BuzzFeed sat down with the TV host in London to talk about his new show, Conan, why he had to leave The Simpsons, and his classy speech at the end of his spell on The Tonight Show.

Matthew Tucker / BuzzFeed

Matthew Tucker / BuzzFeed

Matthew Tucker / BuzzFeed

 

Conan O’Brien, who wrote and produced for The Simpsons before becoming the host of Late Night, The Tonight Show, and now Conan, is in London to promote appearing regularly on British TV screens for the first time. There’s several things you notice when you meet him. One: his hair. He is the only man in the world who can pull off that side-flick quiff without looking like an idiot. Two: his height. O’Brien is known for being very tall, but when you meet him the only thing you can think of is, “Wow, Conan really is quite tall.” And third? He doesn’t always act like the hyperactive child you see on screen. He’s charming, friendly, confident, and keen, but also quite mellow and chilled. You think, “This can’t be right, why isn’t he LOUDER? He has to act LOUDER,” so then you start to come across like a hyperactive child. That’s why our interview starts like this:

“HELLO!” [I wave to O’Brien by mistake, even though I have been in the same room as him for the last five minutes.]

Conan O’Brien: I like this. [Starts waving back at me]. Hello. How are you?

I just do that normally to anyone.

COB: Do you do that really?

Yeah, yeah, really. [I am still waving at this point, then panic and repeat to myself, “Just start the fucking interview FFS.”] Do you think late-night shows can take off worldwide in their own right, or do you think that they are a purely US thing that stems from Johnny Carson being such an institution?

COB: I think it is a United States thing very much and has been, but it is changing all the time. The world is getting closer and closer together – there’s a lot of shows that I watch now. I watch Sherlock and I got really into Alan Partridge a number of years ago, and I’m constantly watching shows from other countries and loving them. It starts to become irrelevant where they’re from, you just like them. I don’t pat myself on the back and say, “I’m going to watch Sherlock to find out what is going on across the pond!”

I shoot these “remotes”, remote segments where I go out and have these adventures, and they just seem to work. I’ve had people from all over the world who see them on the internet say “I love that”, “I love this”.

Being an ass with celebrities is the universal language. There’s hope that these shows can translate.

Team Coco / youtube.com

Team Coco / youtube.com

 

If you did remotes in London I imagine you would need a lot of confidence because people would just punch you in the face. How do you work with people who are unsuspecting and don’t realise that they are part of the whole thing?

COB: You know, I think my “inner spirit” is pretty nice. My comedy is not to make someone else look stupid – I actually like to be the victim of the joke, so my favourite kind of remote is to get into the situation where I am not good at something, I’m inept, and that then plays out in front of people who are staring at me. So the joke isn’t on them. I think if I did comedy where the joke was on them, which I am not so comfortable with, I would get beaten to death very quickly.

I think doing remotes in London would actually be an interesting experience. I’ve done things like this. I did some remotes in Ireland and had really good success.

Conan O'Brien: People Still Come Up To Me And Want To Talk About "Marge Vs. The Monorail"

View this image ›

Team Coco / youtube.com

When you visited the Guinness brewery in Dublin?

COB: Yeah, I visited the Guinness brewery, but years before that I went to Ireland looking for my ancestors and I mocked up pictures of people from the 1890s – women, men, boys, babies that all had my face put in them, so it was like a woman in a wedding veil but with my face. I would show those to people on the street, and they would say, “What can you tell us about your ancestors?”, and I would say, “Well, I don’t know much. The last name is O’Brien and they were prone to drink. Can you help me out?”

There was a whole lot of silliness in there, and it worked out great. I think there is a way to crack it, but you have to be aware that you are in a different culture and you have to adjust. I would love to do a remote where I am trying to examine pub culture here in London, and if it ends with me after 15 beers not really making any sense, that’s a good remote. I’d watch that.

The Simpsons / Gracie Films / FOX

The Simpsons / Gracie Films / FOX

 

When I told colleagues that I would be interviewing you, a lot of them mentioned Simpsons episodes such as “Marge Vs. the Monorail”. It’s amazing that with people of our age it is the one thing we are all talking about. The lines – we remember them all.

