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Conan O'Brien talks Hacks' accuracy, the long wait for his HBO Max show, and how his podcast, Conan Without Borders and the pandemic led him to quit late-night

  • In a wide-ranging interview with Vulture's Josef Adalian -- who first interviewed Conan in 1994, six months after his Late Night launch -- the Conan host says the ability do different things outside of the late-night grind prompted him to decide to leave late-night after 28 years. "What happens is, over time as you get older, you start craving different experiences. Those travel shows made me feel like, This is fantastic," says Conan. "I’m physically traveling around the world, meeting incredible people, making comedy that we’d show to live audiences, and they would really laugh hard. And it felt like we were able to craft them a little more and really work on them and think about them. I became, in a weird way, almost like when I was working on The Simpsons and we would really craft an episode and think about it. With the travel shows, even though we only shoot them over a period of a couple of days, we were able to do a lot of research beforehand and put a lot of thought into it, and I felt like I was 30 years old again, having a new experience. The other thing was the podcast. I’m having interviews with all these fantastic people, and the conversations can go on for an hour, sometimes longer. We can take really strange flights of fancy, and we can really take turns that I didn’t expect before the podcast started. I started to realize, Wow, there’s all these different ways to make stuff now that are using muscles I haven’t really been able to use. Because for 28 years in late night, you talk to someone, you do six minutes, you break, music, then you come back, you do another seven or eight minutes, you’re looking for the funny line to get out. I’ve loved it, but I really do want to make sure that, whatever time I have left in my life to make comedy, I’m changing it up and challenging myself as much as possible. So this just felt like the right time. I don’t think I’m going to wake up the next day and think, Sh*t, I wish I could do another week. It feels like it’s time to move on to the next phase, whatever that is. Conan says the 2019 move to a half-hour format was an attempt to revitalize his show, but the pandemic a year later changed everything. "When you’ve been riding for miles and miles and you just keep looking at the lines on the highway, you can go into a trance and not even be aware that you’re driving 65 miles per hour," he says. "I’m just trying to get the word out that if you see me on the highway, get out of the way. I’m probably unaware that I’m driving. [Laughs.] But for me, even if I’m not youthful anymore, my comedy is youthful. I’ve always had a very silly, energetic approach to comedy, and so I can’t fake that. So we were definitely making a lot of changes to try and keep myself completely engaged and giddy and excited, and it worked for a while, but then the pandemic certainly doesn’t help. While I don’t think it changed the timetable much, it’s possible that it accelerated things to a degree and made this final date pushed up a little bit." Conan also said he isn't interested in putting full episodes of his old shows online, even though we're able to watch old episodes of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show on outlets on Antenna TV. Conan also says he's been really interested lately in HBO Max's Hacks, saying the writing on the show is "superb. I mean, the cast, the performances are fantastic. I’m blown away by Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder. So many people try to depict what it’s like to make comedy, and comedians always love to watch those shows because they hilariously get it wrong. Hacks feels like the closest thing to what it’s like for people who are struggling to think of comedy, what the process is like and working out comedy with someone else. I’ve been really blown away by that show." As for his HBO Max show, Conan says: "it will definitely be into 2022 before people see anything. I don’t want it to be too long, but I want people to be shocked at how I’ve aged when I show up for the new thing. I can do that pretty quickly, but you’ve got to give me at least six months. But I want it to be upsetting to people what I look like when I reemerge. And I’m going to act like I always have. I’ll act very youthful and impish and foolish, like I’m a 30-year-old who just got his late-night show. But I want my physical appearance to be nothing less than horrifying."


    TOPICS: Conan O'Brien, TBS, Conan, Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend, Conan Without Borders, Hacks, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, Untitled Conan O'Brien HBO Max Variety Show, Coronavirus, Late Night

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