O'Brien stayed true to form as he wrapped up his TBS show "Conan" after nearly 11 years on the air, bouncing between self-deprecating and smart-aleck humor
before allowing himself a touch of sentiment.
“Try to do what you love with people
you love, and if you can manage that, it’s the definition of heaven on Earth
,” he said, capping off his third late-night show in 28 years, trailing only Johnny Carson’s 30 years on “Tonight.”
O'Brien's next project is a weekly variety show for HBO Max
, which will debut in 2022 with an unannounced format.
The hour-long “Conan” finale Thursday was largely a trip down memory lane, with clips of guests including Steve Martin, Tom Hanks
, and Sarah Silverman, as well as highlights of specials taped outside the United States
. Will Ferrell appeared via Zoom
, with Jack Black
on hand to pay tribute to O’Brien.
Ferrell mentioned that he had appeared as a guest at the conclusion of two of O'Brien's previous shows, "Late Night
With Conan O'Brien" and "Tonight," both of which aired on NBC
but had very different runs: the former from 1993 to 2009, and the latter for less than eight months in 2009-10.
“It’s almost become a tradition,” O'Brien said of Ferrell's presence.
“It’s become (expletive) exhausting,” Ferrell responded, before going on to perform farewells that he suggested O’Brien save for possible future use, including his new HBO Max series.
“People would say six episodes isn’t a lot, but you packed enough entertainment
in them for eight,” Ferrell said, before praising him for a string of planned talk show flops on Al Jazeera
and Delta Airlines
, as well as his YouTube
“classic unboxing videos.”
In his salad days, O'Brien worked as a writer
for "The Simpsons," and sat for his exit interview
with surprise HR rep Homer Simpson, who was unimpressed when told O'Brien was a talk show host.
Simpson told the animated version of O'Brien, "Wow, a dying breed; there's only about 800 of you left."
Black limped onto the stage in an orthopedic boot, which he and O'Brien explained was due to a badly sprained ankle
Black suffered during the pre-taping of what was supposed to be a big-finish action and dancing skit.
Instead, Black serenaded O'Brien and his longtime sidekick Andy Richter with rewritten lyrics set to the signature Frank Sinatra standard "My Way."
“Conan, you are my friend, and you are the best, and so is Andy,” Black sang, changing the lyrics to honor “Con’s way.”
The host, whose gravity-defying, trademark swoop of red hair
has remained virtually unchanged over the years, concluded the show with heartfelt thanks to his colleagues, family
, and fans
, as well as a philosophical tidbit.
”I have devoted all of my adult life, all of it, to pursuing this strange, phantom intersection between smart and stupid,” things he claims many people believe cannot coexist, but when they do, there is a tiny flicker of “what is a kind of magic,” he says.
O'Brien, a former “Saturday Night Live
” writer, was backed by “SNL
” creator Lorne Michaels to succeed David Letterman as “Late Night” host. Letterman moved to CBS in “The Late Show
” after losing the post-Carson “Tonight” job to Jay Leno, a rivalry that became a media
In an effort to create an orderly transition, NBC executives appointed O'Brien in 2004 to succeed Leno in 2009. After ratings for "Tonight" faltered with O'Brien, Leno reclaimed the show, and O'Brien found a new home and, he claims, more creative freedom at TBS.