during his rise to fame as a catchphrase comedian. The episode was produced after O'Brien's audition to replace David Letterman, but before he was hired for the show. O'Brien recorded his part after his own show went on the air, though he believed his show would be canceled by the time "Bart Gets Famous" aired. In 2006, he voiced himself in a short South Park scene as part of the opening of the 2006 Emmy Awards. In 2005, he provided the voice of Robert Todd Lincoln in the audiobook version of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.
O'Brien has made multiple voice appearances on the Adult Swim series Robot Chicken, including the specials Robot Chicken: Star Wars, and Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II as the voice of the bounty hunter Zuckuss. On the TV show 30 Rock, O'Brien is depicted as an ex-boyfriend of lead character Liz Lemon, who works in the same building. In the episode "Tracy Does Conan", Conan appears as himself, awkwardly reunited with Lemon and coerced by network executive Jack Donaghy into having the character Tracy Jordan on Late Night, despite having been assaulted in Jordan's previous appearance.
O'Brien made an appearance on Futurama in the second-season episode "Xmas Story". O'Brien plays himself as a head in a jar and still alive in the year 3000. O'Brien performs a stand-up routine at a futuristic ski lodge while being heckled by Bender the robot.
O'Brien also made a cameo appearance on the U.S. version of The Office. In the episode "Valentine's Day", Michael believes that he spots former SNL cast member, Tina Fey, but has actually mistaken another woman for her. In the meantime, Conan has a quick walk-on and the camera crew informs Michael, when he returns from talking to the Tina Fey lookalike.
In January 2010, O'Brien appeared in The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special – In 3-D! On Ice! to honor the show he had written for in the early 1990s.
O'Brien created a superhero character with veteran DC Comics animator Bruce Timm during one episode of Conan. Named "The Flaming C", the superhero bears a likeness to O'Brien, with a typically muscular superhero body and costume with chest insignia, but also with idiosyncrasies arbitrarily suggested by O'Brien like an oven mitt, a jai alai glove, marijuana leaf buckle, golf shoes, sock garters and fishnet stockings. O'Brien later aired a clip in which the character appears in Young Justice.
O'Brien provided the voice of talk show host Dave Endochrine in the 2013 DC Universe animated original movie Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Part 2).
Twice Conan has served as the master of ceremonies for the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C., in 1995 and again in 2013.
According to Marketing Evolutions, the company that produces Q Scores measuring the familiarity and appeal of celebrities and brands, almost 74% of U.S. consumers are familiar with O'Brien. In spite of that high score, O'Brien hasn't done many commercials for corporate America; two recent examples are a 2009 appearance in a Super Bowl XLIII commercial for Bud Light, and one for American Express, which debuted on the same day as Conan. He donated his proceeds from the Super Bowl commercial to the Fresh Air Fund, a charity which sends inner-city New York children to the country for vacations. According to The Wall Street Journal, O'Brien was paid more than one million dollars to do the American Express commercial, which required him to spend three days in Jaipur, India filming it.
While O'Brien has done few commercials, he "does do plenty of promoting, weaving product pitches into his show"; he has said "it's increasingly incumbent to help with tie-ins [but] if it can't be funny, I'd rather go hungry."
He lists among his comedic influences David Letterman, Peter Sellers, Sid Caesar, Warner Bros. Cartoons, Johnny Carson, Ernie Kovacs, Robin Williams, Bob Hope, and Woody Allen. In turn, actors and comedians who claim O'Brien as an influence include Mindy Kaling, Pete Holmes, and James Corden.
Conan acquired the nickname "Coco" after its use in the first "Twitter Tracker" sketch during the second episode of his Tonight Show run. Guest Tom Hanks used the nickname during his subsequent interview, even getting the audience to chant it. In reaction to the moniker, Conan remarked to Hanks in jest, "If that catches on, I'll sue you."
In a March 23, 2011 interview with WWE Champion The Miz on Conan, The Miz dubbed Conan "The Ginja Ninja", a reference to Conan's red hair and the fact that he came back fighting to get his new late-night talk show. A week later, "Team Ginja Ninja" T-shirts were available on TeamCoco.com.
O'Brien met Elizabeth Ann 'Liza' Powel in 2000, when she appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in an advertising skit involving Foote, Cone & Belding, where she worked as senior copywriter. The couple dated for nearly 18 months before their 2002 marriage in Powel's hometown of Seattle. O'Brien and Powel have a daughter, Neve (born October 14, 2003) and a son, Beckett (born November 9, 2005). O'Brien often affirms his Irish Catholic heritage on his show. On a 2009 episode of Inside the Actors Studio, he stated that ancestors from both sides of his family moved to America from Ireland starting in the 1850s, subsequently marrying only other Irish Catholics, and that his lineage is thus 100% Irish Catholic.
