|The Improper Bostonian featured an interview with the Brookline native, and here is a transcript of Conan's wit gone wild. First published June 16, 1998. Interview conducted by Jonathan Soroff.|
|Brookline native Conan O'Brien, 35, attended Brookline High and Harvard, where he served as two-time editor of the Harvard Lampoon. Upon graduating, he moved to Los Angeles, joined the writing staff of HBO's Not Nesessarily the News and began his career in stand-up comedy. In 1988, he began writing for Saturday Night Live, which earned him an Emmy. In the fall of 1991, he became a writer-producer for The Simpsons, eventually serving as the show's supervising producer. Two years later, he was tapped to succeed David Letterman as host of Late Night, which has earned him another Emmy and the Writers Guild Award for Best Writing.
Conan O'Brien: Let's just begin this by saying that I'm going to sue you.
Jonathan Soroff: Ok, so maybe I should print you using some really offensive language, saying some really tasteless things.
Conan: No, don't. My mother just scolded me for an interview I did where I used the f-word. If you do it again, I'm in serious trouble.
Jonathan: So how much do you hate Arnold Schwarzenegger for making your name into a joke?
Conan: It really started before that, when I was 12. Conan the Barbarian was a comic book, and there was a place called Kirkman's Market, in the rougher section of Brookline, and on my way there, I'd get surrounded by thugs who said, "Hey, where's your sword, Conan?" And I'd say, "Please, fellows, don't jostle me. You'll upset my butterfly collection." Then they'd pound me for about 45 minutes. But my parents' second choice for a name was Fabio, so I guess I'm better off.
Jonathan: Is Andy Richter the Ed McMahon of the '90s?
Conan: No, not yet. Right now he's the Al Roker of the '90s.
Jonathan: Who's the biggest jackass you've ever had on your show?
Conan: Well, the person I hit it off with the least was Eartha Kitt. She took exception to everything I said. We were just oil and water. I think she could sense that she was my least favorite Catwoman.
Jonathan: You're a Julie Newmar man?
Conan: No question.
Jonathan: OK, who would win in a fistfight: David Letterman or Rosie O'Donnell?
Conan: I think Rosie. She's Irish, so she'd do what it takes to win. If she was losing, she'd pick up a manhole cover or a brick or something.
Jonathan: Jay Leno's also from Massachusetts. Is there something in the water here that turns people into talk show hosts?
Conan: It's the shitty weather. It drives people to do this for a living. If I'd been raised in California and the sun was shining when I got up and went to school, I wouldn't do this. There has to be something wrong with you to be a comedian, and I trace it back to waking up for school, and it was dark out and raining - tuberculosis weather.
Jonathan: Is being a talk show host more or less dignified than being the guy who sweeps up behind the elephants at the circus?
Conan: Much less. At least they're doing something that needs to be done, solving some problem, whereas with talk shows, you can argue that if they went away tomorrow and the networks just started showing reruns of F Troop, the world would pretty much stay the same.
Jonathan: In school, did your report cards say things like "Conan could do better" and "He's a behavior problem"?
Conan: No. They were always just about how pale I was. "Conan should not go outside." "Conan should wear a hat at all times."
Jonathan Are you in therapy?
Conan: Oh yeah. I go to a therapist and then have another therapist ride in the car with me to the next therapist. Right now, I'm at a stage where all my therapists are just talking to each other. I don't even have to go; they do group without me. But I hear two of them aren't getting along.
Jonathan: Who watches you?
Conan: Based on the latest NBC surveys, 80 percent of our audience is a prison population or people who have suffered any kind of severe chemical burn or head trauma and need a morphine injection during our time slot. Also, parents of newborns.
Jonathan: Ever had a stalker?
Conan: Yes, but she lives in Germany. It's pathetic. She can't take the time or effort to come here, so she writes notes like "If I ever get around to coming there, I'll be outside your apartment, and that would be creepy and inconvenient. Until then, best wishes and warmest regards...."
Jonathan: What's the most degrading thing you'd do to boost your ratings?
Conan: Resorting to nudity. Trust me - no one wants to see that.
Jonathan: Ever do your show without pants?
Conan: Always, on Tuesdays and Fridays. And there's a Jacuzzi I'm sitting in, so if I sigh or gurgle during an interview, that's what that's about.
Jonathan: Are redheads unfairly discriminated against?
Conan: Absolutely. Just look at the cast of TV's Happy Days. Ralph Malph can't get work anymore, and Ron Howard's career didn't really take off until he went bald, whereas we all know Potsie went on to do great things. Wait a minute. There goes my whole theory.
Jonathan: Brookline: Isn't it just Cambridge without all the smart people?