COB: It has been a gift to me. I remember where I was when I had the idea for the monorail episode – I was driving on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles and I saw a billboard that just said “MONORAIL”. I think someone was proposing it for public transportation, and I drove by and saw it and started to think about The Music Man [a 1962 musical in which a fraudster swindles a town by pretending to be a travelling band instructor].

Monorail was such a thing that people would get excited about in the 1950s. “Monorail is gonna change…” It was this goofy vision of the future that monorail would solve everything, so I thought that Homer would be the kind of guy who would be like, “MONORAIL”, and obviously the story just started to unfold from there, the idea of a guy turning up and selling the idea of a monorail to this tiny town and it just goes in a circle. So, what’s nice is that I wrote that a long time ago. You might not have been born when I wrote that.

I think I was about 4 or 5…

COB: Yeah, so what’s interesting is this gift. So much of what we do in comedy is ephemeral, it’s here and then it’s gone. You do something, people laugh and then it is over. That’s something that I did, a couple of my Simpsons episodes, also “Homer Goes to College” and “Bart Gets a Girlfriend”… Here it is, 22 years later, and people still come up and want to talk with me about “Marge Vs. the Monorail”, and they can quote from it and I can’t. I’ve forgotten it all.

And then what’s really interesting, just because you brought it up, is two days before I left to come to England my phone rang and it was The Simpsons. And they said that they were doing a live show at the Hollywood Bowl, and all the actors are going to do the voices, and, “Would you be a special guest star and sing ‘The Monorail Song’ with the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Choir?” And the answer there is “YES”, so I am going to do that I think in September.

The Simpsons / Gracie Films / FOX

The Simpsons / Gracie Films / FOX

 

You switched to hosting Late Night in ‘93. Do you look back and wish you stayed at The Simpsons longer?

COB: God, no.

Really?

COB: No, no. I mean, I loved working on The Simpsons, but what I always wanted to do was… When I was on The Simpsons, imagine a room like this, only really crappy. On The Simpsons it was a room about this size [the size of a small garage], really rowdy furniture, all of us sitting around staring at each other from 9 o’clock in the morning until 9 o’clock at night, trying to think of ideas, and it was hard, hard work. I’m very hyperactive, so the writers used to use me to be their court jester. They would get bored and would say “Conan!” and I would get up and do all of this stuff and dance around, so as a writer I was always very energetic and a performer.

And they used to talk about me. John Swartzwelder, one of the writers, who has written I think some of the best episodes, along with George Meyer, he used to say, “You need to have your own show.” They knew then that this guy needed to get out of that room. So I loved my time there, but I have had an amazing adventure in television having my own show and it is much more active.

I get to write things and edit things, but I also get to meet all of these amazing people – play the guitar with Bruce Springsteen, get in the bathtub with Ricky Gervais, get my beard shaved on the episode with Will Ferrell, it goes on and on and on. Hundreds of thousands of amazing experiences. I got to go to Finland and become a national hero in Finland, for no reason. There’s just so much – my life in the last 21 years has been one big piece of performance art, idiocy after idiocy, and it’s sort of beautiful. I cherish my time at The Simpsons but I also know that if I’d stayed there I probably would have jumped out of the window, because I was too hyperactive. Too hyperactive to sit still.

The Simpsons / Gracie Films / FOX

Conan O'Brien / TBS

 

Conan was a whole new show from scratch. Was that daunting to take on?

COB: Initially, yeah, but I actually think it was a good exercise because if you’ve been a host of something for a while you start to become an institution, which is a dangerous thing. We did a lot of sketches on the old show which would be very easy to just keep doing for 20 years. And when we started the new show we consciously decided, “Let’s let everything go and start to think of new things and really use the internet more.” So if I had not given up those old things I never would have reviewed video games, and that’s become really popular now in the gaming world.

In terms of new features, you have been fantastic at reflecting at what people are talking about on the internet. How does it work? Do you rely on the writers?

