Sometimes I feel like I was madder for him than he was! For a 22-year-old me, I was in heaven. I have no hopes for him beyond his hopes for himself. I had the teeth, the cheekbones, and the green makeup, and I drove there myself because I had to get there at noon to get all the makeup on. I was the third guest again, and I was clearly thirsty for laughs. At a certain point, I wasn’t even talking to him; I was just watching him. Also, I grew up on Conan. Me and my friends, we were so invested in it because we felt ownership of it. I don’t think you even like me. You always know he’s kidding, but he never stops. That was a hugely formative thing for me: the idea that it’s not just the actual joke but it’s the context of the situation. I don’t know if it was the lack of ego, or the generosity, or the wisdom to also develop the writers themselves and the bits that they did. That’s what America loves about him: He is unapologetically himself. The biggest laugh of an episode could be a joke that bombs, but it’s the way that he delivered it that is funnier than anything that could have been written. I would put them in positions where they would look like they were reminiscing, because it’s so funny to see a baby being nostalgic. I remember having the thought, Yeah, Conan does love to destroy a guest. Actually, that could be a source of a lot of funny stuff. That’s what I dream of when people get power. If you listen to his interviews, like his Stern interview, he’s very open. I hope he gets the send-off that he deserves, because he’s just been really good for a really long time. I don’t want to say it’s the moment I realized I wanted to do comedy, but I knew it was a leap. And you say, “Maybe on the surface, but underneath, there’s a lot going on.” As you get older, it gets a little bit more intense. “Celebrity Secrets.” The steely silence between Conan and Max. Happy Endings’ showrunner is a super-talented, amazing, funny man named Jonathan Groff. I love that he can be really crass and weird and still win over the hearts of the American public. I had dinner with him and Marty Short a couple of weeks ago, and I was crying-laughing at that dinner because he’s so fast and so giving, like he is on his show. He gave me the keys to the playhouse, with no ego. It’s a smart mind that drove you toward a stupid premise. He’s my idol. (Spoiler alert: There’s a lot of talk about the greatness of the Masturbating Bear.)

Eric Andre

Photo: Team Coco/YouTube

I started watching Conan when I was a teenager in high school. We thought he was so creative. I was always sure something would work out. He was so goofy and silly and whimsical and absurd. His mix of Harvard smarts and crass bits made them feel that they were seen and less alone in the world for being a bit weird. This article was featured in One Great Story, New York’s reading recommendation newsletter. Art is primal. The funniest things were when he would have new recurring characters. He has a way of being a fake narcissist. And that’s why the Masturbating Bear gets a laugh — because it’s like, Yeah, if you put a masturbating bear in the middle of Times Square, it would be a crime, but if you did it on a late-night talk show at 12:30 on NBC, it’s funny. He’s very generous, shares the spotlight, doesn’t focus on himself. He’s not looking through you. He’s an improv master, so if a story or joke or guest has tanked, he’s right there to pick up the pieces and make it funny. Some people don’t even bother to try to be funny in what you’d call “real life,” but he clearly loves it. It was so stupid. He viciously insults people without any viciousness at all. Not just my sexuality — I was ashamed of your sexuality and everyone’s sexuality. We felt he was speaking directly to us. You think, What’s wrong with me?, and Conan made me feel like, There’s nothing wrong with you, man. That’s actually something Conan said to me when I did my talk show with him: “The writers build a playground, and it’s your job to play on it.” I took that advice to heart, but really I see him taking that advice. That was the most bizarre, weird injustice: NBC not standing by him. Before that, I would watch Letterman or Monty Python and the Marx Brothers with them, but then Conan was the first thing that they went, “What is this?” They were really confused by it, so I think that’s why it’s so special to me. The thing that I’ve learned the most is how he’s a very deep guy. It’s not always going to be good, but that’s how you find the good stuff: by not worrying about if it’s good. He rolls his window down with his sunglasses on, and he goes, “Wanna race?” I was so embarrassed. No one kills Conan more than Conan kills himself. He loves to destroy Andy, but the person he loves to destroy more than anyone else is himself. I was curious who would step into that spot, and I remember thinking, This guy seems funny and also clearly has a very dark sense of humor. Which is always fun, because sometimes you go on shows where you’re like, Huh? He’s there to make his guests shine — unless, obviously, they’re being assholes and then he’ll quickly rectify that situation. Once you get really smart people tapping into their id and the childlike, impulsive parts of their brain, that’s what makes it comedic. The silliness, it wasn’t malicious. Preparation H Raymond. I felt comfortable enough there to try things on the couch and then later figure them out for stand-up, and usually it’s the other way around. But Conan, there’s no rivalry between us. Like Harrison Ford — the first time I saw Harrison Ford be funny was on Conan. Art has to pander to the caveman and cavewoman within us. I think it was the first time I ever saw Amy Poehler on anything, her Andy’s Little Sister stuff. Talk shows are what people go to bed with at night, and they want it to be familiar, so it must have been hard those first nights, those first weeks, those first months, that first year to become a familiar face. He straddled the line between buttoned-up late-night hosts and young punk dum-dums. It’s a thing you manage. He loves to destroy the audience. D’Arcy Carden

