Members of the Television Critics Association visited the set of “Conan” on Wednesday, one year after NBC executives announced the network was pushing Conan O’Brien out of the 11:35 p.m. time slot in favor of Jay Leno.
“There’s a lot of tumult and craziness for me, personally, in the last year,” O’Brien understated.
O’Brien looked relaxed answering questions on the intimate set, making quips about feeling like “Mussolini for five minutes at the top of the show every night” when the audience chants his name, and growing uncomfortable with both the intense adulation and scrutiny he has received since the job switch.
“I have an Irish Catholic suspicion of praise and anything that feels a little over-the-top,” O’Brien said. “I’ve always just wanted to be someone who was funny on TV, and when some people try to make it more than that, I was uncomfortable. My only goal is for people to look at me as an entertainer and someone who I hope makes them laugh at night.”
Pie for thought
“I hosted [my last] ‘Tonight Show’ on a Friday — and on Monday, I’m in a Marie Callender’s pie restaurant, and my assistant has a laptop, and we are sitting there,” says O’Brien. “It was just the juxtaposition of these insane images of ‘Tonight Show,’ [and] Marie Callender’s restaurant meeting. This is where I work now. That summed up the madness, I think.”