Conan O'Brien - Early Career and Transition to Host - 12/Apr/2024

Conan O’Brien – Early Career and Transition to Host – 12/Apr/2024

Conan O’Brien: The Enduring Impact of a Late Night Icon

In the pantheon of American late-night television hosts, Conan Christopher O’Brien has carved out a unique niche thanks to his unorthodox brand of comedy and distinctive persona. Starting as a writer and eventually making the transition to become one of the most recognized faces on television, O’Brien’s influence extends over three decades of entertainment.

Early Career and Transition to Host

Conan O’Brien began his showbiz career as a writer. He graduated from Harvard University, where he was president of the Harvard Lampoon, a springboard that led him to writing gigs for high-profile comedy shows including HBO’s “Not Necessarily the News,” NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (SNL), and the animated Fox series “The Simpsons.”

After several successful years behind the scenes, O’Brien unexpectedly became a front-man when NBC chose him to succeed David Letterman as host of “Late Night” in 1993. Despite a rocky start and threats of cancelation during the early days, O’Brien’s brand of comedy—irreverent, self-deprecating, and intelligent—eventually won over audiences, making “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” a mainstay and proving his naysayers wrong.

Expanding The Late Night Legacy

By the time “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” had found its footing, O’Brien’s sense of humor — a quirky blend of irreverence and silliness at odds with his Harvard background — had become his trademark. His improvisational skills shone in segments like “In the Year 2000” and interactions with his comedic partner Andy Richter, along with their bandleader Max Weinberg.

The show also introduced recurring comedic characters and skits that became part of the pop culture lexicon. Characters such as The Masturbating Bear, Pimpbot 5000, and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog gained notoriety beyond the confines of late-night TV.

O’Brien made a significant shift in 2009 when he took over “The Tonight Show,” succeeding venerable host Jay Leno. An ensuing dispute over scheduling led to a contentious departure, but the spotlight shined more intensely on O’Brien’s abilities and boosted his fan base.

Creation Of ‘Conan’ And Beyond

After his departure from “The Tonight Show,” many wondered what was next for O’Brien. His answer came in the form of “Conan,” a new show on TBS which premiered on November 8, 2010. The show presented an opportunity for creative freedom and brought along many members from his previous ventures.

Throughout its run, “Conan” crafted memorable remote segments that featured O’Brien traveling to various countries like Cuba, Armenia, and Israel; these travels highlighted Conan’s ability to adapt his comedic style across cultures, often involving poignant moments despite language barriers.

Digitally Extending The Conan Brand

Not only did Conan O’Brien adapt to changing landscapes within television, but he also embraced digital mediums with considerable success. Clipped YouTube segments of “Conan” receive millions of views — evidence that his impact isn’t restricted to traditional TV ratings. Kids have grown up with his signature style formulated from lighthearted sketches, celebrity interviews, and comic bits that resonate beyond live airings.

O’Brien has nurtured burgeoning talent as well; comedians like Pete Holmes had opportunities through shows produced under the umbrella of Conaco—O’Brien’s production company.

An Enduring Legacy In Entertainment

Reflecting reports in 2021, after nearly 30 years on air and more than 4,000 episodes across several series, Conan O’Brien announced that he would be ending his late-night show on TBS to venture into new projects with HBO Max. It was not an ending, but an evolution for the ever-relevant comedian who had become a generational voice in American pop culture.


  • Conan Christopher O’Brien was born on April 18, 1963, in Brookline, Massachusetts.
  • He wrote for SNL during the late 1980s, earning an Emmy for his work.
  • He succeeded David Letterman as the host of NBC’s “Late Night”in 1993 after Letterman moved to CBS.
  • His show “Conan” debuted on TBS in 2010 after his brief tenure hosting “The Tonight Show.”
  • “Conan” ended its run on cable television in June 2021; however, Conan continues working on a variety show set to be released on HBO Max
  • Image description: A still from one of Conan O’Brien’s remote segments where he is grinning widely at the camera wearing his signature suit paired with an uncharacteristic hat or accessory from whichever country he is visiting at the time. His expression exemplifies his playful and adventurous spirit that has entertained viewers globally for decades.