Conan: They're letting smart people into Cambridge now? Seriously, though, there are smart people in Brookline, too. Members of Aerosmith have lived there. They're all in their early 60s, but they're still dancing around with 19-year-old girls in their videos. That's the highest sing of intelligence if you ask me.
Jonathan: Finish this sentence: "Brookline High - preparing today's youth for..."
Conan: For a job on 60 Minutes, or at Pino's Pizza in Cleveland Circle. Whenever I go to Brookline, that's the first place I go with my brother Neil.
Jonathan: So why don't they have a framed picture of you on the wall?
Conan: Because they'd have to take down the picture of Norman Fell - Mr. Roper on Three's Company.
Jonathan: What would happen if they mated Bart Simpson and Cartman from South Park?
Conan: I think the anarchistic qualities would cancel each other out and you'd get Linus from Charlie Brown.
Jonathan: The expression "In a pig's eye" - where'd that come from?
Conan: Well, people hundreds of years ago only had a butter churn and a pig in their house, so all their sayings had to involve those two things, like "I'll be there in two pumps of the butter churn."
Jonathan: Which Disney heroine would you most like to seduce?
Conan: The one in Aladdin - is she of age? Her midriff was exposed, and I'm a sucker for that. All I have to see is a little bit of belly and I go crazy. Man or woman. It doesn't matter. A guy was installing my cable the other day, and I saw his belly for a second and I jumped him. He wrestled me to the ground and fled.
Jonathan: If you were a superhero, what special power would you want?
Conan: The ability to make people super-jealous. Y'know, I've always wondered why all the superpowers are good things. Why aren't the bad qualities exaggerated, too? Why isn't Superman super-arrogant, or super-flatulent and perspiring excessively, super-greedy and super-cheap, so the Green Lantern always has to pick up the tab?
Jonathan: Or supercilious?
Conan: Exactly. Super-petty, super-callous, super-ignorant of other people's birthdays. Like, "Clark, you know my birthday's Aug. 1." "Sorry, Lois, I could give a f***."
Jonathan: You're in trouble with your mother now.
Conan: Well, there's that lawsuit.
Jonathan: Speaking of flatulence, has a guest ever farted on your show?
Conan: I'm not sure. We have some hidden fans, so the audience would know before I would, and we have a charcoal filter in the guest chair.
Jonathan: Are Lucky Charms magically delicious?
Conan: I bought them two days ago, and they've added a new thing: shooting stars.
Jonathan: You mean little marshmallows shaped like Courtney Love and Robert Downey Jr.?
Jonathan: If there's such a thing as the luck of the Irish, then explain South Boston.
Conan: Well, Good Will Hunting won an Academy Award, so we know there are lots of super-geniuses running around there. In fact, every time I visit Southie, I'm always bumping into super-geniuses.
Jonathan: Jerry Springer calls you and asks for PR advice. What do you tell him?
Conan: Have the set made out of Nerf material and don't break up the fights. Maybe put some funny sound effects into it, like "boing, boing, boing."
Jonathan: If you could get one of Charlie's Angels under your desk, which one would it be and why?
Conan: Maybe Cheryl Ladd, before she got addicted to Fiddle Faddle and ballooned up to 600 pounds. But I always had a thing for Jaclyn Smith.
Jonathan: The smart one?
Conan: NO! Who the hell are you? You're not a reporter! This interview is over!
Jonathan: Calm down. What's the funniest thing about Cambridge?
Conan: The fact that the street performers make upwards of $400,000 a year. They finish playing the pan flute and then drive off in a Saab.
Jonathan: You wrote for the Harvard Lampoon. Isn't it basically just a bunch of guys sitting around, making up highbrow bathroom humor?
Conan: Guys and girls.
Jonathan: So why do normal people say "movies" and people in show business call them "films"?
Conan: To prove that they're in show business. It's insider-speak.
Jonathan: If someone made a documentary about you, what would it be called?
Conan: "The Lucky Idiot".
Jonathan: What should replace Seinfeld in its time slot?
Conan: Suddenly Susan. I'm only saying that so that maybe now something will happen with me and Brooke Shields. It has nothing to do with the quality of her show.
Jonathan: What the hell is a Teletubbie?
Conan: They're from England, right? I think it'll turn out to be two of the Spice Girls moonlighting.
Jonathan: Do you have any pets?
Conan: There are two rats that live in my kitchen. I named one Star Jones and one Debbie Matenopoulos, or whatever that 22-year-old is named on The View - the one who relates childbirth and getting mugged and everything else in life to the time her roommates decided who got the upper bunk.
Jonathan: One last question: Can I be a guest on your show?
Conan: Yeah, but it'll cost you: $65,000 or a luxury box at Fenway. I wanna fill it with chicken broth and float around on an inner tube.
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