I didn’t know a lot of people that were talking about Conan O’Brien for his first couple years, but that was kind of the magical thing: If you found someone in your life that loved Conan and loved the show as much as you did, it was almost like you were in the club. I met him for the first time after my set — he walks over and says, “Great job.” He shook my hand, and I kind of held it and said, “You don’t understand. And then Conan’s reaction highlighted his mentality: That was the funny bit, and I’m gonna give you this reaction that makes it even funnier. He brings people in with his smart, relatable observance of jokes that everybody can kind of get onboard with, then blindsides you in the best way with something really freaking weird. I was doing morning radio at that time, so I got up at 3 in the morning. My comedy is a little off the beaten path sometimes for some people, and it was nice to be able to turn on television and be like, Yes, people do want things that are a little weird. When you talk to him, yes, we’re “on” all the time and messing around, but at the same time, there’s always a depth there that I really appreciate. Watching Conan over the years kind of accept this aspect of himself and be open about it, I respect that. It’s so dumb and then there was a several-episode arc with it, him getting shot in other places rather than his legs. Nicole Byer

I really came to comedy late. I try not to watch other shows because I don’t want to be influenced by them.” And I nodded and agreed, even though the truth was, Well, I’ve watched your show like 500 times. That’s the challenge that most comedians try to achieve: How can you be unapologetically yourself and be super-weird and out there and still be loved by everyone? My dad had seen the five-year anniversary special and he thought it was funny, so he popped in a VHS like, Oh, I gotta show my kids when they’re awake tomorrow. And little by little, I fell madly in love with the show. He expanded the rules. Do shows and get up as much as you can.” All the comedians working there were shelling out material, day after day, and it didn’t always make it to air, but they still went for it. You don’t want to meet your heroes and be invited into the world that you have on such a pedestal. He was so kind to me. I remember watching the show and feeling, He seems like someone who reads comic books and plays video games. So I don’t think I’m too out of bounds to say having a bit like that is simultaneously juvenile but also strangely cathartic, to laugh at our animal nature. You’d be shocked at how much someone has to prove themselves before an entity or network trusts them with comedy. From there, I got my friends into it, and we became obsessed. He’s not wandering around the office, trying to get to know every college intern meandering around the place.” But one day, Conan held the door for me. And his SNL sketches … When you find out you’re a fan of something without knowing who did it, it’s surreal and thrilling. Conan incorporates so many different styles, and he doesn’t really worry about what he is. God, I didn’t know who I was when I first went on. He seems like someone who gets “this stuff” — the weird, obscure nerdy stuff that we were into. I hope he doesn’t read this and be like, “So, Nicole’s only gonna fucking call me a weirdo the whole time?” I mean it fully, with love, but yeah, he’s fucking weird! But often, that stuff actually strikes a chord with way more people than you would think. He’d drop by the writers’ room and hang out with us. My first appearance, I was pretty nervous. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. He’s honestly one of the smartest people in entertainment. I slowly put it together. We would often sit next to each other at the bar, and he would get really frustrated and angry with me because I would make him say hello to me. Then the next meeting we had, he said, “Okay, we’re going to go to TBS and tell them we found the guy for the talk show that will be on after mine.” I literally remember thinking, I wonder who the guy is. That gave me and so many other comedians the freedom and the confidence to trust our own voices, too. I loved [Robert] Smigel doing the different politicians, when he would move their lips. That’s what that show felt like, and that’s the standard for our show now, because you want it to be laid-back and comfortable for guests. He gave us hope: Oh, we don’t have to become stuffed shirts, tough guys, or serious men. — Bill Hader

