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The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien is an Americanmarker late-night talk show on NBC, which premiered on June 1, 2009. It is the replacement for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and part of NBC's long running Tonight Show franchise. The show's host, Conan O'Brien, previously hosted NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which followed The Tonight Show for 16 years.

Many members of the Late Night cast and crew made the transition to The Tonight Show: The Max Weinberg 7, the house band from O'Brien's Late Night, serves as house band on O'Brien's new show under the new name, Max Weinberg and The Tonight Show Band, albeit with a new member, percussionist James Wormworth, who previously filled in for Weinberg on drums on Late Night when he left to tour with Bruce Springsteen; Andy Richter, who served as O'Brien's Late Night sidekick from 1993 to 2000, takes Joel Godard's place as the show's announcer and is also involved in comedy pieces; Jeff Ross, who served as O'Brien's Late Night executive producer in New York, has assumed the same role for Tonight. The opening and closing themes from Late Night with Conan O'Brien were also carried over to Tonight in a slightly altered form.


The show follows the established six-piece format previous host Jay Leno used, as well as elements established by O'Brien on Late Night. The first segment is a monologue by O’Brien, sometimes with altered news clips or brief comedy sketches mixed in. O’Brien’s monologue is much different than Leno’s, who often told jokes for the first ten minutes of the show.

In episodes to date, the second segment has been a full comedy sketch, followed by one or two guests and a musical performance.

Immediately following the last performance segment, O’Brien walks on camera to thank the performers, bids farewell to the audience and recommends watching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. For the first six shows, the credits ran in the right half of a split screen (a former NBC standard that Late Night continued to use long after the network abandoned it). Since episode 7, NBC's current practice of running credits at the bottom third of the screen has been employed. The Conaco and Universal Media Studios production tags are full-screen.

Sketches and comedy bits

New sketches include O'Brien posing for the paparazzi, known as "Conan's Tabloid Moment", and "Twitter Tracker," where an excited announcer reads mundane "tweets" by celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Miley Cyrus, and Dennis Haysbert. Sketches from Late Night reintroduced include "In the Year 2000" as "In the Year 3000," with Richter once again assisting Conan on the sketch, and "Celebrity Surveys". Popular Late Night character Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog appeared on Tonight for the first time on June 19, 2009, serving as correspondent for the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. It has also been reported by the New York Daily News that another favorite character from Conan's old show, the Masturbating Bear, will eventually be reintroduced on Tonight. O'Brien originally retired the Masturbating Bear at the end of his Late Night run due to concerns about its appropriateness in the 11:30 p.m. time slot. Late Night character The Interrupter made his first appearance on The Tonight Show on September 3, 2009.

Cameo appearances

A few celebrities have made brief cameo appearances on the new Tonight Show, including President Barack Obama and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, who taped a clip for Conan while Williams had been interviewing the president at The White Housemarker for an NBC special. Other stars to cameo appear on the show are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Snoop Dogg, William Shatner, Jack McBrayer, (appearing as his 30 Rock character Kenneth Parcell), Donald Trump, Christopher Meloni, Slash, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, Bob Saget and Paris Hilton, who told jokes in the same manner as Bob Hope would on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Musical/comedy guests

As is the format on other late night shows, the last segment typically features a performance by either a musical guest or a stand-up comedian, preceding the closing credits. An avid guitar player, O'Brien has been given guitars as gifts from several musical guests. Within the first two weeks of the show, he received guitars from Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Joe Satriani of Chickenfoot and from Rancid.

Regular appearances

Since the inception of the show, both William Shatner and Steven Ho have made regular guest appearances.


The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien originates from Stage 1 at Universal Studios in Universal Citymarker, Californiamarker. It is shot in 16:9 aspect ratio with 4:3 center-cut and broadcast in 1080i HDTV. Unlike Leno's show, but like Carson's, the studio audience is several feet removed from the stage.


NBC announced on September 27, 2004 that O'Brien would take over The Tonight Show in 2009, which was accompanied by reports that Jay Leno had told Jeff Zucker, the President of NBC Entertainment, News & Cable Group, of his plans to retire that same year. Leno explained that in having Conan he wanted to avoid the hardship of when he took over as host between him and David Letterman and that Conan was "certainly the most deserving person for the job." However, in 2008, it was announced that Leno had changed his mind about retiring and would instead host a new variety show, The Jay Leno Show, starting on, September 14, 2009, weeknights at 10:00 PM Eastern/Pacific on NBC. O'Brien's contract will last until 2014, the sixtieth anniversary of The Tonight Show; it is unknown if O'Brien will further his contract past 2014.

The first show

The guests for his first week were announced on May 22. The first episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien included guests Will Ferrell and musical guest Pearl Jam.

The show's opening begins with a nod to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, beginning with the classic "Laramie Peacock" logo used during the 1960s and 70s, and the announcement that "the following program is brought to you in living color on NBC." O'Brien is then shown preparing to host his first show, going over a list of things that need to be done, when he realizes he is still in New York and forgot to move to Los Angeles. After trying (and failing) to catch a taxi cab, Conan runs across the country, through such places as Amish Country, Wrigley Fieldmarker in Chicagomarker, the Gateway Archmarker in St. Louismarker, the Teton Rangemarker, Las Vegasmarker and the deserts of Arizonamarker before arriving at Universal Studios Hollywoodmarker to host the show. Upon arrival, Conan realizes he left the keys to the new studio in New York and then proceeds to drive a bulldozer through the door (and wall of the studio) to get in. The Cheap Trick song "Surrender" is played over this sketch.

