Saturday, November 20, 2010

Conan O'Brien Interview

Source: Channel Guide Mag [follow link for complete interview]

Hot Coco!

Conan O'Brien Talks About His Crazy Year

By Stacey Harrison


You can gauge the major upheavals in Conan O'Brien's career by his facial hair.

A couple of years ago, when a writers strike brought production of Late Night to a standstill, the famously boyish-looking host emerged with a beard -- the first of his life -- that he said he grew out of solidarity with his staff. Then, in January, when his brief run on The Tonight Show ended after a notorious spat with NBC, during which he elected to leave the show rather than agreeing to move its time slot to make way for the return of Jay Leno, the first thing he did was to stop shaving.

He kept the beard as he set out on this summer's Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour, which showcased his musical skills and poked fun at his be-quiet-or-else contractual settlement with NBC. It's still there in promos for his new late-night show Conan, which comes to TBS beginning Nov. 8.

The question is, will it be around come showtime?

O'Brien answered this and many other questions during our 40-minute chat, which also reveals how he plans to address the situation with NBC, why he stayed in Los Angeles, and why he never watches late-night talk shows.

... You're known to revere the late-night talk show traditions of shows like Late Night and especially The Tonight Show. Are you looking to bring that to cable, or will Conan be something that's really out of that mold?

My analogy is when you come out with a new car that's radically different from any other car, it still has four wheels, a steering wheel and some kind of conventional seating. I think this show will still have the skeleton that a lot of these shows have and the way that I've been working since 1993, which is coming out and greeting the crowd, addressing them. You have to have guests. There's no way in the world that you can do a show for an hour [without guests], and that's often my favorite part of the show. That can be very unpredictable. ... The standard setup will be the same. That said, I'd like the show to reflect a lot of the things that are different now, and the fact that I'm on basic cable now. And I say that not in a bad way, but in a good way. I think there's a lot of ways that we can evolve into something else. One thing people often don't understand about these shows is that you don't unveil a finished product on the first night. My plan is to have a really good time, have a few memorable moments, and what I've told my writers is we're going to find this show by doing it. It's by the doing of the show and by being open to change and trying things that we're going to [get it right]. The Late Night show went through a long evolution. My whole career in late-night television has been an evolution, or devolution, or however you want to look at it. That's what has to happen here is yeah, there's got to be a lot of the skeleton or the blueprint of what these shows are, and then we see what we can do with this thing. Because mostly what I'd like to do with this show is surprise myself. I'd like to amuse myself. I'd like to a year from now realize, "Wow, we started here on Nov. 8, and look at how much things changed." That to me is a sign of a healthy show, especially in the beginning.

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