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About Conan O'Brien
Conan O'Brien grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in a Boston suburb. The third of six children, he showed promise as a writer, and attended Harvard University as a History major. Having won serious writing awards in high school, O'Brien turned his sights to comedy in college and contributed to the Harvard Lampoon. He served as president of the humor magazine during his sophomore and junior years.
The Lampoon's rival, the Harvard Crimson, was helmed during that time by future NBC executive Jeff Zucker.
After graduation, O'Brien headed west to Los Angeles to pursue a career in comedy writing. He landed a job on Not Necessarily the News and, for a short spell, The Wilton North Report. During that time he also performed with the famed improvisational group The Groundlings.
Soon enough, Lorne Michaels brought Conan on board as a writer for Saturday Night Live where he worked for three years. His recurring SNL sketches included "Mr. Short-Term Memory" and "The Girl Watchers." The "Nude Beach" bit he co-wrote with Robert Smigel became infamous for its repetitive use of a certain word for male genitalia.
During the 1988 writers' strike, Conan teamed up with Smigel and Bob Odenkirk to stage an improv revue in Chicago entitled Happy Happy Good Show. O'Brien and Smigel also collaborated on the 1991 television pilot Lookwell which developed cult status without ever airing.
Joining The Simpsons staff for the years between 1991 and 1993, O'Brien wrote or co-wrote four episodes and served as a producer. He credits the show for pulling him out of a career slump.
In 1993, Michaels invited O'Brien to audition as host for what would become Late Night with Conan O'Brien taking over for David Letterman. The critics took several years to warm up to Conan's style. On his tenth anniversary special, O'Brien received a a gold “7” necklace from Mr. T. When Conan protested that he'd been on the air for 10 years, Mr. T rebutted, "I know that, fool... but you've only been funny for seven!"
Once they found their groove in 1996, O'Brien and his writers earned annual Emmy Award nominations for Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series. They only brought the Emmy home in 2007, but did rack up an armful of Writers' Guild Awards. His audience was consistently 2.5 million viewers.
On February 20, 2009, the last Late Night show aired before the torch was passed to Jimmy Fallon. Thanks to his 2004 contract negotiations, O'Brien was set to take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno who was moving to an earlier time slot.
June 1, 2009 marked Conan's first night hosting The Tonight Show and the beginning of the end. In early 2010, NBC needed to get Leno out of his failing 10 p.m. slot and back into the late-night arena. A proposal was made to bump O'Brien to 12:05 with Leno occupying the 11:35 position.
Conan responded: "I sincerely believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t The Tonight Show."
Reaching a settlement of $45 million, with $12 million going to his staff, O'Brien returned The Tonight Show back to Leno. With a number of networks vying for his affection, O'Brien would be allowed back on late-night television in September, 2010, per his settlement stipulations.
On March 11, 2010, Conan used his Twitter account to announce a 30-city live performance tour. The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour began on April 12, 2010.
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