With “a comic identity as distinctive as his name,” according to The New York Times, Conan O’Brien has firmly established himself in the late night comedy universe. Hailed by The Washington Post as “modest, wry, self-effacing and demonstrably the most intelligent of the late-night comics,” O’Brien’s unique brand of comedy has earned Conan the title “Late Night’s King of Cool” from Entertainment Weekly.
A Harvard graduate and two-time president of the venerable and notorious Harvard Lampoon, O’Brien moved to Los Angeles upon graduation and joined the writing staff of HBO’s “Not Necessarily the News.” During his two years with the show, he performed regularly with several improvisational groups, including The Groundlings.
By 1988 his talents had come to the attention of Lorne Michaels, executive producer of “Saturday Night Live,” who hired O’Brien as a writer in January of that year. His three-and-a-half years on the show produced such recurring sketches as “Mr. Short-Term Memory” and “The Girl Watchers” (first performed by Tom Hanks and Jon Lovitz). In 1989 his work on “SNL” was recognized with an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series.
In the spring of 1991, O’Brien left “SNL” and wrote and produced a TV pilot, “Lookwell,” starring Adam West. It was telecast on NBC in July of that year but was not picked up as a series. That fall O’Brien signed on as a writer/producer for the Fox series, “The Simpsons,” where he later became the show’s supervising producer. Of all the episodes he wrote, his favorite is “Springfield Gets a Monorail.”
On April 26, 1993, Lorne Michaels selected O’Brien to succeed David Letterman as the new host of “Late Night” on NBC. According to Michaels, O’Brien was selected from among the many talented potential hosts of “Late Night” for his particular and unique mix of “vitality, wit and intelligence”.
From 1993 to 2009, O’Brien combined his talents as writer, performer and interviewer as host of “Late Night,” which The Boston Globe dubbed, “the most consistently funny and original show on late night”. During his years at “Late Night”, O’Brien and his team were consistently honored with Emmy nominations for Outstanding Comedy-Variety Series and, in 2007, the “Late Night” writing team won their first Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series after ten years of nominations. O’Brien and the “Late Night” writing staff also won six Writer’s Guild Awards for Best Writing in a Comedy/Variety Series, including two consecutive wins in 2002 and 2003 and 12 nominations overall.
In 2002, O’Brien brought his signature wit and style to his hosting duties on the 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, garnering big laughs and critical acclaim, delivering “one of the funniest opening monologues in Emmy history” according to The Los Angeles Times. He returned to host the 58th Annual Emmys in 2006, captivating the crowd with filmed pieces and a full-tilt song-and-dance number that prompted many critics to call for O’Brien to be named “Emmy Host for Life.”
In May of 2008 it was announced that O’Brien was going to hand the reigns of “Late Night” over to Jimmy Fallon as he was going to take over hosting duties for “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno in a deal that NBC worked out in with Conan in 2004. On June 1, 2009, Will Ferrell became Conan's first guest on the couch, and Pearl Jam appeared as the first musical guest with O'Brien as host. O'Brien made his final appearance as host of “The Tonight Show” on January 22, 2010.
On April 12, 2010 Conan hit the road, launching his aptly titled comedy road show, the “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour”. The two-month 30-city tour sold out on nearly every location. Along with starting the tour that day, Conan also announced via Twitter that he had agreed with the cable network TBS, the comedy-oriented cable channel in the Turner network lineup to launch a brand new talk show. The show, appropriately titled “CONAN”, premiered on November 8th, 2010.
Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, O’Brien is married with two children and currently resides in Los Angeles.