Letterman would say things in a way where he didn’t care if the guest hated him. I can see that I was taking a course in joke writing. There was nothing pandering about it. He’s very tall, and I was standing almost right beneath him, and I just said, “Can I meet you?” And he was like, “Sure. He’s also very creative and has a distinct, unpredictable comedic point of view. One Great Story: A Nightly Newsletter for the Best of New York
The one story you shouldn’t miss today, selected by New York’s editors. We were really straining, where every segment had to be this brilliant, groundbreaking piece of art. His job is to have fun and be silly, and he really excels with that. The last thing I wanted to watch or think about was comedy for eight years — and then years after that, to be honest. I think I maybe met him at Martin Short’s house. I mean, he wrote The Simpsons’ monorail episode. He set up his guests incredibly well, and people always seemed really loose and funny on his show. He makes his audience feel smart while still getting them to laugh at a bear jerking off. Reggie Watts

Conan was just kind of around for me. It’s taking a risk; you can tell that they think it’s funny and they trust their comedic instincts so much. It was the first time I saw “In the Year 2000,” and it killed me. He was goofy and silly and didn’t mind being the butt of jokes, which was refreshing. I still had green paint on me, and my car was all banged up. I admit I never wanted to go on Conan because it was just too much. And then I was like, Oooh, he’s funny. He knows when a joke tanks. I don’t know exactly what he’ll do next. What I took from that was to not worry about categorizing yourself as a comedian; make what you think is funny, no matter what category people think it falls under. I’ve had some interviews where maybe the host wants to be the funniest or whatever, but Conan is really great at letting you have a moment to shine. There were so many characters on the show that were born from the writers and their friends. He’s also really great at give-and-take. He turned all of that into the car that he drove to the moon. Every time, it feels special. He’s looking at you like, What are you gonna give me next? How could we not be a little crazy, doing this for a living? Do you care?’” But the bit was actually really funny, and it worked. I remember feeling, I cannot believe that this is on television. He’s never punching down, never mean-spirited. I’m indebted to him. Sarah Silverman

Photo: Team Coco/YouTube

In 1993, I was hired as a writer on Saturday Night Live, and that was his first year on air. It’s playing to your heart, not your cerebral cortex. What is this? That was my first time being able to look at jokes in written form and study them and see which ones were funny. Usually, it’s someone you know when they have a show. Every time you do one of those shows, you think you’re gonna bomb. It’s funny — Conan once said to me, “You know, I’ve not really seen your show. That’s what I want them to be like. You don’t have to be any certain kind of comedian; you can be somebody who makes people laugh. There’s no ego there. Every memory I have about my first time on the show is good, and that’s not always the case with every talk show. And then when he did, I went further and emailed Brian Stack, like, “Can I do this bit where I’m in a tuxedo?” God, talking about it now, it was so presumptuous and borderline maniacal. Those things don’t go away. For a substantial segment of comedy fans, it feels like a huge loss, even though he’s heading to HBO Max with a new show sometime down the line. He’s a full-support guy. He does sketch, he does stand-up, he does late night, and he does a bunch of weird shit. So no matter how you’re feeling about comedy, all this stuff roiling about you is a source of that. His comedy really shaped my comedic sensibilities and my worldview. To have a chance to talk to someone honestly about it is wonderful and makes you feel a little less alone. I only have this many chances to do comedy. When I started watching his show, it felt familiar in a way. People assume, Oh, everything’s going great. I always feel like, “Sorry, you’re gonna have to let this in. Some, to be sure, are still quite pissed off at NBC’s handling of his brief time as the host of The Tonight Show. I mean, he definitely razzed people and stuff like that as a bit, but that’s part of him being a loving individual. And to see one hosting late-night, it felt like the guys that I ate lunch with in the cafeteria in high school. Whereas Conan could be sarcastic, but he always was trying to help guests out. And I think he’s going to do more of the same, just in a different configuration. I was young when Letterman left that spot, but I was such a big comedy nerd that I was following the late-night story all along. Which is almost what it feels like when you’re with Conan, because he’s so fast and funny. You can tell he’s very, very smart, but he’s not pretentious. The Walker, Texas Ranger lever. Even though you watch his stuff and it’s all kind of conceptual, there’s always, underneath it, the personal stuff. He’s someone who made himself available backstage, which was not necessarily the trait of all talk-show hosts, especially when I was starting out. LaBamba from his band singing in that high-pitched voice was the funniest thing. Email

