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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Conan O'Brien

Aired April 11, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Conan O'Brien. He's got a new wife and a new late night deal. And he keeps millions up after midnight. Is he interested in primetime, too? Conan and your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It has been almost eight years since he appeared on this program. A welcome back to Conan O'Brien, the host of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." He just signed a new deal. Did you almost leave?

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN": No, not really. I love to make it sound dramatic and say, I was this close, Larry, but no. I had an offer from Fox, but I decided I want to stay at NBC. It has been good for me.

KING: Was it flattering though to know that you were wanted? Please, Conan, come with us?

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes, it was like being at the prom all over again. It was nice. It was nice that, you know, I've been doing this for a long time. And I've just sort of kept my nose to the grindstone. I don't get out that much. So you don't always have a great idea how much people appreciate what you're doing. And so to have a major network say we really want you to come, we want to build, you know, a night of programming around you, that's not bad.

KING: A lot has happened in your life now. Now, you get married.

O'BRIEN: I got married, yes.

KING: For a long time people thought this was -- like you were a bachelor bachelor, right? And there's a scene of the wedding.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that's a shot of me proving I'm not gay. My publicist said, get out there, get married. Here I am now.

KING: It rained at your wedding?

O'BRIEN: Well, the wedding was -- my wife is from Seattle. So we planned the wedding in Seattle in January, so we knew it would rain. There was no, I hope it doesn't rain. We decided it's going to rain. Let's make sure it rains. Let's just plan it to rain, and then we won't be disappointed. And it rained. Thank you, God.

KING: Is it true that you had a comical priest, a guy that did stand-up?

O'BRIEN: Yes. He's actually someone I went to college with. He's an old friend of mine.

KING: Is he on the lampoon with you?

O'BRIEN: No, no, but he's a funny guy. And so, he did a nice ceremony, but he also worked some jokes in there, which was a little strange because...

KING: Were you nervous?

O'BRIEN: Yes. I think you're nervous when you do the vows, right, Larry? We've all been through it, Larry, not as many times. But anyway, no. Yes, when you're saying those words, I promise to be with you the rest of my life, that's a little nerveracking.

KING: So, how is it going so far?

O'BRIEN: I want out. Please. Honey, I'm sorry. No, it's great. I think I'm well suited to it. I found the right person. It's the right time in my life. I'm thrilled. I'm very happy.

KING: We're going to talk about a lot of things. But first about this shake-up thing that nearly occurred. Letterman nearly went to ABC. While that was going on, what were you thinking?

O'BRIEN: Well, I had made my deal to stay at NBC at 12:30 literally three days before. So I think like I just made a pretty good deal, staying at 12:30 at NBC. And then you pick up the newspaper and you read Dave may leave. There may be an opening on CBS at 11:30. So I felt like a horse's ass for -- I felt like the biggest idiot.

KING: So you wanted him to stay?

O'BRIEN: No, not really. You know, I didn't think about it that much because I have this philosophy which is do what you can control and then just leave the rest of it to the fates. You know, just make your own decisions. And I was happy to stay at NBC. And I'm happy to be at 12:30. We do a lot of stuff on our show which shouldn't be seen by people at 11:30. The secret to our show is people are two-thirds asleep and they're seeing it and they're not sure if they really saw what really happened. So, I was happy to stay.

KING: Does this mean you would not want an 11:30 gig?

O'BRIEN: Oh, Larry, that's crazy. I want it. I want it very badly. Yes, I think...

KING: Do you lust for it as Leno did and Letterman did?

O'BRIEN: Well, let's not say lust because that gets very perverted and creepy sounding. Let's say I want to take 11:30 out for a date some day, get to know 11:30, and then maybe 11:30 and I can cohabitate. But there's no lust. I don't want to be in the back seat of a car with 11:30.

