Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an NBC talk show hosted by Conan O'Brien. It is the nation's current leading source of both Chuck Norris and Abe Vigoda. While a popular late-night comedy-variety program these days, Late Night with Conan O'Brien has a long and varied history, airing nearly continuously on NBC for the past 60 years.
Late Night with Conan O'Brien debuted in 1954 as a public-affairs program featuring vigorous debate over the issues of the day. The show also included the Clutch Cargo-style sketches of today's program, only featuring a Point-Counterpoint-type exchange instead of uproarious jokes. The 1950s edition of Late Night won many top honors for its hard-hitting investigations of corruption in labor unions, Eisenhower's domestic policies, and payola scandals in the radio industry. The show's relentless reporting forced the resignation of Eisenhower's Chief of Staff, Sherman Adams, in 1958.
The show's tone took a decided change in 1966 when its first host, Conan O'Brien I, was replaced by Conan O'Brien II, the former director of communications for Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. From that point forward, Late Night regularly assailed the counter-culture, with O'Brien himself regularly denouncing young people for their long hair, leftist politics, and involvement in the counter-culture. A regular segment on the show, "Conan's Hose Party," involved the host turning on a high-powered firehose on to any youths who ran afoul of his conservative world view. In a memorable episode, O'Brien II chased Abbie Hoffman with an electric meat carver.
After O'Brien's conviction in 1974 for illegally funneling money into Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, Conan O'Brien III took over hosting duties turning Late Night into an old tyme Vaudeville show. While ridiculously out-of-step with the times, the show nevertheless made stars out of performers like mentalist Kreskin, ventriloquist Willie Tyler, and raconteur Richard Dawson. However, ratings cratered following 1982's series of All-Mime shows, and Conan O'Brien III was fired.
After Conan O'Brien IV briefly tried to turn Late Night into a self-help program that warned viewers about the evils of pornographic video rentals, Conan O'Brien V took over. By this time, NBC was airing the show at 2 a.m. and using it primarily to broadcast movies in the public domain. O'Brien V would introduce the movies and handle segues into commercial breaks; occasionally, he would also speculate on where his life went so horribly wrong and beg God for the sweet release of death.
In 1993, Conan O'Brien VI took over hosting duties, turning it into the show you see today. He left to a higher plane of existence in 2009, making him the only Conan O'Brien to ever host more than one show (two others, in fact -- currently this incarnation hosts Conan on TBS, no doubt inviting a whole new generation of Conan O'Briens to follow).
Anticipating his departure from the main program, NBC executives spent much of 2009 scouring the country for the seventh incarnation of Conan O'Brien. After auditioning an eight-year-old boy growing up outside of Ames, Iowa, as well as comedian Rob Schneider, producers found a new O'Brien in the guise of Saturday Night Live stalwart Jimmy Fallon. Fallon was notable for being the first host of Late Night with Conan O'Brien to not actually be named Conan O'Brien, which caused some confusion -- and a letter-writing campaign -- from viewers who demanded either Fallon change his name to Conan O'Brien VII or the show change its name to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Understandably, producers weren't about to break from such a time-honored tradition, but Fallon was unwavering in his desire to "not be another carbon copy man," so the show went by the compromised title Late Night with Conan O'Brien Starring Jimmy Fallon.
To save Fallon from any further haggling by the show's producers, and sensing his own television mortal coil start to slip, Jay Leno opted to give Fallon his longtime seat on The Tonight Show, effectively ending Fallon's tenure as host of Late Night just as producers had been looking into various medieval torture methods as a means of name-changing coercion. Meanwhile, the father of the aforementioned eight-year-old boy from Ames, Iowa had taken on a career in show business under the name "Seth Meyers," and was proving to be quite popular on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Now left without a host, Late Night producers offered Meyers the hosting position, and Meyers surprised the staff with both his immediate acceptance of the offer and the revelation of his real name -- Conan O'Brien VII, meaning that he, in fact, was the man NBC execs had been looking for all along. When this was realized, a tearful NBC ran through the Iowa cornfields with arms outstretched toward Meyers, and the two enveloped each other in a long, passionate, loving embrace.
Research is currently underway to determine whether or not Meyers/O'Brien VII is in fact a failed clone of O'Brien VI.
The eight hosts of Late Night with Conan O'Brien are:
- Conan O'Brien I (Born: April 12, 1898; Died: May 31, 1969 -- rubella)
- Conan O'Brien II (Born: February 27, 1927; Died: January 16, 1975 -- prison riot)
- Conan O'Brien III (Born: May 2, 1902; Died: December 7, 1982 -- massive organ failure)
- Conan O'Brien IV (Born: November 5, 1950; Died: December 22, 1992 -- auto-erotic asphyxiation)
- Conan O'Brien V (Born: October 17, 1958; Died: August 23, 1998 -- mauled by bears)
- Conan O'Brien VI (Born: April 18, 1963)
- Jimmy Fallon (Born: September 19, 1974)
- Conan O'Brien VII (also known as "Seth Meyers") (Born: December 28, 1973)
Despite the many format changes over the past five decades, Late Night with Conan O'Brien has kept the same theme song -- Fat Bottomed Girls.