Other filmed sketches in the first episode included a trip through the streets of Los Angeles on the Universal Studios tram, a ride through Hollywood with Conan behind the wheel of his 1992 Ford Taurus SHO (with the song "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car" by Billy Ocean being played), and an elaborate sight gag showing Conan in the back row of a Los Angeles Lakers playoff game at Staples Centermarker.

Other notable episodes

On June 23, 2009, the show's first segment ended with a tribute to former Tonight announcer Ed McMahon, who died earlier that day. Clips from McMahon's tenure as Johnny Carson's sidekick were shown.

On Monday, September 17, 2009, Steven Ho made his third appearance on the show teaching O'Brien the ins and outs of Hollywood stunts. The show's first segment ended with Ho making O'Brien jump through a glass window to avoid a large explosion and flames.

On Friday, September 25, 2009, O'Brien suffered from a mild concussion after he slipped and hit his head while running a race as part of a comedy sketch with guest Teri Hatcher. He was examined at a hospital and released the same day. A rerun was aired that night, but O'Brien returned to work the following Monday and poked fun at the incident.


Highly promoted prior to its premiere on the late night scene, ratings for the debut episode were higher than both CBS's Late Show with David Letterman and ABC's Nightline combined, with a 7.1 rating and a 17 audience share. In comparison, the final show with Leno averaged an 8.8 rating in metered-market households. During the rest of O'Brien's premiere week, ratings dropped each day, from a 5.0 on Tuesday to a 3.5 on Friday, though the latter still exceeded that evening's 2.7 rating for Late Show. On June 9, 2009 Late Show rated better than The Tonight Show with a 3.4 rating to 2.9 rating. It was the first time in over eight months that Letterman rated better than his NBC counterparts. Tonight would end up winning week two, however, with O'Brien garnering more than 850,000 viewers than Letterman in the 18-49 demographic, plus more than 650,000 viewers in the 18-34 demographic and more than 550,000 in the 25-54 demographic.

The week before the death of Michael Jackson saw Letterman attract a larger audience than O'Brien; that week, The Tonight Show audience was the smallest in the franchise's history, "3.3 million viewers, about two million fewer than Jay Leno’s average as host." The following week, O'Brien's total viewership was even lower, averaging 2.8 million; among viewers 25-to-54, he tied with Letterman, the first time O'Brien failed to win that demographic since he had become host. However, the New York Times noted that the news coverage of Jackson's death placed Nightline ahead of Letterman and O'Brien that week.

By the week ending August 7, even repeats of The Late Show were beating O'Brien, albeit with the thinnest of margins—the repeats got a 2.1/6 household rating and 2.95 million total viewers, vs. The Tonight Show’s 2.0/5 rating and 2.94 million viewers; both were beaten that week by Nightline’s 3.25 million.

Although there are concerns that O'Brien's greatest strength, the "young men" demographic, can be more easily reached "on Web sites and cable channels like Comedy Central and Spike", advertisers and network executives alike point out that the first real test will come in September 2009. Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Tom Shales also pointed out in August 2009 that O'Brien was "in much better shape than Leno was at the beginning."

International broadcasts

Country Network(s) Weekly Schedule (local time)
Australia The Comedy Channel Monday - Friday 10.30pm
Canadamarker A Monday - Friday 11:30pm ET / PT 12:30am AT
Arab World Super Comedy Monday - Saturday 9.00pm
Philippinesmarker Jack TV Tuesday - Saturday 1.00pm
Portugalmarker SIC Radical Monday - Friday 21.15pm
United Kingdommarker CNBC Europe Monday - Friday 11.00pm
Europe CNBC Europe Monday - Friday 12.00am
Turkeymarker e2 Tuesday - Saturday 11.00pm
Singaporemarker CNBC Asia Saturday - Sunday 10.00pm
Finlandmarker Sub Monday - Friday Times Vary (generally around midnight)
Indiamarker Zee Café Monday - Friday 10.00pm
Israelmarker Yes Stars Comedy Sunday - Thursday 20:45
Denmarkmarker Canal 9 Monday - Sunday (Times Vary)

See also


  1. Episode: Conan O'Brien from the Inside the Actors Studio website
  2. Conan O'Brien bringing familiar tricks to 'Tonight Show' gig, New York Daily News, May 27, 2009.
  4. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien Official WebsiteJamie Foxx is the first celebrity to appear as the main guest multiple times.
  5. Program information from the NBC Universal Media Village website
  6. O'Brien to succeed Leno as 'Tonight' host in '09, a September 2004 article from The Hollywood Reporter
  7. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien Official Website
  8. Conan on 'The Tonight Show' wins high ratings , a June 2, 2009 Associated Press article via Yahoo! News
  9. Late-Night Ratings: Letterman Repeats Top Conan Originals, an August 13, 2009 article from Broadcasting & Cable
  10. The Tonight Show from the Zee Café website (retrieved 2009-09-15)

External links

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