He has been a staunch Democrat since casting his first vote for President in 1984 for Walter Mondale. He considers himself a moderate on the political spectrum. O'Brien's longtime friend and former dormmate in Mather House at Harvard is Father Paul B. O' Brien, with whom he founded Labels Are For Jars, an antihunger organization based in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and helped open the Cor Unum meal center in 2006. The two are not related.
In January 2008, after his show was put on hold for two months owing to the strike by the Writers Guild of America, he reemerged on late-night TV sporting a beard, which guest Tom Brokaw described as making him look like "a draft dodger from the Civil War." After leaving The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien on January 22, 2010, O'Brien again grew a beard, which he kept until May 2, 2011, when it was partially shaved on the set of his TBS talk show, Conan, by Will Ferrell with battery-operated clippers (and completely shaved off-screen by a professional barber). The event was dubbed on the show as "Beardocalypse", and included a contest for fan-submitted artwork.
O'Brien purchased a $10.5-million mansion in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, to prepare for his move there in 2009 from New York City to host The Tonight Show at Universal Studios Hollywood. As part of a long-running gag, he brought his 1992 Ford Taurus SHO with him to California, showcasing it on both the inaugural episodes of The Tonight Show and Conan.
On June 12, 2011, O'Brien gave a commencement address to the class of 2011 at Dartmouth College.
On October 21, 2011, O'Brien was ordained as a minister by the Universal Life Church Monastery, allowing him to perform a same-sex marriage while back in New York, then one of the few states in the US where gay marraige was legal, to tape a week's worth of shows. The wedding, between a member of O'Brien's staff and his partner, was held on the stage of the Beacon Theatre on November 3, 2011, and broadcast on Conan.
Starting in September 2006, O'Brien was stalked by Father David Ajemian of the Archdiocese of Boston, who, despite multiple warnings to stop, sent O'Brien letters signed as "your priest stalker" and came into contact with O'Brien's parents. O'Brien and Ajemian had attended Harvard University at the same time. Frustrated that he had been denied a spot in the Late Night audience, Ajemian sent a letter to O'Brien stating that he flew to New York "in the dimming hope that you might finally acknowledge me." He stated in another letter, "Is this the way you treat your most dangerous fans??? You owe me big time, pal." In another letter, Ajemian seemed to make a death threat, saying, "Remember Frank Costello once dodged a bullet in your building and so can you."
Ajemian then tried to forcefully enter a taping of Late Night but was caught and arrested. He was previously warned by the NBC security team to stay away from the studio. After a psychological evaluation, he was deemed fit to stand trial. He was bailed out of jail. He was then reported missing by his father on November 10, 2007. He was found and underwent evaluation at a hospital. He was again found fit to stand trial on April 4, 2008. On April 8, Ajemian pleaded guilty to stalking, stating that he "never meant to cause anxiety or to upset anyone." He was ordered to pay a $95 court charge and to sign a two-year restraining order barring him from coming near O'Brien.
On September 11, 2008, Ajemian checked himself out of his treatment at a hospital against the wishes of his bishop, Seán Patrick O'Malley. Cardinal O'Malley then released a statement saying that, because he violated his bishop's wishes, Ajemian could no longer serve as a priest in the Catholic Church. In late 2010, Ajemian was charged with harassing the TV host Anthony Everett while violating a restraining order.
