cultural capital

Conan O’Brien Owes His Career to a Crank


O’Brien onstage last night.Photo: Getty Images

Four things about Conan O’Brien and his show that we’re pretty sure haven’t been published before, which we learned last night at his rare public appearance — with four of his writers — at the Museum of Television and Radio:

• The character “Preparation H Raymond,” played by Brian McCann, was originally conceived because the Preparation H people sent a box of their signature product, for more or less no reason, to the Late Night offices. It was the holiday season, and McCann walked through the office distributing samples, calling himself “Preparation H Santa.” The writers decided to put the bit on TV, but it didn’t come to fruition until January, hence the replacement of “Santa” with “Raymond.” Raymond/McCann later contacted Preparation H about filming a segment at their factory. “They wouldn’t even return our calls,” he said.

• It was Jon Bon Jovi’s idea for Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to tape a segment at one of his band’s Giants Stadium concerts. After the bit — which included such lines as “So, you’re going to be in a vampire movie? Finally, a role that requires you to suck!” — Bon Jovi’s security team prevented Triumph from even approaching the singer at the Grammy Awards.

• Writer Brian Stack once approached Walter Cronkite backstage to thank him for appearing on the show and didn’t understand Cronkite’s perplexed reaction until he realized he was dressed in an elaborate Frankenstein costume in preparation for the recurring bit called “Frankenstein wastes a minute of our time.”

• While Conan was interviewing Mimi Rogers for the audition show he taped as part of the NBC host-selection process, she claimed that modeling was “hard work.” He responded, while pantomiming the act, that a better example of hard work was “turning a really big crank.” He was later told by several NBC executives that the undisputed highlight of his audition was “when you acted out turning that really big crank.” —Ben Mathis-Lilley

Related: Conan on the Couch [NYM]

Conan O’Brien Owes His Career to a Crank