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google
Privacy Policy and
Terms of Service apply. There are some people that are very funny on television, and there are some people who are not that funny in real life. They’re operating on many levels, but comedy is primal. I was reminded of that as I was getting ready to step into my own guillotine when my show started. It’s just friendly. He made this totally unique thing that was every night, and he got The Tonight Show! It’s part of his gift as a comedian. That’s something I’ll always feel very lucky for. You spoke the same language. How could we not be a little crazy, doing this for a living? Everybody in my room was asleep, and I was quietly watching Conan. That was the danger with him. Whether it’s more travel shows, getting back to more absurdist stuff, or narrative stuff, or specials — I just want to see what he does next, unbridled. You could be respected, and you could be famous for being not only a pale, gangly man but for talking almost exclusively about being a pale, gangly man. It was so stupid, truly, that it really felt like he was getting away with something. It’s not something that is lost on me: that I’ve had these moments throughout my career where I’ve gotten to interact and create work, even in small doses, with the very people who inspired me as a young person. Then I learned from Conan, Oh, that’s okay. Sign up here to get it nightly. I remember getting advice from an older actor friend who had been on the show and him warning me like, “Don’t let your guard down. Then, at the end of my internship, he had a meeting with me in his office. When did I meet Conan? I didn’t want to bother you. Terms & Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. I like being weird. Because we’re playing fucking tennis. That’s part of the process of being a comedian, writer, artist, whatever; you’ve just got to generate stuff. Essentially, he told me to grind, like, “Make material and throw it up and don’t worry about if it’s good or if it’s perfect. It’s that juxtaposition: this highly intellectual writer writing poop jokes that a third-grader can write is what gives these shows their magic and universal appeal. It’s “a comedy geek got his own show.” That’s how it felt. Now, Conan is a great friend. He’s obviously a very smart, bright guy and also just a naturally funny guy, but what is best about Conan is that he seemed to be doing things that made him laugh. He had me laughing hard for four hours straight. The string dance. I saw it here and there because I didn’t really have a TV in the ’90s or 2000s. A lot of people worry — I think too much — about what the audience thinks, and that never seemed to be a concern of his. I don’t mean that like, “We’re so close.” I mean that he’s a generous friend. All of my friends connected to him on a way deeper level than with Leno or Letterman. He brought this absurdist comedy that you hadn’t seen on a talk show. His first show, he had this noose. And the satellite channels they used to tap into, like Alienated Pigeon Channel, where it’s a flock of pigeons eating seeds and then one pigeon in a limo, sad that he’s not included. I won’t bore you with the details, but Conan and I had a meeting, and he was so nice, really put me at ease. He’ll always be himself. I love that he goes totally absurd and surreal with a lot of his running gags. Conan O’Brien. Then he went to TBS, and that show was great; he became less visible in ways, but he’s still so brilliant. There’s no, like, It’s my show, so I’ve got to be the funniest person here. He never held it over my head. He knows what it takes to raise other people up and have them shine. Pete Holmes

I’m a comedian, but I’ve always sort of been a 50-year-old retired antique-store owner living in New Hampshire — I’m not really cut out perfectly for the lifestyle. The humor that he is partially responsible for on The Simpsons really shaped the comedic sensibilities of a lot of people who are around my age. But I said, “Can you run this by Conan?” And Brian came back so quick, “Yes,” that obviously he didn’t check with anybody. I remember being incredibly nervous my first time on [his show] because I was trying to promote my show that was on MTV. Comedy relies on the element of surprise, and he’s so quick-witted and interesting that you’re just along for the ride. Conan is definitely in that category. Let’s just say that that impersonation did not come out of nowhere. I was mad for him. That really hooked me in early. He wasn’t arrogant; he was silly and absurd, a master of non sequiturs. I wanted to do comedy. He’s very, very tall and handsome and intelligent — he could easily be the jock or the frat boy, if he chose, but he doesn’t have that in him. You could feel that they responded to that. It’s very not complicated. Adam Pally

Photo: Team Coco/YouTube

I started watching on day one. I’m sure everybody says Masturbating Bear, but I do remember Masturbating Bear. It was really, “You want me to go to Conan’s office and say, ‘Hey, the third guest wants to wear a tuxedo. Whatever makes him happy! So many times, writers on a talk show write for the host exclusively. Own that. I didn’t watch SNL or Late Night until college, but my roommate would stay up and watch Conan, so I was like, Oh, I guess I’ll watch him. Most of the cast at that time was more known than I am, so they started to book talk shows, and I didn’t have a publicist. I don’t care what he does next — I’m gonna watch it. He’s a guy who understands that his job is to not take it too seriously. You can’t be dumb to do it. When you meet someone like that, you’re like, I am connected to this person for life. I can’t say I’ve had many deep conversations with Conan over this last decade, but I can say that we’ve had many, many comedic conversations, and we speak the same language. And I hope to take a small part of it and make it about me. Several themes emerged during these conversations: O’Brien is one of the funniest, if not the funniest, people on the planet. The reason I do this is because of you.” I think I blacked out. When you have total blue sky, it can be paralyzing, and he’s one person who found a million ways and directions to go. You’re the GOAT.”

