Palisadian and Late Night titan Conan O’Brien is back with a new format for his eponymous show “Conan,” now in its ninth season on TBS.
After a three-month hiatus off air while O’Brien launched a national comedy tour, “Conan” is back in what many are calling a “streamlined” format. The new 30-minute show premiered Tuesday, January 22, with special guest and fellow Palisadian Tom Hanks (who popularized O’Brien’s “Coco” moniker in 2010).
O’Brien took a swipe at President Trump off the bat, joking “the three-month ‘Conan’ shutdown is over!’”
TBS had announced in 2018 that the show would likely be retooled, with some possibility it would only air one night a week. The revamped return brought some changes to the late-night staple, including the conspicuous replacement of O’Brien’s suit with a leather jacket and more casual trousers.
The live band and the iconic full moon set had also been eliminated, replaced by a somewhat sterile minimalist set reminiscent of a grad student’s Ikea-furnished apartment. Also gone was the tri-celebrity guest structure and the two sketch minimum, replaced by one or two guests and one sketch.
Some fourth-wall-breaking moments, like Hanks knocking off his lapel mic and Conan joking the show would have a “one-joke format,” cemented the message for viewers: “This ain’t the old Conan!”
The new “Conan” has begun to leaven in popularity, growing more confident in its format with episodes featuring Bill Hader, Tig Notaro, Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, Steven Yeun, Pete Holmes and Palisadian Matt LeBlanc. Totally retooled, the show now airs 11-11:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday on TBS, and has been extended by the network through 2022.
O’Brien, the 55-year-old copper-capped comedian, boasts over 28 million Twitter followers and has become the longest-tenured host in late night television history, with a reverential cult following since his early days writing on “The Simpsons” and “Saturday Night Live.”
His weekly podcast, “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” also premiered in 2018, a partnership between O’Brien’s production company TeamCoco and Earwolf Productions, quickly becoming the top podcast on iTunes.
O’Brien’s new 30-minute show, dubbed “soothing” by The New Yorker, is a distillation of his talents. His interviews are more informal and lighthearted, leaving room for his classic off-the-cuff riffs. The new material also feels more focused and snappy, like you’re getting the prime cut instead of the offal.
New sketches like “Curb Stumpers,” which playfully impugns Jimmy Kimmel’s “ask-people-questions-on-the-street” segments, and other segments like the Sam Adams brewery tour, demonstrate to fans and viewers new and old that the ginger giant is back, sharper, funnier and more himself than ever.
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