Conan O'Brien: Hello.
WILDCAT: Hello Conan?
WILDCAT: Hey, how are you doing?
O'Brien: What's your name?
WILDCAT: My name is Roger Wood.
O'Brien: Roger Wood.
WILDCAT: Way out here in Tucson, Arizona.
O'Brien: Tucson... Honest, honest people.
O'Brien: Is it boiling there right now?
WILDCAT: (Continued laughter) Well, it's not so bad actually. It's a pretty nice time of year; it's supposed to be 95 this weekend.
O'Brien: (Chuckle.) That's a cool day for you isn't it?
WILDCAT: Yeah it is, so we're enjoying it before it gets really hot.
O'Brien: Well, good. How is everything?
WILDCAT: Pretty good, and for you?
WILDCAT: How was the show tonight?
WILDCAT: The show?
O'Brien: The show went fine. Uh, let's see. It was okay yeah. You're always lucky if you can pick one thing out of the show that was your favorite thing. Sometimes it's the guest, sometimes it's the comedy thing. But tonight we did this thing called 'Emergency Guest' that I really love. That went pretty well, so that was my favorite thing tonight.
WILDCAT: Well, I'll have to watch again tonight.
O'Brien: Oh good.
WILDCAT: Stay up late. I still have about seven hours or so before showtime.
O'Brien: Oh good. What time are we on there?
WILDCAT: You're at 12:05 [a.m.].
O'Brien: Wow, good.
WILDCAT: You're in a good spot because you're before Greg Kinnear and I'm sure that you know he's a UA guy.
O'Brien: I didn't know that! WILDCAT: Yeah, he actually worked for the newspaper that I work for.
O'Brien: Ah, cool.
WILDCAT: I know he's got a lot of people down here watching so you're in a good spot.
O'Brien: Oh, good.
WILDCAT: I assume that people watch you first and then stay up for Greg Kinnear.
O'Brien: Well, that's nice. I didn't know he was there.
WILDCAT: Well, first of all, I wanted to let you know I was recording this. Is that okay?
O'Brien: That's illegal, you're under arrest.
WILDCAT: (A laugh)
O'Brien: Yeah, that's fine.
WILDCAT: Great, I appreciate it. Keeps you and me both honest.
O'Brien: Very good, Mr. Bond.
WILDCAT: (Another laugh) Should I start asking some questions?
O'Brien: Oh, what would be the point? How about an old stirring sea chant, have a hot mug of grog. No, go ahead, ask away.
WILDCAT: I guess that's a good first question to start with. How comfortable are you being asked questions rather than doing the asking?
O'Brien: It is okay actually, it's kind of fun. When you're asking questions sometimes it's sort of like, you're sort of like the Dad, you know?
"Well, I better move this along. Watch out there, don't poke your eye out."
What's fun is when someone else is asking the questions you can just. It's fun. Like, I've guested on other shows and it's a lot of fun. You know? It's a lot of fun like the other talk shows I've gone on as a guest. You just get to sit back and start babbling and it's up to them to stop you.
WILDCAT: Do you hope guests have equally as much fun on your show?
O'Brien: You know I'd like to think so. It's usually a good sign if they enjoy themselves. I think that usually means a better conversation happened. Sometimes it's good TV if they really don't enjoy themselves, but not often.
WILDCAT: Why do you think they [NBC] picked you?
O'Brien: Height. I think I've got the height. I'm 6 '4". Height has a lot to do with it, I really believe that.
All our great presidents have been tall men. Lincoln.
(Pause and then laughter)
There aren't any after that! Well, screw that idea then.
I think they just thought there was a shot that I could have, like, a point of view. Like that I'm someone who has a specific personality and there's certain things that I would do with a TV show. I think that they thought, "Oh, okay. He sort of knows what he wants to do with it," and I think that helped.
I had a really good audition. I think that certainly helped me a lot. But, I think I had a plan for like a mission for what the show would be and I think that certainly helped.
WILDCAT: So is this something you had always seen yourself doing?
O'Brien: Yeah. It was funny 'cause I always wanted to kind of have my own show, but I didn't really want to be a sketch player or. You know what I mean? I've just always been best when I'm kind of myself. Do you know what I mean?
That's the way I enjoy myself the most so I never really thought of myself as like a Dana Carvey. Someone who could do a lot of impressions or mimic people or things like that. Or I never thought of myself as, "Oh I want to be in movies. I want to develop a really powerful upper body and be in movies." I never saw myself as an actor.
WILDCAT: But you have the height.
O'Brien: Yes, but I have the height.
WILDCAT: For movies at least.
O'Brien: Yes, I do. You need a big head for TV. I have a giant head. It's mostly swollen.
WILDCAT: What do you think is the most difficult thing after taking over for, I hate to say his name, David Letterman?
O'Brien: Well, no. I like David Letterman a lot. A lot of people sort of think it's like that I wouldn't, that there would be some thing with me and him and there really isn't, you know?
He came on my show and was really cool and was a good guest. His people seem to like what we're doing and seem to respect it so that's cool.