I think I said to someone a couple days ago, someone said, you know, would you ever want to be at 11:30. And I think 11:30 is like Florida. All of us would like to live there one day. You know, and I think in the talk show world, that's true. I love doing it at 12:30, and then I think I have a good show. And so, yes, someday, I'm probably going to want to be on a little earlier, so my parents can see it.

KING: You mentioned being on late. Does NBC give you more latitude?

O'BRIEN: They don't see the show. I mean, what kept me on the air is that...

KING: Management has no idea?

O'BRIEN: NBC thought they had canceled me for four years. And then someone in an airport, some executive saw it -- I thought that guy was dead. You know, so that kept me going. And they don't see it. And we pretty much get to do whatever we want. And every now and then, one of them stays up and sees something that we did and we get a call.

KING: Were you sad over losing Andy, my favorite little character? I used to love to turn to him.

O'BRIEN: Yes. He's a real human being. He's not an invention.

KING: I know, but he was adorable.

O'BRIEN: I was very sad when he left because one of the reasons it worked well with Andy and I was is that the chemistry was real. There was nothing manufactured about it. I liked the guy. And I think he's one of the funniest people I've ever met. And we got along well. And so, yes, I was sad to lose him but I was happy for him because I think he's a very talented guy. And he gets to do his own show now on Fox, which is very funny. Critics really love it. There's me proving how much I love Andy. This is all the stuff I did to him over the years.

But anyway, I had a great time with him. And I saw him just last weekend. What's nice now is we're still friends. I visited him. He's got a little kid now. It's not his. He took it. He's got a lovely wife. He lives out in Los Angeles. He's making his own show, which, as I say, the critics have all loved.

KING: Have you chose not to replace him?

O'BRIEN: You know what I decided to do? I decided to -- I never thought I was going to have a sidekick. And the only reason I had a sidekick was because I met Andy Richter and I knew he just -- I said this guy's perfect. So the decision to have one in the first place was based on meeting Andy Richter. If I...

KING: So it was him? O'BRIEN: Yes, it was him. It was not I need a sidekick, let's have auditions. And so, what I didn't want to do is after Andy left, I didn't want to say, all right, let's audition a bunch of people and have someone next to me who's not as good as Andy. I think it would be very hard to find someone who complemented me that well. And I thought if it can't be organic and it can't be good, I don't want just anyone. I don't want Abe Vigoda sitting out there with me. Because I've asked him and he won't do it.

KING: When you were writing, and that's where you started...


KING: You wrote in college. You wrote for one of the funniest...

O'BRIEN: Well, I was a male model first for the Sears catalog. And then I moved on from that because I don't want to be just a piece of meat. I'm a human being. I've got a mind, Larry.

KING: When you were a writer and you would write for people who would perform your work.


KING: Did you say, I want to be on camera?

O'BRIEN: I always knew I wanted to be on camera, but I usually wrote for people who were so good, that I never once had the feeling I could do that better than they could. I mean, I wrote for people like Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz and these incredible performers on "Saturday Night Live." And I never once wrote something for Dana Carvey or Jon Lovitz and thought, I could do that better than they could because they're a different kind of performer than I am. They were better at that than I am.

KING: So how did it all come about?

O'BRIEN: Basically, Lorne Michaels lost a bar bet. To this day, I still don't understand how it all worked out, but it's ancient history now, but Letterman left NBC. There was suddenly an opening. I think NBC was caught with their pants down. They didn't know who to pick. They went to Lorne Michaels. They asked him, do you have any ideas? Lorne said -- I think he auditioned a bunch of people. He looked around. He remembered me from the writing days and thought I had something. He said, let's audition Conan O'Brien.

KING: Were you surprised that they even called you?

O'BRIEN: I was surprised to get the call to audition...

KING: Yes, that's what I mean.

O'BRIEN: ... for the show. But then I said, OK, I'm going to go for it. I'm going to try it. And then I had a great audition. The first year on the air, I was never as good as I was on my audition. I had to dig myself out of a hole again.