COB: I got a lot more savvy ‘cause I had to. I was very ignorant, I was like an Amish person. I mean, I drove a wooden buggy and I didn’t use a computer that often. I had to change overnight and get more sophisticated. Now I just think more differently about what would be funny to tweet out, what would be a good picture, but also got more sophisticated in paying attention. I look at the internet a lot just to see what a short attention everybody has and how everyone communicates now. And so I did this thing with Dave Franco on Tinder when we went out. I love using these social networking phenomena and getting someone involved in it, like the Lyft car with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart… It’s a new way to be funny.

I don’t think that my sense of humour has changed. I’ve always been the same person and I react to the absurd in the same way, and I like being a fish out of water.

The Tonight Show / NBC

The Tonight Show / NBC

 

One thing that really stuck out from your final Tonight Show was when you said, “Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it is my least favourite quality.” Why did you feel the need to say that?

COB: It was very spontaneous, that was the thing. I didn’t plan to say that, but I wanted to… I think that’s a moment that a lot of people talk to me about because it is very hard to actually reach out on television and connect with people in a real way. People are so used to things being canned. And I’ve never been a slick performer. I have my idiosyncrasies, and I could list the “75 Things About Me That Don’t Make Me A Normal Broadcaster” – I don’t have a broadcaster’s voice, I sometimes speak too quickly, I’m not a slick, smooth personality – but I think in that moment I was able to say something that I was feeling and it resonated well with a lot of people.

And it was a real moment, and my way of saying, “OK, this happened, but it’s amazing that I got to do this at all, and it’s amazing that I’m going to figure a way to still be able to do it.” And now you and I are talking and I am in London and we’re talking about the Simpsons monorail episode.

I don’t want to get jaded and I don’t want to get cynical, and I don’t want to get like this is a business. This actually is exciting to me. And young people laughing at something I do, or liking something or connecting to do it in some way, is endlessly exciting to me, and that’s why I try not to take that for granted.

BuzzFeed has been frequently mocked in O’Brien’s feature BuzzFeed Is Running Out of Lists.

Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=4uVakNIQLd0.

youtube.com

We asked him to suggest another post.

Matthew Tucker / BuzzFeed

Matthew Tucker / BuzzFeed

 

Here is his suggestion.

Here is his suggestion.

View this image ›

Conan O'Brien

Conan is on truTV in the UK at 11pm, Mondays–Thursdays.

Episodes will be shown 24 hours after they first appeared on the US cable network TBS.

LINK

Conan O’Brien Will Perform “The Monorail Song” During A Live Simpsons Performance Next Month

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/scottybryan/conan-obrien-people-still-come-up-to-me-and-want-to-talk-abo

Mind = blown.

1. Doug‘s Doug Funnie and The Ren & Stimpy Show‘s Ren and Stimpy

Mark Davis / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Billy West (although he only voiced Doug during the show’s run on Nickelodeon from 1991–94).

Fun fact: West is also best known for being the voice of Fry on Futurama.

2. Disney’s House of Mouse‘s Minnie Mouse and The Simpsons‘ Martin Prince

Valerie Macon / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Russi Taylor.

Fun facts: Taylor has voiced Minnie Mouse since 1988 (she is only the fourth person to do so). She has also provided the voice of such memorable characters like Gonzo on Muppet Babies, and Webby Vanderquack, Huey Duck, Dewey Duck, and Louie Duck on DuckTales, as well providing the voices of Üter, Sherri, and Terri on The Simpsons.

3. Tiny Toon Adventures‘ Buster Bunny and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters‘ Ickis

Warner Bros.

Nickelodeon

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Charlie Adler (although he only voiced Buster Bunny for the show’s first two seasons).

Fun facts: Adler, who began his voice-over career in 1984, has also voiced characters on ’80s classics Jem and G.I. Joe, as Eric Raymond and Low-Light, respectively, as well as providing additional voices for characters on ’90s cartoons such as Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Rocko’s Modern Life, Eek! the Cat, and Darkwing Duck.

4. The Simpsons‘ Bart Simpson and Kim Possible‘s Rufus

Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Nancy Cartwright.

Fun fact: Cartwright also voiced spoiled-brat Pistol Pete on Goof Troop.

5. Muppet Babies‘ Animal and Bobby’s World‘s Bobby

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Howie Mandel.

Fun fact: Aside from Animal, Mandel also voiced Skeeter and Bunsen on Muppet Babies from 1984–85.

