The Late Night with Conan O'Brien story began in 1993 when David Letterman left his successful NBC show Late Night with David Letterman to move to CBS and host Late Show with David Letterman after NBC passed over him and selected Jay Leno to take over the retiring Johnny Carson's job on The Tonight Show. With the 12:35am slot now empty, NBC needed a new host for Late Night. NBC originally offered the job to comedians such as Dana Carvey and Garry Shandling, however they both passed on the job. The network then asked the creator of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels, to serve as executive producer on the new late night show and create a new viable program. He agreed and the search for a new late night host was on.

While searching for a host Michaels talked to his old friend, former SNL writer, and current The Simpsons writer, Conan O'Brien and offered him the position of head writer on the new show. Conan surprised his former boss when instead of taking the writing job he asked to be considered for the hosting job. Michaels was shocked. Conan O'Brien a host? The red-headed, timid kid from the northeast? Despite his initial doubts, Michaels believed that Conan O'Brien might be able to pull it off and set up the chance for Conan to do a practice audition show on the set of Jay Leno's The Tonight Show. Conan did a sample monologue, interviewed sample guests, and generally tried to convince the NBC brass that he was the choice for the job. The practice show went well for the most part, although Conan tended to let his sentences trail off, shook with nervousness, and let a few unairable words slip from his mouth. Nevertheless, Michaels and the NBC bosses were impressed with Conan's performance and agreed that he was the man for the job. They gave Conan a three month contract and agreed to see how he performed. Late Night with Conan O'Brien was born.

On September 13, 1993 Conan O'Brien was introduced to America as a guest on The Tonight Show. Jay Leno introduced him to mass applause and told everyone to stay tuned following his show for Conan (a practice still continued today. At the end of each Tonight Show Jay says "Stay tuned for Conan!"). Comedian Andy Richter was chosen as Conan's sidekick and E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg became the bandleader of The Max Weinberg 7.

Late Night got off to a slow start, and NBC decided to pull the plug after the three month deal elapsed. However, when the word came down Conan refrained from telling any of the staff and instead began pushing them harder. NBC held off on the cancellation because they didn't have anything to put in the timeslot. The show continued to grow and the ratings began to perk up. NBC decided to extend Conan's contract for another six months, which eventually extended to another six months, then a year, and finally to his current contract which expires (but will most likely be renewed) at the end of 2003. During the show's early days the reruns were repurposed to cable network CNBC (that is, week-old reruns ran at 10pm on the channel). This practice ended after several months and for years the show remained an NBC exclusive, although today Comedy Central has bought the rerun rights and currently airs the show one day after its NBC run as well as "best of the week" runs on weekends.

During Conan's early days he established many comedy segments and sketches that became all-time fan favorites, many of which still are featured on the show. "In The Year 2000" features Conan, Andy and Max giving predictions about what will happen in the year 2000. Example: "In the year 2000 men will become attracted to womens' personalities. In other news, "breasts" will be renamed "personalities." "In The News" is a riff on Jay Leno's "Headlines" segment where Conan presents "actual" headlines from newspapers. However, the headlines are obviously written by the writers. "Actual Items" is a similar segment, except that it's advertisements that have been doctored by writers. "Staring Contest" involves Conan and Andy engaging in a staring contest while outlandish people and things attempt to distract them. With the exception of Andy's final show, Conan always won the contests. "If They Mated" uses complicated computer technology to combine the traits of two celebrities so that we can see what the offspring of a celebrity pairing would look like. Sometimes Conan takes his desk for a drive and, with the use of a bluescreen, drives around the city and engages in mishaps and adventures. The show has also served as a home for a variety of characters such as Pimpbot 5000, Preparation H Raymond, the Masturbating Bear, and probably the most famous character on the show, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog who has spawned a whole legion of his own fans.

Andy Richter left Late Night in May 2000 to pursue his own independent projects (such as his FOX sitcom Andy Richter Controls The Universe). Once he left the show shifted to focus more on Conan O'Brien, and now when a sidekick is needed for a comic antic, the camera is often turned to Max, William Shatner, Abe Vigoda, an audience member, or even Mr. T. Conan has really shined on his own and has become even more dedicated to making the show as entertaining as it can be. The show has become as popular among college students as it was in David Letterman's NBC heyday and shows no signs of slowing down. Be it shocking audiences with sketches like "Mauled By A Bear", hawking inspirational Jesus statues, or angering Michael Bolton, Conan O'Brien never stops being edgy, surprising, or funny.


References:
http://conanvideos.jt.org/conan_faq.htm
The Late Shift by Bill Carter
Frequent viewing of the show

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