Thursday marked the end of an era in late night when Conan O’Brien (Conan, Final Space) stepped away from the desk after 28 years hosting comedians, actors, musicians and cultural figures across Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show and Conan. Those who graced O’Brien’s stage, as guests, performers and behind-the-scenes staff, spent this past weekend flooding social media with love, gratitude and best wishes for the prolific late night host as he beings his new partnership with HBO Max.
O’Brien ended a jam-packed final week of shows – which included sharing a joint with marijuana enthusiast Seth Rogen (Superbad, Pineapple Express)– with guests Jack Black (School of Rock, High Fidelity), a virtual Will Ferrell (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Superstar) and, of course, loyal co-host Andy Richter (Conan, Madagascar). Conan’s final TBS episode included a touching farewell from the host, with Esquire describing the send-off as “characteristically brilliant, silly, and moving episode.”
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“What an amazing honor to be on the farewell show,” Black posted a photo of the Thursday night TBS finale on his Instagram, kicking off the bevy of farewells that followed. Black continued: “[O’Brien’s] He’s always been game to go all the fucking way…In comedy and kindness.” (Instagram).
According to TVLine, the world of late night television hosts likewise marked the occasion of Conan’s departure on-air. Both Jimmy Kimmel (Jimmy Kimmel Live!) and Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) dedicated a moment of their Thursday night programming to Conan, with Kimmel alluding to Jay Leno (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jay Leno’s Garage) and the infamous Late Night Wars of the 2010s. Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver included a graphic of O’Brien in its introduction, dubbing the red-headed host “Coco Maximus”. In addition to on-air tributes, Kimmel and Colbert likewise made posts about O’Brien on social media as did hosts Samantha Bee (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, The Daily Show) and Jimmy Fallon (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live).
— Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB) June 24, 2021
Comedian, and brief late-night host himself, Pete Holmes (Crashing, The Pete Holmes Show), was one of many stand-up comedians to pay tribute to O’Brien on social media over the weekend. For nearly three decades, O’Brien has provided a platform for comedians to showcase their talent and many of those comedians expressed gratitude to the host for inviting them onto the program over the years. Nicole Byer (Nailed It!, Loosely Exactly Nicole), Paul F. Tompkins (BoJack Horseman, No, You Shut Up!) and Dulce Sloan (The Great North, Chick Fight) all specifically shouted O’Brien out for giving them their first opportunity to perform comedy on television.
Maybe this is the wrong format but I just wanted to add that I was on Conan too. I don’t want to pull focus with this quote tweet. Just sayin’ https://t.co/idqejwZWE0
— Andy Kindler (@AndyKindler) June 25, 2021
Andy Kindler (Bob’s Burgers, Maron), Marc Maron (G.L.O.W., Maron), Ron Funches (Trolls, Final Space), Rhys Nicholson (Rhys Nicholson: Live at the Athenaeum, Orange is the New Brown), Gary Gulman (Gary Gulman: The Great Depresh, Joker), Charlyne Yi (This is 40, Steven Universe), Rell Battle (Superior Donuts), Hari Kondabolu (Hari Kondabolu: Warn You Relatives, The Problem with Apu), Nick Nemeroff (System Error), Marina Franklin (Comics Unleashed, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore) and Mohanad Elshieky (Unprotect Sets, Harmontown) were among the stand-up comedians who paid tribute to O’Brien on Instagram. Rhea Butcher (Good Trouble) told a particularly heartwarming story on Instagram about how Conan made their experience special and welcoming by making their introduction a nod to LeBron James’ 2016 championship Cleveland Cavilers, Butcher’s hometown team.
Comedians from the improv world likewise paid homage to O’Brien’s program and his position within the comedy community. Stephanie Allynne (The L Word: Generation Q, One Mississippi) and Lauren Lapkus (Jurassic World, The Wrong Missy), of the improv group Wild Horses, both shared photos of performing on the show alongside Saturday Night Live’s Ego Nwodim (Brockmire). On Instagram, Lapkus confessed that being a guest on Conan was an item on her personal vision board, making her visits on the show a literal dream come true.
