In the crowded field of late-night comedy, one man's red locks tower over the rest. Conan O'Brien has been a staple of the late-night comedy scene since he first hosted "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" in 1993, and in the 27 years since this first appearance, he has maintained his status as the best.
His celebrity interviews are consistently some of the funniest due to Conan's preternatural ability to make celebrities relax and be witty, even as he pokes fun at them. In a now-famous 2003 interview, actress Jennifer Garner (erroneously) corrected Conan's grammar with a snarky statement, "You went to Harvard and you should know that."
When Conan proved her wrong by pulling out a dictionary after the commercial break, he smoothed over a potentially awkward situation with a maniacal laugh that ridiculed himself more than anyone else in the room. Garner's willingness to even correct Conan shows how comfortable he makes his guests, who on other talk shows rarely breach their polite veneer of friendliness.
Some of Conan's funniest interactions, however, are not with A-list celebrities, but with his staff. His videos with his deadpan producer Jordan Schlansky and his sarcastic assistant Sona Movsesian are some of his most popular, consistently receiving over several hundred thousand views while most of his celebrity interviews rarely break the hundred thousand mark.
These videos showcase hilarious personalities that would otherwise go unknown and highlight Conan's ease with being the butt of a joke. The audience gets a real sense that in his studio, Conan is not quite the omnipotent ruler we would think he would be. Conan addressed the dynamics of his show in a 2015 interview, saying, "My head writer yells at me. People make fun of me. Andy Richter constantly mocks me in front of the interns at rehearsal... I’m not comfortable in a zero-gravity environment. I like the gravity of people holding me accountable. It makes it all feel real."
His disdain for a "zero-gravity environment" is most evident in his remotes, and most recently in his Netflix show, "Conan Without Borders." In these episodes, he trades his studio for factories, museums and world heritage sites, never missing a chance to strike up a conversation with a stranger or bombard a professional with nonsensical questions. His goofiness is nearly always met with an initial contempt, although it quickly melts into familiarity and laughter as people realize that Conan is not mocking them, but befriending them. From Spanish language classes in Cuba to high-brow restaurants in Italy, Conan can get strangers who barely understand him to start dancing and launch deprecating barbs at him.
Given Conan's ubiquity on the comedy scene, it can be easy to take his talent for granted. His quick wit, easy self-deprecation and extroversion are unmatched in late-night, making his videos ideal for binging during isolation.
Cécile Girard is a 20-year-old psychology sophomore from Lake Charles, Louisiana.