Bill Hader

Photo: Team Coco/YouTube

I started watching Conan in 1993, when I was 15 years old. In a lot of ways, comedy needs boundaries. I was highlighting and writing notes in it: “Oh, this joke’s better than this joke because of this.” Early on, I was really interested in the detailed work behind jokes, and it was all due to Conan. The first few years were magic to me. As a host, he’s one of the most generous that guests have ever encountered, elevating them to a higher level of comedy, often at his own expense. Johnny Carson was before my generation, but from the tales I hear, it was a monarchy: “You have to impress King Johnny.” I don’t like that. He displays the traits of someone who’s narcissistic, but he’s playing a narcissist. I’ve tried to be more grounded on there as time goes on so I’ll connect with the audience more without being boring. Their announcer, Joel, and the things he used to do with him. But it was one of my favorite ones because I got to be as insane as I wanted to be. That was something we’d quote and talk about endlessly. The chemistry they have is rare, and he really brings a huge amount to the show and could certainly host one of these shows on his own. It got cut most times. It was almost like he knew he wasn’t supposed to be there, so it was like you were on borrowed time. I’m Canadian — I was a big Kids in the Hall fan, and Conan’s stuff reminded me of that more than the other talk shows, as far as the big kind of swings it would take conceptually. It was exciting, and that first season was so meta. If you ever wanted to go get advice, they were always so welcoming. I think part of it is being so big — you’re looking down on everyone, literally. There isn’t an elitist feeling in his work. I didn’t know if you’d recognize me.” We kept that bit going for five years. It’s ‘If you overthink, you begin to stink.’” When you run a room full of very smart people coming up with very stupid, childish stuff, then you are tapping into your id. He was in the same building, and everyone at SNL knew him. He was so cool. That’s when I really started watching him every night. And then Jay made the mistake of inviting me onto his show, the “10@10,” the next night, and I continued with the assault. I was deeply ashamed of my sexuality, and sexuality as a whole. I put him in the same category as some of our great absurdists — and I consider myself an absurdist, so his freeness and energy definitely resonated. I also used to have an office above this sushi restaurant, and Conan would come in there a lot. He’s likable, and that’s the most important thing. Nikki Glaser

I was a little late to Conan, but it must have been ’98. It felt so safe. But I remember seeing clips and thinking he was really hilarious with some of the sketch things and bits he would do. It’s hard to classify — I would call it specific and referential and also very absurd by the standards of late-night television at the time. I always looked at those appearances like, If I ever get to do Conan, even once, I’m not going to treat it like an opportunity to talk about myself or whatever. I’ve asked him on, I don’t know, three different occasions when he was retiring, and on the third time, he’s like, “Why do you keep asking me when I’m retiring?” I said, “Because I can’t until you do!”

I also feel I should mention Andy Richter, who I think is absolutely great and one of the most underrated people ever on TV. He cares about people. You’re the best. I was on it from when I was 22 to now. And hearing that he wrote for The Simpsons, which I was a huge fan of — obviously, yeah, I stayed up late every night and watched. I genuinely got dunked in the tank of becoming more than just a comedian who was on his show. He created a world. I’m 50 — that’s 28 years. I begged Groff to call and get me on Conan. What he talks about in terms of anxiety and fear of failure, I definitely relate. I was right at that age. There’s always something funny about that, because it’s you. So my hope for him — and for us, as an audience — is that they support any ideas and any things he wants to do, because that’s what we want to see. I’ve seen the whole first 15 seasons, read enough books about The Simpsons, seen enough panels about people talking about The Simpsons, I wrote a Simpsons episode — and I’d say, almost unanimously, that episode is credited as being a tonal, defining episode for what the show became. The first time I was recognized on the street was from being on Conan, because after I was fired from Saturday Night Live, he had me on all the time, doing bits from the couch. I’d go, “No, this is my thing.” He spoke to that. Despite the fact that many of them describe him as awkward, geeky, stupid, and other pejorative phrases, all of it is said with the utmost respect and love. I remember being on vacation with my family, 12 of us in two hotel rooms, cots everywhere, sleeping on the couch. Conan and The Simpsons were really the first thing in comedy that I felt was mine. That’ll make sense when I tell you that when I moved to Chicago, Conan was on one hour earlier, and that hour made all the difference for my lame ass. He did everything right. He lets you do anything you fucking want. Natalie Palamides

