Here’s one last piece on Conan O’Brien’s final night as a late night talk show host. Last night brought the end to his 28-year career in late night, as O’Brien will be segueing from TBS’s Conan into an upcoming variety show for HBO Max. As expected, the finale was full of clips from Conan’s 10-year history, as well as surprise appearances from the likes of Will Ferrell and Homer Simpson, whose exploits used to be written by O’Brien. After the fun was had, Conan took the final 15 minutes to say goodbye to his writers, his producers, his crew, and his fans. This is something O’Brien’s had to do too many times throughout his career; Johnny Carson had one final episode, whereas this is O’Brien’s third, after his time on Late Night and then The Tonight Show. Maybe that’s why Conan’s so good at the series-ending speech? This one wasn’t quite as inspiring (or bittersweet) as his Tonight Show farewell, but it’s still a fitting end to a fantastic late night career, with O’Brien getting a little philosophical about the intersection of smart and stupid that has always defined his comedy. If you were ever an O’Brien fan, you should check it out.
It’s a little bit sad to see O’Brien leave late night after almost 30 years. As I wrote yesterday, it’s also pretty exciting. He’s one of the sharpest minds in comedy, and for almost 30 years he’s devoted all of his creative energy to one specific form of comedy. It’ll be great to see him try something new, and a variety show’s combination of comedy sketches and musical performances (something Conan has played around with himself for years) should let him do some things he couldn’t do in a talk show while still depending on the unique personal voice O’Brien’s cultivated over his decades-long career in comedy. When David Letterman retired from late night, he eventually returned with a talk show almost devoid of comedy; fortunately O’Brien’s taking the opposite tack, focusing on the comedy and not the talk. We can’t wait to see what that looks like.
Until then, check out the end of Conan below.