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Conan O’Brien: Anything Goes On New Talk Show

hollywoodnews.com: Conan O’Brien spoke to the Television Critics Association for the first time since the scandal of Jay Leno taking back ‘The Tonight Show.’ He wasn’t even allowed to do press before his new TBS talk show, ‘Conan,’ debuted. Now that he’s up and running, he hosted the press on his set on the Warner Brothers lot.

“There’s really a feeling of I came to this show thinking I just want to go for it in every conceivable way,” O’Brien said. “It’s all part and parcel of what’s happened in the last year. Creatively and I don’t want to overthink things. If anything, if someone has an idea and it sounds like gee, I haven’t seen that before, we’ll try it. What’s nice is we’re partnered with people who have encouraged that since day one. ”

Since the beginning of the year, support for “CoCo” has grown exponentially. It put things in perspective for O’Brien. He went out with a bang on The Tonight Show and developed his new show with more focus than either of his previous two talk shows.

“I think that there’s more a feeling I think probably for me on a personal level of just there was such a lot of tumult and craziness for me personally in the last year. A lot of great things came out of it but I think you get to this point where you decide I’m not interested personally in I’ve got to be on TV forever. That’s not something that interests me. I’m really interested in what can I contribute? What can I do? And if I don’t do it now, when am I going to do it? There’s really a feeling, especially after last year, I’m very appreciative.”

TBS wanted to claim that unique sense of humor that is Conan O’Brien’s. His new bits have been sillier than ever, and that’s what he likes.

“I think there’s an innate silliness to me. I’ve always liked comedy that amused me when the sound was off. I’ve always been really naturally attracted to timeless comedians. I like people that aren’t afraid to look silly. Whether that’s Johnny Carson getting into a hot tub with Don Rickles or being Carnac or Aunt Blabby or whether it’s Peter Sellers or whether it’s Three Stooges or really any of the great screen comics, Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, I just always was attracted to that kind of comedy.”

His family life fuels more silly behavior too. “I like performing for kids. I have a seven-year-old and a five-year-old and that’s a workout. Making them laugh is something that brings me a lot of joy. That’s always been my sense of humor so I don’t know what to call it. I’m not afraid to fall down, I’m not afraid to jump off things. I enjoy that. I probably shouldn’t be anymore but I like to. I like to take a punch for a sketch. I like to break things and if it feels silly and funny to me in the moment, I’ll do it. I’m not able to grow up. There’s that.”

Opening up about his time post-Tonight Show, O’Brien recalled the moment he became a paparazzi target. “I’ve never considered myself of particular interest to the media. I’m someone who likes to come in and do my job and then I like to go home and play with my kids. I wasn’t used to being a media story. Immediately after the show, my wife decided the next morning we should just drive up to Santa Barbara and check into a hotel and decompress for three days. We got up really early in the morning and we got in our car and we pulled out of our house and two cars followed right in behind us and followed us all the way to Santa Barbara and they just hung outside the hotel for three days. I’m not Brad Pitt. I’m not George Clooney. I’ve been blessed with their DNA [joking] but I just thought, ‘Who are they following?’ So that was weird and there were a lot of highs.”

When he got back to work, O’Brien’s digs were noticeably less glamorous than his offices at NBC. “I called my assistant and I said, ‘We should get together and go over all the things we need to do.’ And she said, ‘Okay, where?’ My wife wanted me out of the house so we decided to meet at a Marie Callender’s pie restaurant. I’m not kidding. I hosted The Tonight Show that Friday and on Monday I’m in a Marie Callender’s pie restaurant and my assistant has a laptop. We’re sitting there and there’s two other customers in the place stabbing at a pie at 11 in the morning. This was now my new headquarters. I pass this Marie Callender’s a lot and I think about that shocking juxtaposition of these insane images of Tonight Show, iconic, Marie Callender’s restaurant, meeting, office, this is where I work now. That kind of summed up the madness a little bit of that time.”

That madness included a public love fest. He couldn’t escape the fanfare in Santa Barbara. “I walked into a restaurant that day and everybody in the restaurant applauded. I thought, ‘Well, that’s nice. This is weird and also this isn’t a living. I don’t see how to do this as a job, walk around and get applauded in restaurants.’ Then there’s the initial sort of high but then I went back to my house and we had a lot of stuff to figure out.”

Audiences still chant “Co-nan, Co-nan!” as he takes the stage each night. O’Brien appreciates it but keeps things in perspective. “I’m very suspicious of those things naturally. I’m a do your job and shut up person. That’s my motto. I have an Irish Catholic suspicion of praise and anything that feels a little over the top. So I think I was uncomfortable with that to some degree. I’ve always just wanted to be someone who was just funny on TV. When some people try to make it more than that, I was uncomfortable with it. It’s still my only goal. I’m happy to move past this period of time and just have people say did they like my show last night, did they not like my show. My only goal is for people to look at me as an entertainer and someone I hope makes them laugh at night between 11 and 12 on TBS, and do whatever I can to find out where this goes in this new world. I’d like to just play with it and find out where it goes but the rest of it, standing for something, meaning something more than just being funny on TV I’m suspicious of and not comfortable with.”

Conan airs weeknights at 11 on TBS.

Photo courtesy TBS

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