Letterman’s Replacement Meets the Press : Television: Conan O’Brien says ‘Late Night’ will take some chances, and he hopes it will appeal to younger viewers.
Encircled by about 40 photographers shouting “Co-nan! Co-nan! Look over here!” the new host of NBC’s “Late Night” show had his baptism by publicity on the 65th floor of NBC’s Rockefeller Center headquarters Monday.
Facing reporters for the first time since being named to succeed David Letterman last week, Conan O’Brien, 30-year-old comedy writer with virtually no on-air TV experience, joked about his status: “Relative unknown? Let’s have none of that. I am a complete unknown.”
Despite his modest demeanor, the red-haired, 6-foot-4 O’Brien, who was twice president of the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine in college, expressed hope that the new “Late Night” show will appeal to younger viewers and “be the kind of show my brothers would stay up to watch.”
He said that his personal sense of humor was “silly and performance-oriented” and added that he expects that the show will develop a company of performers to do comedy sketches.
He said he expects to interview guests and will likely do some kind of opening humorous piece, although he did not know whether it would be a traditional monologue.
“We can’t generate all original material five nights a week, and this isn’t going to be some weird new kind of talk show where I’m painted blue and the guests are underwater and asking me questions,” O’Brien said. “But I hope that we will be able to take a few chances and try some new things, although I can’t be really much more specific than that--I just got this job a week ago.”
The new “Late Night” show will premiere in August on NBC. It will be produced by Lorne Michaels, executive producer of “Saturday Night Live.” Letterman departs June 25 for CBS, where he will begin hosting a weeknight program at 11:35 p.m. on Aug. 23.
O’Brien, who was working as a writer-producer on “The Simpsons” when he was chosen for the NBC job, previously had been a sketch writer on “Saturday Night Live” for five years.
O’Brien was the first choice of Michaels, who told NBC executives that he could be a new generation of talk-show host. But the job was offered first to Garry Shandling, who turned it down.
Asked whether he minded not being NBC’s first choice, O’Brien joked, “First choice? I barely beat out (actor) Norman Fell. I wasn’t reading the papers (regarding Shandling) and saying, ‘What does he have that I don’t have?’ He’s a well-known, experienced talk-show host.”
The press conference was part of a media blitz that NBC has planned for this week regarding its newest would-be star. O’Brien is scheduled to appear today on both NBC’s “Today” show and “Late Night With David Letterman,” and on Wednesday will be interviewed by Tom Snyder for his program on the CNBC cable channel.