I think the hardest thing about it, it takes so much time and there's so much hype and everything. I think the late night wars get hyped so much and people kind of look at it through this lens of "Is he Dave?" or "How does he compare to Dave?" I think sometimes it's hard for people to look at it on its own terms.
We're doing something very different. I'm doing a different kind of show. We're doing a lot of things that Dave wouldn't touch.
I think that's all you can do, really. You do it your own way. I think there's a period of time where people look at it kind of askew and then they kind of readjust and look at it for what it is.
WILDCAT: Do you think you're past that time and now people are looking at it [the show] for what it really is?
O'Brien: I don't know. It's hard for me to tell, I'm in the middle of it . I think some people can look at it that way right away. You know what I mean? There's so much stuff about the late-night shows and everything that it all got kind of hyped up and I think that, you know, I think sometimes that part can be a little weird. I don't complain about it or anything. I think it comes with the territory. I love what I'm doing right now and I'm not going to complain about the way it is right now.
WILDCAT: I saw a piece on CNN not long ago and they kind of made you out to be youthful, the younger generation's late-night kind of thing. Is that something you're striving for?
O'Brien: Not really, no. That's the take. They talked to some college students and that's CNN. I have no control over what CNN says.
I know like sometimes there's stuff in the press about who speaks for Generation X and I think that's kind of nonsense, a lot of that stuff. You know what I mean?
All I know is that I'm just a guy doing my show and I'm sort of doing what I believe is right and following my instincts which have been pretty good to me over the years. And that's what I'm doing and if young people like it that's fine, then I'm really happy.
Our audiences are very young now and there are a lot of people standing at the back and I'm happy about that, but you can't target a show, really. Do you know what I mean? It's gonna come off phony and calculated.
People are smart. I mean if I came out there and had, like, a baseball cap on backwards and said, "Whoa. Yeah. Yo!" It's just going to look stupid and people want to eventually see you do what you want to do, that's entertaining.
WILDCAT: What makes "Late Night" different then?
O'Brien: I do think we take a lot of chances on the show, you know. Comedically, we put a lot of weird stuff on the show. We do a lot of things that I don't think you've seen before. We do a lot of abstract stuff. We have fake guests come on. We try a lot of stuff. We take a lot of chances, you know. I think that's what a 12:30 [a.m.] show should do.
I think it's also different that a lot of it reflects the kind of things that I think are funny, things that are inherently different because I'm an individual. We try and screw with the medium as much as we can.
WILDCAT: Do you think that has a lot to do with you coming from behind the scenes as a writer?
O'Brien: I can't say, it's a good question. Certainly it influences me. When I was a writer I always kind of wanted to push it more. Writers always kind of want to. Do you know what I mean?
If a writer comes to me and says, "I really think this could work and I know it's weird, but I really think you should try it." Maybe I'm more inclined to say, "All right, let's try it."
WILDCAT: Was it hard going from your years behind the camera, writing, to going in front of the camera?
O'Brien: Yeah, it's an adjustment. It's not as big of an adjustment. Sometimes I think that the press can portray it like I was a guy in a dark room and then suddenly like the first time I saw sunlight was the day I came on the show.
I had done a lot of stage stuff and I had certainly been performing, but I hadn't done a lot of TV stuff and certainly compared to most people who have their own TV show.
WILDCAT: Where would we have seen you on Saturday Night Live?
O'Brien: I'm always like in the background, like handing Tom Hanks a telephone and saying, "Oh, phone for you sir."
My most real experience I had of any value was like the Groundlinks Theater in Los Angeles or the stage show I did in Chicago or industrial that I did in Los Angeles, you know?
WILDCAT: What was your favorite episode of "The Simpsons," that you've worked on?
O'Brien: One that I worked on? If you say ones that you worked on, then I could tell you, but if you say one you didn't work on or any one and I'd pick one of my own then I'm a jerk.
WILDCAT: Okay, let's say one you worked on then.
O'Brien: My personal favorite that I wrote was the monorail episode.
WILDCAT: What about your favorite Saturday Night Live sketch that you wrote?
O'Brien: Probably my all-time favorite is one I wrote about a professor who was scared of the skeleton he used in class.
It was really weird and it was on at the end of the show.
Another one that I really liked was Tom Hanks and John Lovitz on a street corner, two guys that women go by. Yeah, they were the girl watchers. I really liked that one.
Anyway, I have to run pretty soon. Did you have anything to ask me at the end?
WILDCAT: (Shuffling through list of questions and notes) Let me look ahead here. Okay, couple of quick ones then.
WILDCAT: What do you guys really drink in those spiffy "Late Night" mugs?
O'Brien: Depends. It really depends on the night. Thursday it's a Chablis. Friday it's one of those energizing power drinks that Arnold Schwarzenegger hawks.
WILDCAT: Let me finish up with this then, What's after "Late Night"?
O'Brien: If I'm lucky, old age, you know. I hope so. I hope I do this for a long time, I really love it. If not, I'll run a Jazzercize class, probably in your home town. Watch for it.
WILDCAT: Tucson, Arizona. Well, I guess if you've got to go, that wraps it up. Read Next Article