Lapkus mentioned how institutional the O’Brien’s late night presence was to her coming up in comedy, a sentiment repeated time and time again by her fellow comedians and performers. Kondabolu called appearing on Conan “one of [his] first dreams in stand-up” in his Instagram post.
O’Brien’s late night legacy was appreciated outside of the comedy world, as musician John Mayer shared that he use to watch O’Brien every weeknight in high school, via Instagram. “When I was recording my debut album, I’d take a break at 12:45 every night to watch [O’Brien’s] desk bits,” Mayer continued “which to this day remain some of the finest moments of comedy ever on television.” (Instagram). As with many of the comedians who made tribute posts to O’Brien’s run, Mayer likewise thanked the host for his first performance slot on late night.
Other musicians who sent-up O’Brien over the weekend included Sheryl Crow, Cake, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Saint Motel, Diane Coffee and Switchfoot. Crow shared that O’Brien’s “rehearsal shows” in 1993 also constituted her “first shot” at live television performance, via Instagram. The singer/songwriter shared a video of her early 1990s performance on Instagram, to which actor and musician Kevin Bacon (Footlose, Mystic River) replied “wow you sound sooo gooood.”
Throughout his run as host of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show and Conan, O’Brien has hosted a range of guests outside of the live performers featured on the programs. First Lady Michelle Obama was a notable past-guest to have posted a social media send-off to the host. “Thank you for bringing light and laughter into our homes for over 28 years,” Obama wrote in a Saturday Twitter post.
Congratulations to my friend, @ConanOBrien, on an incredible run. Thank you for bringing light and laughter into our homes for over 28 years—we’re all a little better off because of it. So excited to see where your next chapter takes you. 🎉 pic.twitter.com/vLm9LrbGsv
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) June 26, 2021
Actors such as Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, Big Little Lies), Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, How to Loose a Guy in 10 Days), Lisa Kudrow (Friends, The Comeback), Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish, Girlfriends), Olivia Munn (The Newsroom, X-Men: Apocalypse), Sir Patrick Stewart (X-Men, Star Trek: First Contact), Sean Hayes (Will & Grace, Sean Saves the World), Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Deadpool), Amy Landecker (Transparent, Dan in Real Life), Matt Bomer (In Time, The Normal Heart), Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State), Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street, The Wolf of Wall Street), D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place, Barry) and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks, Inside Out) all posted additional farewells to the veteran host. Many shared goofy moments of themselves serving as guests on the show, with Stewart highlighting the moment in which he and O’Brien shared an on-screen kiss, via Instagram. Unlike other social media posts about Conan, Hayes posted a video thanking O’Brien directly, including a clip from one of his appearances on the talk show at the end, via Instagram.
As O’Brien said in his final farewell to the late night desk, a production like Conan could not be possible without a devoted team behind-the-scenes. Many former interns, writers and production staff also expressed their thanks for O’Brien on social media over the weekend. Associate producer Jordan Schlansky (Conan, Late Night with Conan O’Brien), who has been an on-screen fixture on the series for many years and worked with O’Brien for most of his late night tenure, posted a brief goodbye on Instagram.
Stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia (Mike Birbiglia: Thank God for Jokes, Don’t Think Twice) constitutes the ranks of production alum, as he served as an intern for O’Brien in 1997 on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. “I would totally still be [O’Brien’s] intern if he let me,” Birbiglia shared on Instagram. “Bill Hader and Mulaney and other Comics whom I love endlessly talk about how influential conan was on our comedy” the comedian continued, via Instagram.
While many of the weekend’s posts carried the energy of an in memoriam, O’Brien is not going anywhere. At TBS, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee will now serve as the only late night program, but O’Brien’s travel series, Conan Without Borders, will remain on the network. Not many details are available about O’Brien’s HBO Max programming slate aside from the fact that he will remain a television host in some capacity with a variety show on the streaming service.
Both fans and former guests of O’Brien’s alike wait in eager anticipation to see what the television personality will bring to HBO Max. “I hope he makes the most of his six days of retirement before starting at HBO,” Colbert joked about O’Brien’s work ethic and creative output over the years, via TVLine. While awaiting news from HBO Max, O’Brien fans can catch the hosts’ newly Ambie-awarded podcast Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend.