“Like most of them The best things in my life, "explains Conan O’Brien with an ironic smile." The success of the podcast was a complete surprise. “The answer is a typically selfless answer from the comedian. Since "Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend" started almost two years ago, the show has quickly become one of the most popular in the country on the podcasting charts.
For those who have followed his 30 year career in the entertainment industry, it's easy to see why. The quick-witted and almost superhumanly sociable transition to podcasting seems almost natural in retrospect. After all, hosting a number of late night talk shows for decades doesn't start over when it comes to starting a new entertainment business. There are also no tens of millions of Twitter followers and your own online media company, Team Coco.
Not that it was always easy. A long-promised Tonight Show slot wasn't all he'd hoped for, which resulted in a very public late-night exit from the most coveted show after just under eight months. It was the shortest tenure in the show's history, culminating in a televised "exit interview" with Steve Carrell in which The Office star tore up his NBC badge. But O & # 39; Brien's nocturnal break was short-lived. He returned later that year with TBS 'Conan, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in November (and will be renewed at least until 2022).
When “Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend” was launched in 2018, the comedian welcomed the newly discovered freedom of podcasting.
"There are a few things about podcasts that are superior or more fun than a talk show," said a quarantine-haired O & # 39; Brien in an interview with theinformationsuperhighway Disrupt this week. "When I do the traditional talk show, I'm limited. For years when it was on network television, I had to take turns for six and seven minutes, which means having a conversation with you or a conversation with someone I am always about dreamed of talking, whether it's Tom Hanks or Jim Carrey or Robin Williams, then after six or seven minutes you have to laugh and we take a break and be right back.
"It's not a natural flow of conversation," he continues. “What you can do with a podcast is really amazing. I can talk to someone for an hour and 15 minutes. We're trying to cut them back, but for the most part people are letting go of their guard. The other thing I prefer: no hair and makeup. It sounds like I'm having fun. But after nearly 30 years of people baking my very white face together with makeup, I look like I'm still alive. "
Team Coco has produced a total of 10 shows, including shows by longtime buddy Andy Richter and actor Rob Lowe, writers Mike Sweeney and Jessie Gaskel's title Inside Conan, and a six-part mini-series interview with SNL alum Dana Carvey.
"I don't want to set a number target," says O & # 39; Brien. “I'm amazed – in two years we've put out 10 different podcasts, some of which weren't written and some of them too. I don't sit around and say,“ Hey, we have to have 35 podcasts by then. ”Because I want that they are good. "
The talk show has also evolved, going through its own changes in the process.
In 2019, the program was converted to a half-hour format. O & # 39; Brien dropped the desk and suit and adopted a looser format, possibly partly inspired by the new freedoms his podcasting ventures allowed. When COVID-19 made face-to-face presentation impossible, he, like so many others, started working from home and switched to remote zoom interviews. Meanwhile, Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend continued to publish weekly interviews.
When asked if he was planning to continue his late night show after the contract expired in a few years, O'Brien appeared unsure.
"I think it's a mistake to think of it that way. Are you going to stop doing the show and just do the podcast? Or are you going to retire and then quietly work on your letters in a cabin? I love things too." I have a lot of energy. I love trying to make people laugh. And that's how I see it all converge. I think the message I would have for anyone who sees theinformationsuperhighway Disrupt right now is that People need to open their minds a bit. When I do podcasts, it doesn't forbid me to do something, maybe, it doesn't have to be for Turner, it could be for everyone. "
Several decades of success seem to have put O’Brien in the relatively unique position of being somewhat platform-independent. Not being tied to a single medium is a powerful place to prepare for the unexpected technological changes that will continue to disrupt and turn the entertainment industry on its head.
"In five years our entertainment can be in pill form," he says. “You could beat up the sopranos. You could just take a whole bottle of Sopranos and then drink a lot of water and then, you know, just don't need red meat.
"That will sound far-fetched, but I think this is the most exciting thing I've seen in my career because there have been so many opportunities to be creative. There are so many ways to make people laugh and I enjoy these new opportunities. I think if you are someone who has been around as long as I have, the choice is yours. You can be afraid of change or you can be happy about it. "