As Conan O’Brien signs off from late-night TV, celebs salute his wit and wisdom

A man with short red hair smiling in a suit
Conan O’Brien attends a 2018 event for Turner Networks in New York.
(Evan Agostini / Invision)

After a whopping 28-year run on the late-night TV circuit, beloved comedian Conan O’Brien took his final bow Thursday on TBS.

During the final episode of “Conan,” the talk show host welcomed celebrity guests Will Ferrell and Jack Black before delivering a thoughtful closing monologue that credited several of his colleagues and loved ones as integral to his success.

“Before we wrap things up here, first of all, I am the beneficiary of literally hundreds and hundreds of really talented, amazing people,” O’Brien began his farewell speech. “I’m just the nosecone of the rocket.”


Among the many people O’Brien thanked were his family, his writing team, “Conan” executive producer Jeff Ross and, of course, his trusty “sidekick” and creative partner Andy Richter, who has been with him since his “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” days on NBC.

Conan O’Brien’s late-night show turned into a late-nightmare on Thursday when his one and only scheduled guest, Kumail Nanjiani, canceled on him 30 minutes before start time.

July 12, 2019

“In another era, a sidekick was someone who sat next to the host and laughed along and just sort of supported them,” O’Brien said.

“When I found Andy Richter, he was one of the funniest people that I ever met ... and I never said to Andy, ‘Give me room. You can’t get the laugh. I’ve got to get the laugh. The rule is always, if you think of the funniest thing, just say it and that’ll get us out.’ And he did it 100,000 times. He’s a brilliant man, and I love him forever.”

The veteran emcee also gave a shout-out to longtime “Late Night” executive producer Lorne Michaels, who handpicked him to replace David Letterman in 1993, as well as “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow, one of his earliest comedy allies who had “more faith in me than I did.”

On Wednesday night, TBS will air a special episode of “Conan” filmed entirely in Cuba, making it the first American late-night show to broadcast from the island nation since a U.S. embargo was imposed near the height of the Cold War, in 1962.

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“When I was chosen to replace David Letterman, people thought it was a bats— crazy, stupid idea,” O’Brien said.

“I had no experience. I really shouldn’t have had the job. One guy changed my life. Lorne Michaels ... said, ‘I think that guy,’ and NBC said, ‘The writer with the weird hair?’ and he was like, ‘Trust me. He’s got something.’ ... Lorne saw something in me — I’d like to think he was right — and he changed my life, and I owe him forever. He’s a great man.”

In honor of his last episode on TBS, Hollywood luminaries such as Jimmy Kimmel, Reese Witherspoon, John Krasinski and Jon Cryer paid tribute to O’Brien on social media this week.

“Tonight, two men I respect tremendously close a chapter of their brilliant careers,” Kimmel tweeted. “Conan made doing his job the hard way look easy. He & Andy are among the funniest of the many funny people I’ve met. Congratulations to you & your co-workers on a remarkable achievement.”

“Can’t say enough kind words about Conan O’Brien,” Witherspoon wrote on Instagram. “What a brilliant, kind, hysterically funny and genuinely curious late night host. He always listened to my crazy stories and laughed at my weird jokes every time I [came] around for a visit.”

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Before signing off for good, O’Brien left viewers with some words of wisdom while thanking everyone who has followed along with his “really crazy and seemingly pointless pursuit to do things that are kind of stupid, but have something smart in there somewhere,” as well as a “tiny sort of flicker of what is a kind of a magic.”

“I have devoted all of my adult life — all of it — to pursuing this strange, phantom intersection between smart and stupid,” O’Brien said. “I think when smart and stupid come together ... it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. ...

“My advice to anyone watching right now ... Try and do what you love with people you love. And if you can manage that, it’s the definition of heaven on Earth. I swear to God, it really is. So good night. Thank you very much.”

Up next, O’Brien will helm a weekly variety series for HBO Max. A premiere date for the program has not been announced.