Remember back in the early ’90s when NBC hired Conan O’Brien to replace David Letterman? Nobody knew the guy. NOBODY. Pop culture folks pretty much wrote him off before the first show even aired. It even looked like the detractors were right for the first year or so – but then Conan got in the zone – and he hasn’t gotten out of it. Who knows if letting a guy go a whole year with a pretty bad talk show would last in today’s instant-disposable TV world, but this is a classic example of giving something a little time in order to ramp up (see: Bruce Springsteen, 1970s).
Sidenote: I once appeared on the Conan O’Brien show. No lie. It was during the NBA Finals in 1995. I had heard that Wilco was going to be on the show, so I reached out to a family friend who was in the TV business at the time and asked if he could swing something. He did. So I went down to New York City, crashed with Lance, a good friend from college who now lives in Taiwan, and we went to the show. The guests were Regis Philbin, Yasmine Bleeth (from Baywatch) and, as mentioned, Wilco.
So, during the monologue Conan made reference to the NBA Finals, as I guess it was a big story that Shaq was going against Hakeem Olajuwon and he mentioned that they both happened to be in the audience at the time. So I look around, then look at the monitor and see that Lance and I are on the screen, with Shaq and Hakeem’s heads superimposed over ours! I was Hakeem, with a green Wilco shirt on. Needing to document the moment, I moved my head over so I could prove to everyone I knew that it really was me and after the show, I called home to ask my parents to record it, which they did. I SO wish I could find that tape. It’s somewhere at their house, I think.
Anyway, Conan recently did a string of shows in San Francisco and they took a trip down to Intel headquarters and produced this gem of a video. My favorite part is the karate chop in the chip lab, but you’ll have to see it for yourself. The whole thing is just a laugh riot and also a good primer on American corporate life.