What aspiring comedian wouldn’t want to intern for Conan? He really elevated me in a way. It wasn’t really so much about comedy as it was his way of being in the world — the way he would interact with people and the fact that he never had security and was very grounded and very kind to people. I didn’t really watch it that much. It was superspecial and important to me. Related

Conan’s Irish Good-bye

The Show That Made Things Up

Tags: I mean that in the best possible way, not as an insult. I want the audience to like me, I want Conan to like me, and I want to have my segment be the funniest thing on the show for the episode, so it’s nerve-racking. Tommy Blacha wrote for Conan, wrote for Ali G, created Metalocalypse, then The Eric Andre Show. He’s a really down-to-earth guy, the greatest example. You do you, Conan. It feels like Conan bridged that gap. It opened this world up to me that I didn’t even know existed. The lessons I learned when I look at his work are not being afraid to do stuff that, on its surface, might not be for everyone. It’s so impressive. I’m a lot like Conan in the sense of I’m not good enough to be doing this. You feel, I just want to get the most out of this. Photo: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Another remarkable era in late-night television is coming to an end as Conan O’Brien signs off from his TBS show. That’s why I relate to him so much. I think Conan, oddly, saw that in me. Jimmy Kimmel

I think I started watching him his premiere night. That energy is how I would do a show, whether it’s Comedy Bang! It was something my friends and I really bonded over and loved. We want to see what he wants to do. If you mess something up or say the wrong thing, he will absolutely destroy you,” which, of course, is one of the things I love. It’s true. I didn’t think that I deserved to be on it. And that’s hard. You’re gonna bounce the ball at me, and I’m gonna lob it back at you. Bang! Conan took what you found funny, which was crazy, conceptual comedy, and there was kind of a geekiness to it that I appreciated. When he started having me on the actual television show, they would let me do whatever I wanted. — Seth Rogen

It felt much more, I would say, “my generation” rather than the previous generation. Conan does not understand how good he is, and sometimes it’s helpful for me to remember that. There was a subversiveness and anarchy to it that became part of my comedy growing up and definitely helped shape The Eric Andre Show. There’s so much lingering, puritanical shame, and they’re like, Literally, we’re going to shine hot spotlights on a guy in a bear costume, masturbating in the only way the network would approve, which is not a masturbation gesture but more of mixing a salad. A fun little weirdo is leaving! The lessons I learned when I look at his work are not being afraid to do stuff that, on its surface, might not be for everyone. I’m still, to this day, the most nervous when I do Conan because I grew up watching him. I loved Letterman, but that’s what we thought late-night hosts were: They were sort of irritated, and it was so fun to have somebody else that thought the whole thing was a big joke, a playground. One time, I did a bit where it was a very expensive makeup job, probably my biggest one. He’s really fast, very quick-witted, and very self-effacing. Some are still in awe of the things he and his extremely talented writing team were able to get on network TV in his early years, not to mention his evolution as a host and an interviewer. It instantly made me feel okay. We would always do impressions of “In the Year 2000” and the Masturbating Bear. I can get kind of an attitude with Harvard writers, and he was one, but I just love his sensibility. My favorite stuff is the dumbest stuff, and there’s an art to it. Hey, how ya doing?” and shook my hand. He really grabbed those groups: the intellectual, awkward, funny person and the more straitlaced people that didn’t know that they wanted to have a goofy friend. I had a little TV in my room, a terrible TV that I literally think we bought at a gas station for $5 that had rabbit ears, and it was on one of the channels that it picked up when I would lie in my bed as a kid. I’ve always felt like a sort of gangly, pale, smart, funny guy. When I was at SNL, after a while the idea of trying to make something like a sketch work or a character work, I just got exhausted. This thing that we’ve known our whole lives as an adult thing — they wear a suit, they’re buttoned up, they wear a tie — it’s for your dad after work, but this one was for us. You think, What’s wrong with me?, and Conan made me feel like, There’s nothing wrong with you, man. It’s part of the joy. And he’s a bit of an underdog, too. I felt really seen by it, and I felt really special that I understood it, even though it was sometimes completely insane. It was the first thing that my parents didn’t get. And then, upon further research, we found out that he wrote for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live during our favorite years of that, so we were instant fans. or The Late Late Show. Here, how these dozen people — who include comedians who have appeared on his show from its earliest days, fellow talk-show hosts, and a former intern — recall their favorite Conan moments, bits, appearances, interactions, and so on. It was fear-based. So many Brian Stack and Brian McCann characters, like Minty, the Candy Cane That Fell on the Ground. It’s like he was playing a late-night host. I like it casual. You can’t take Conan and be fear-based, not let there be big swings and failures. After doing that every day, I don’t know how you still get excited about being funny, and Conan still is the funniest. All of them sing his praises as being one of the sharpest, kindest people away from the camera. Also, you didn’t know the guy beforehand. And he’s also just kind of an awkward dude, and he recognizes that. I’ll never stop telling Conan what he means to me and having that sincere moment that makes him deeply uncomfortable. Some hosts are very much on autopilot, but he’s not; he’s super-engaging. He’d be like, “Why didn’t you say hello?” And I’d do this bit where I was like, “I don’t know. He was our Obi-Wan Kenobi in the first writers’ room because we really didn’t know what we were doing. Seth Rogen

