Conan O’Brien, Chinese ‘rip-off’ show make amends — and comedy

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In China, Conan O’Brien recently joined the ranks of Louis Vuitton bags, Air Jordan shoes and Apple stores as the latest object of copycats’ desire: The animated opening sequence to his TBS talk show was ‘ripped off,’ as he put it, for the intro to the online comedy show ‘Da Peng Debade’ on the Chinese Internet portal Sohu.

Rather than sparking another fight between the United States and the Middle Kingdom over intellectual property rights, the incident has instead become a source of comedy for O’Brien and his Chinese counterpart Da Peng.

The exchange began last week, when O’Brien showed the two intro sequences side by side during a segment on ‘Conan,’ his late-night TBS series. Other than a few small changes, including the names of the hosts, the animation was essentially the same. ‘This is absurd,’ O’Brien said. ‘To make matters worse, it’s a really weird show.’

O’Brien then screened a clip of ‘Da Peng Debade’ featuring Da Peng doing a monologue, while a picture of what appears to be shirtless Sohu chief executive Charles Zhang was superimposed on the screen.


‘Well, China, if you’re going to rip off my show, I think I should rip off their show, don’t you?’ O’Brien said, followed by a Team Coco parody of the previous clip that included sidekick Andy Richter in a Qing Dynasty outfit.

The whole thing might have ended there, but it hasn’t. O’Brien’s skit prompted Da Peng to remove his copycat opening sequence and replace it last week with essentially nothing.

‘I have lost face for the Chinese people,’ the comic said at the start of his weekly show, whose title roughly translates as ‘Da Peng Gabfest.’ ‘I’m very sorry.’ He followed that up with a ‘Sorry Dance.’

Apparently moved by the gesture, O’Brien subsequently forgave Da Peng on ‘Conan’ and offered a gift to his Chinese admirer-imitator — a Team Coco-produced, intentionally cliched opening sequence featuring animation of a dragon flying through and torching a village; throwing stars; and a spinning Chinese zodiac. O’Brien and Richter also performed a ‘There Was No Need to Apologize, Sorry for Making You Feel Bad Dance.’ On Thursday, Da Peng and Co. returned with their latest installment — featuring the O’Brien-made sequence and delivering a monologue mostly in English. (Watch the video below.)

‘I just want to say a big thank-you to Mr. Conan and his team. Thank you,’ Da Peng said. ‘And you even made a new opening for us. For free.

‘You are so nice, Coco. I almost fell in love with you,’ he continued. ‘My grandpa left me a jade and told me to give it to my soul mate. I plan to give it to you, because ni tai dong wo le [you understand me so]. Alas, we are oceans apart and can’t meet right now, but I still decided to do something for you.’

He then flashed back to a skit during the early days of the ‘Conan’ show, amid its traumatic move from NBC to TBS, that involved a hit squad machine-gunning down O’Brien. Da Peng pretended to bring the hit men to justice.

‘By the way, Coco,’ he said, adding in Mandarin: ‘We still don’t have a closing sequence.’

What happens next is anyone’s guess. But don’t look for O’Brien to land in China in a more authentic form any time soon: A show representative said he had no knowledge of a report on a Chinese website that Sohu was considering importing ‘Conan’ to the mainland.


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— Scott Sandell