|2001||Pootie Tang||Himself||Uncredited cameo|
|2003||End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones||Himself||Documentary|
|2006||Queer Duck: The Movie||Himself||Voice|
|2008||The Great Buck Howard||Himself||Cameo|
|2011||Conan O'Brien Can't Stop||Himself||Documentary|
|2013||Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2||David Endocrine||Voice|
|2013||Now You See Me||Himself||Cameo|
|2013||The Secret Life of Walter Mitty||Himself||Cameo|
|2017||The Lego Batman Movie||Edward Nygma / The Riddler||Voice|
|1983–1987||Not Necessarily the News||Writer|
|1987–1988||The Wilton North Report||Writer|
|1987–1991||Saturday Night Live||Various||21 episodes; also writer|
|1991||Lookwell||Pilot; creator and writer|
|1991–1993||The Simpsons||Writer and executive producer|
|1993–2009||Late Night with Conan O'Brien||Himself (host)||2,277 episodes; also writer and executive producer|
|1994||The Simpsons||Himself (voice)||Episode: "Bart Gets Famous"|
|1995||Mr. Show with Bob and David||Himself||Episode: "The Cry of a Hungry Baby"|
|1996||The Single Guy||Cameron Duncan||Episode: "Rival"|
|1996||Arli$$||Himself||Episode: "Colors of the Rainbow"|
|1996||Favorite Deadly Sins||Himself||Television film|
|1998||Veronica's Closet||Himself||Episode: "Veronica's Night Alone"|
|1998||Spin City||Conan||Episode: "Dead Dog Talking"|
|1999||Space Ghost Coast to Coast||Himself||Episode: "Fire Ant"|
|1999||Futurama||Himself (voice)||Episode: "Xmas Story"|
|1997, 2002||Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist||Himself (voice)||2 episodes|
|2001||Saturday Night Live||Himself (host)||Episode: "Conan O'Brien/Don Henley"|
|2002||NBC 75th Anniversary Special||Himself||Television special|
|2002||54th Primetime Emmy Awards||Himself (host)||Television special|
|2003||55th Primetime Emmy Awards||Himself (co-host)||Television special|
|2003||Andy Richter Controls the Universe||Freddy Pickering||Episode: "Crazy in Rio"|
|2005–2008||Robot Chicken||Various voices||2 episodes|
|2006||O'Grady||Chip (voice)||Episode: "Frenched"|
|2006||The Office||Himself||Episode: "Valentine's Day"|
|2006||58th Primetime Emmy Awards||Himself (host)||Television special|
|2006, 2013||30 Rock||Himself||2 episodes|
|2007||Andy Barker, P.I.||Creator and exeuctive producer|
|2007||Robot Chicken: Star Wars||Zuckuss / Ponda Baba's Boss (voices)||Television special|
|2008||Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II||Zuckuss (voice)||Television special|
|2009–2010||The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien||Himself (host)||145 episodes; also executive producer and writer|
|2010–present||Conan||Himself (host)||Also creator, writer and executive producer|
|2011||Web Therapy||Himself||3 episodes|
|2011||Christmas in Washington||Himself (host)||Television special|
|2012||Eagleheart||Himself||Episode: "Honor Thy Marshal"|
|2012||How I Met Your Mother||Bar Patron||Uncredited
Episode: "No Pressure"
|2012||Christmas in Washington||Himself (host)||TVelevision special|
|2012||The Penguins of Madagascar||Kuchikukan (voice)||Episode: "Operation: Lunacorn Apocalypse"|
|2013||Deon Cole's Black Box||Executive producer|
|2013||Clear History||Himself||Television film|
|2013||White House Correspondents' Dinner||Himself (host)||Television special|
|2013||Arrested Development||Himself||Episode: "The B. Team"|
|2013||Deon Cole's Black Box||Himself||Episode: "Deon Tries to Reach Out to White People"|
|2013||Nashville||Himself||Episode: "Never No More"|
|2013||It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia||Himself (voice)||Episode: "The Gang Broke Dee"|
|2013||Real Husbands of Hollywood||Himself||Episode: "Rock, Paper, Stealers"|
|2013||Brody Stevens: Enjoy It!||Himself||Episode: "Conan!"|
|2013–2014||Super Fun Night||Executive producer|
|2013–2014||The Pete Holmes Show||Executive producer|
|2013||Family Guy||Himself (voice)||Episode: "Into Harmony's Way"|
|2014||2014 MTV Movie Awards||Himself (host)||Television special|
Episode: "Valeire Gets What She Wants"
|2014||Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda||Himself||Television film|
|2015||The Jack and Triumph Show||Executive producer|
|2015||Ground Floor||Himself||Episode: "The Mansfield Who Came to Dinner"|
|2015||Stranger's Soul (Ուրիշի հոգին)||Unknown||1 episode|
|2015||Clipped||Red-Head Customer||Episode: "Dreamers"|
|2016||One More Happy Ending (한번 더 해피엔딩)||Himself||1 episode|
|2016||Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten||Johnny J. Smith||1 episode|
|2017||Mi adorable maldición||Joseph Robinson||Episode: "La fiesta de Apolonia"|
|2018||Final Space||Executive producer|
|Year||Video game||Voice role|
|2012||Halo 4||Soldier # 1|
|2014||Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham||Himself|
|2005||"The Denial Twist"||The White Stripes|
|2016||"Fire"||Park Jin-young (feat. Conan O'Brien, Steven Yeun & Jimin Park)|
|Host of The Tonight Show
June 1, 2009 – January 22, 2010
|Host of Late Night
September 13, 1993 – February 20, 2009
|Host of Christmas in Washington