I remember watching the show from pretty much when it started. And after, I got in my Prius and was driving out, and I pulled up at the gate, and right next to me, Conan pulled up in a pimped-out Tesla X with the wing doors. What other late-night host has a dog puppet insulting people? Maybe you grew up watching Conan; I grew up on Conan. I’ve actually felt like I got to participate in some of the sketches and the type of comedy that I grew up watching. Then there are some people that are funny on television and even funnier in real life. He’s very self-deprecating. My favorite time being on the show, during the pre-interview, they said, “What are you looking for in a man?,” and I was like, “A big dick.” The producer said, “Are you really gonna say that?,” and I was like, “Am I allowed to say that?” And he’s like, “I think Conan’s response will be funny, so I do think you can say that.” Then I said it, and the audience went wild. And I absolutely loved it. At first, I was like, This guy’s weird. I remember the essence and spirit of the meeting. I won’t go into it, because I think Conan would hate to see much time devoted to Leno in this, but the guy has proven himself to be an American treasure, as far as television and comedy go. Of course, his Irish Catholic–ness — I grew up Catholic, so I can get where that comes from. Then, after the interview, he leaned over and said, “Any time you want to come back, you’re great.” I mean, somebody who’s been in the game for so fucking long, who has achieved so much, who’s beloved, who’s really funny, for that person to lean over and go “You’re really funny” is a validation that you don’t get often in this business. It was a dream to intern for a comedy legend. He can do all sorts of comedy: really smart, highbrow stuff and then really lowbrow, nasty stuff, but it still feels smart and quick. I had several appearances that never made it on television, but those were always amazing days because you get paid 400 bucks to be there. I had several times in New York when I was asked to go to Conan when they were at 30 Rock and do a bit, play a character or something. I hope HBO lets him do whatever he wants to do. One of the bits that I liked — and you’ll understand why I like this in particular — was where he would do the bit called “Actual Items,” where it was basically him goofing on Jay Leno doing “Headlines,” which was itself ripped off from Letterman doing “Small Town News.” Conan would make up fake headlines from various newspapers around the country and then act as if they were real. He’s a redheaded, tall, gangly, weird man who doesn’t shy away from being weird. He came to the dressing room and talked to me like I was a normal person. I loved him driving the desk. Any other late-night talk show would have done, Here’s a funny bit about the future, and here’s a list, or whatever, but they did the singing and the lights and it was just so fucking stupid. Triumph — we loved that. I think I probably said, “I need something that says ‘Kwanzaa Juice’ on it,” they interpreted it, then I show up and there’s the thing I was talking about. The Masturbating Bear. I think that’s the best thing that you can do. My dad bought me the In the Year 2000 book for Christmas. I grew up religious. It’s only the art professor that says art is intellectual. With Conan, even if I had a terrible interview or the material I was going out there with wasn’t very good, there was not a chance I could bomb, because he was right there with you. That isn’t a dig at those guys — Conan just lit up our brains. He stopped this right away and said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. It made it okay to be like, Conan deals with this stuff that I’m dealing with kind of secretly. What’s going on in you can be a source of a lot of funny things, your own anxiety and depression. A lot of that goes into Barry. Who are you to be the one and only judge of comedy, which is completely subjective? He’d make fun of me in front of everybody — I know that sounds like not a good thing, but it was a great thing, this way of being peers. It’ll be an evolution of everything he’s built over the past three decades, so I’m excited to see it. But often, that stuff actually strikes a chord with way more people than you would think. He really stayed true to the humor that he appreciated, from the very beginning to the very end. Having me open for him on his tour, that was really where I got to learn a lot about him. I’m not scared to gush about how much I love Conan. I always call him a “good king.” He’s one of the few that has that power from