6. Goof Troop‘s Pete and Darkwing Duck‘s Drake Mallard/ Darkwing Duck

 

Voiced by: Jim Cummings.

Fun fact: Cummings also voiced characters on five other Disney Afternoon shows: DuckTales, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Quack Pack, TaleSpin, and Bonkers.

7. Rocko’s Modern Life‘s Heffer Wolfe and SpongeBob SquarePants‘ SpongeBob

Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Tom Kenny.

Fun fact: Kenny got the role of SpongeBob after meeting Steve Hillenburg — who would go on to create the show — while both were working together on Rocko’s Modern Life.

8. Futurama‘s Bender and Kim Possible‘s Dr. Drakken

20th Century Fox

Disney

Robin Marchant / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: John DiMaggio.

Fun fact: DiMaggio is probably best known today as the voice of Jake the dog on Adventure Time.

9. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers‘ Gadget Hackwrench and The Simpsons‘ Agnes Skinner

Michael Tullberg / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Tress MacNeille.

Fun facts: Along with Agnes, MacNeille also does the voices of Simpsons recurring characters Cookie Kwan, Brandine Spuckler, Dolph, Lindsey Naegle, Bernice Hibbert, and the Crazy Cat Lady.

Other characters MacNeille has voiced include Dot Warner on Animaniacs, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons, and Charlotte Pickles on Rugrats.

10. SpongeBob SquarePants‘ Mr. Krabs and Superman: The Animated Series‘ Lex Luther

Nickelodeon

Warner Bros.

Valerie Macon / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Clancy Brown.

Fun fact: Brown has lent his voice to various comic book–based animated series, including Justice League, The Spectacular Spider-Man, The Batman, and Wolverine and the X-Men.

11. The Smurfs‘ Papa Smurf and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!‘s Scooby-Doo

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Ron Galella / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Don Messick.

Fun facts: Aside from originating the voice of Papa Smurf and Scooby-Doo, Messick also provided the voice of Bamm-Bamm Rubble on The Flintstones, Boo-Boo Bear on The Yogi Bear Show, and Hamilton J. Pig on Tiny Toons.

12. Rugrats‘ Tommy Pickles and The Powerpuff Girls‘ Buttercup

Nickelodeon

Angela Weiss / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: E.G. Daily.

Fun fact: Daily took over the role of Babe in Babe: Pig in the City, from her Rugrats’ co-star, the late Christine Cavanaugh (who voiced Chuckie), who was the voice of Babe in the first film.

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Warner Bros.

Mark Davis / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Maurice LaMarche.

Fun fact: LaMarche went on to voice Kif Kroker on Futurama.

14. Animaniacs‘ Pinky and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘ Raphael

Ben Gabbe / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Rob Paulsen.

Fun fact: Paulson also voiced Yakko Warner and Dr. Otto Scratchansniff on Animaniacs.

15. Darkwing Duck‘s Megavolt / Elmo Sputterspark and The Simpsons‘ Homer Simpson

20th Century Fox

Michael Buckner / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Dan Castellaneta.

Fun facts: Castellaneta might be synonymously known as the voice of Homer Simpson, but, in reality, he has actually had a rather extensive voice-over career. He has voiced characters such as Arnold’s Grandpa Phil on Hey Arnold!, Earthworm Jim on Earthworm Jim, and the Genie in Aladdin (the TV series).

16. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!‘s Fred Jones and Transformers‘ Megatron

Warner Bros.

Gustavo Caballero / Getty Images

 

Voiced by: Frank Welker.

Fun fact: Welker was the original voice for the character of Fred and, since 1969, has continued to play him in almost every animated adaptation and reboot of the series.

17. The Flintstones‘ Barney Rubble and Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats‘ Heathcliff

Warner Bros.

Phil Rudge/ Hulton Archive

 

Voiced by: Mel Blanc.

Fun fact: Known as “The Man of 1,000 Voices,” Blanc was literally the voice of almost every single classic cartoon character, including Daffy Duck, Woody Woodpecker, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, and of course, Bugs Bunny, whom he continued to voice up until his death in 1989.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/briangalindo/35-iconic-tv-cartoon-characters-that-you-might-not-know-are