Conan O’Brien has spent parts of four decades in television. I have been a fan since the mid-2000s, using Late Night as an excuse to procrastinate while writing college papers. Despite the vast comedy brilliance that has brought more laughter to me than any other late-night host, Conan’s new podcast Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend is the perfect medium for the comedian.
The podcast began in November 2018. The self-deprecating premise is that O’Brien is looking for friends in show business. Even though the host may have met many of his guests through his television show, he acknowledges that they do not hang out beyond their late night appearances.
To date, his guests have included Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey, Ron Funches, Will Ferrell, and Kristen Bell.
Co-hosted by longtime assistant Sona Movsesian and producer Matt Gourley, the new podcast has a surprising element that few other shows possess. Conan has fun with his advertisers, often joking about their products and inventing new slogans.
Jesting sponsors is not the only standout aspect of Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend. For the first time, fans can enjoy O’Brien without the structure of a late-night show.
Instead of seven-minute segments to promote a new movie, the extended conversation format allows O’Brien to develop rewarding chatter with his guests.
The free-flowing nature of the podcast has already spawned numerous nuggets of comedy gold. Conan and David Sedaris talked about getting a colonoscopy together. The host and Dana Carvey chatted as John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
The best moment to date occurred in his interview with Marc Maron, where O’Brien lobbed a spontaneous insult at former rival Jay Leno.
“You know what’s going to happen in six weeks? Jay Leno is going to get this podcast.” Conan quickly changed into a Leno impression, dropping names of classic cars and pretending as if he were the ex-Tonight Show host. It is exactly the kind of unrestrained moment that wouldn’t make it to television, but is perfect for a podcast.
It is not just the spontaneous segments. The different professional experiences that reveal the depth of his career are also worth a listen. Many of his guests have enjoyed a creative relationship with Conan. Sandler, Ferrell, and Carvey have all reviewed their working experiences with O’Brien, who was a writer on Saturday Night Live, in their podcast episodes.
It is the professional side of Conan that we are not used to seeing. His sudden transition from a writer at The Simpsons to host of Late Night was so unique that we have primarily watched Conan grow as a performer on talk shows.
There is a body of Conan’s work that we have laughed at, but aren’t really cognizant of. Even if we pick up traces of his humor, it is hard to appreciate his accomplishments on The Simpsons and SNL.
We get to take advantage of the mind that brought us that entertainment through the podcast. You can see snippets of the humor that created those memorable animated and sketch comedy bits.
In the episode with Bill Burr, Conan invented fake Pokmeon characters: Gim-Gam, a clam that is covered in chocolate and has sneakers. Doodly-doo, a Pokemon with the body of a worm and the head of a 1970s game show host. Rook-o-poo a toothbrush from Russia that wears a tweed jacket.
It lasted maybe five minutes. It could have filled an hour.
Listening to Conan is as entertaining as watching his string dance. It doesn’t matter how many hundreds and thousands of hours he has already filled, there is always something fresh and exciting in his new podcast. The freedom to talk as long as he wants is showing a side of Conan O’Brien that I haven’t seen before that has already created the funniest podcast in my queue.