being in pop culture for so long, and yet he stays super-grounded. When you look at his trajectory, it’s amazing and it’s frustrating. I got to see Conan, and Andy said hello to me — that was like winning the lotto. And he used to have Andy Daly on all the time and then Amy Poehler plays Andy’s Little Sister. It’s still me in college with a VCR, taping episode after episode to show my theater friends, crossing my fingers that a Triumph or Amy Poehler as Andy’s Little Sister would come on. He had a few drinks and adopted a German accent, and it was off to the races. It’s really interesting to watch some of the Letterman clips that have been passed around lately and see how poorly they’ve aged. He will reach out, be the one to extend the hand. It made it okay to be like, Conan deals with this stuff that I’m dealing with kind of secretly. I’d ask for the stuff, and they make it happen. I liked that because not only was it funny in and of itself, but it was also a little slap in the face to what was going on on The Tonight Show. Of course, all your family and friends from back home keep asking, “Did you meet Conan yet?,” and I said, “No, he’s a frickin’ busy guy. The thing that really sets Conan apart from other people is he’s weird. Or when Tom Selleck had to say good-bye to his mustache because the mustache was dying. Late night is going to be a little more boring without him. Over the years, doing his show has always been incredibly enjoyable. It’s a long story, but I was involved behind the scenes of that a long, long time before I was involved on television, when I dressed up as Jay and impersonated him for an hour. But once it caught on, it became a whole new wave of late night. I dressed up like the Mask and Abe Lincoln at the same time. You could tell it was him and his writers trying to make themselves laugh. I had to stifle laughter so I wouldn’t wake up my aunt. Andy genuinely is a kindhearted soul — and manages to be funny despite that. It’s in the back of my head every time I talk to him: This guy wrote some of my favorite Simpsons jokes ever, even before I knew him from his work. Conan was the antidote of that model, where he felt like your friend. A lot of my meta stuff comes out of watching Conan. This is corny, but at that dinner, I secretly took a picture of the two of them to be like, I can’t fucking believe I’m having dinner with these two guys. When I moved to New York and started doing comedy, the people I wanted to be were all writers for the show: Jon Glaser, Brian Stack, Brian McCann. His comedy wasn’t like anything else. You’d get to sit in holding and watch the show, and that was truly so exciting. Those are the people that I legit found at 19 years old and was like, I want to be like you. I was a huge Letterman fan, so when Conan started, I remember being interested. If you overthink, you overstink.” I told Conan that on his podcast, and he’s like, “I actually came up with that. I remember getting to talk with the writers, like Brian Stack. I didn’t mind sitting in the hallway for five hours in an American-flag Speedo and getting cut. To help give O’Brien a proper send-off, Vulture reached out to 12 comedians and actors, most of whom credit his tenures on NBC and TBS as being not only highly influential on their careers but also their lives. He’s exactly what you want your idol to be. Conan was a really new voice, and the staff he had was perfect: Jon Glaser as the tea copywriter or that weird floating head that would suddenly appear on the camera, Tommy Blacha’s Gaseous Wiener, and Brian McCann as the guy with bulletproof legs. The Clive Clemmons Inappropriate Response Channel, where there would be a scene where a woman would be in the break room of her office, and she’d go up to a guy drinking coffee and say, “This coffee is really good, right?” And he would go, “Thank God for Saddam Hussein,” and there would be a stamp over it that said “Inappropriate!” Then there was the Babies Reminiscing Channel, which is a gag I’d do with my niece and nephew when they were babies. It defined what the show was, that they were going to march to the beat of their own drum. I didn’t think they were talking about me. I wasn’t watching the show regularly, but I made a point to watch that opening night because I was such a Letterman fan. It’s not just that there are more people who are like Conan than we thought — it’s that there are more people who would like someone like Conan than we thought. I didn’t, but that’s how I first was aware of him. But on Conan, it was so experimental. I didn’t realize he had a sense of humor about himself.