KING: I was one of your earlier guests.

O'BRIEN: That's right. You were on very early. You sang, I think, "Ave Maria." You have such a beautiful singing voice and no one knows.

KING: I know, because no one watched that night.

O'BRIEN: Yes, right. There were three people watching. Two of them have since passed on. It is very sad.

KING: Have you now got it down?


KING: Because when you started, we all admit -- you were admittedly new and nervous.

O'BRIEN: Right. I was new, green. I wet myself often on the show, and the ratings spiked when that happened. So I'm trying to do it again.

No, I don't think anybody would tell you that they've got it down. Whenever you think you've got it down, there would be nights where we have -- there will be weeks where I have four good shows in a row, good audiences, good material, great chemistry with the guests, it's just clicking. And the minute I start to think, I've got this down, I've got this thing down, the minute you start to think that, you walk in, the audience is cold, none of the jokes work, you can't get anything going with the guests. So there is a god of talk shows somewhere who is, whenever you start to think you've got it right, they pull you right back to day one, and then you have to climb out of the basement.

KING: Our guest is Conan O'Brien, one of the good guys, the host of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." He's a terrific talent. Special guest tomorrow night. We can't tell you who it is. CNN will let you know tomorrow morning.

O'BRIEN: I'm excited.

KING: Me too. Saturday night, we're going to repeat on LARRY KING WEEKEND an extraordinary program that could probably never be done again. It was historic when it was done. It was done in June of 1995. The guests were Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and King Hussein on together for the full hour. We're going to show you how close we came to peace. We'll repeat that show Saturday night. And we're going to do a live edition Sunday night with Senator George Mitchell.

We'll be back with Conan O'Brien. We will be including your phone calls. Don't go away.


O'BRIEN: Do you ever speak softly? I mean, how do you get a book in the library? Do you go in there going, "I'm looking for a book?"

MR. T, ACTOR: You know, I'm so excited, man, you know. I'll tell you I'm pumped, you know. The audience loves me. I'm excited.





O'BRIEN: Now, of course, I'd be lying if I didn't say Brando's performance was somewhat affected by his weight. All right? I love Brando, but I think he's let his weight get in the way of some of his acting. Like the scene where he's convincing DeNiro to do one last job for him. Take a look. You'll see what I'm talking about.


ROBERT DENIRO, ACTOR: I'm going to do it.

MARLON BRANDO, ACTOR: Good. Good. Sweetheart. You're a sweetheart.


KING: You do so many gimmicks like that, setting it up. Do you work all day on that?

O'BRIEN: Well, I have -- now, please, Larry, this is a serious interview about world peace.

KING: We're going to get to world peace, because I'm interested.

O'BRIEN: You're going to fix this problem.

KING: That's right.

O'BRIEN: I have an amazing writing staff. And they just think outside the box. And they're always looking for ways to make the show visual. I mean, I used to work on "The Simpsons." My sense of humor has always been very visual. I like it to look funny. I like things to look funny. I like the show to be verbally funny, but my dream was always: Turn off the sound, and you can still laugh at some stuff.

KING: You like Chaplin?

O'BRIEN: Yeah.

KING: Buster Keaton?

O'BRIEN: I like Buster Keaton a lot more than Chaplin. And the Marx Brothers were probably my favorite of the older era.

KING: Always relied on physical movement. O'BRIEN: Yeah. The Clouseau movies with Peter Sellers are still to this day my favorite comedy I think that's on film. And so I just absolutely love things to look funny. And the writers are great. You know? I mean, I rely on them very heavily.

KING: What do you think of the future of Bill Maher and "Politically Incorrect"?

O'BRIEN: I have no idea. I mean, you probably know as much as I do.


O'BRIEN: You hear rumors that they're having some problems there, but I have no idea if that show's, you know, if it's going, if it's staying. I don't know.

KING: OK. Let's talk about some world things and your thoughts on what's going on. What do you make of what's going on in your church?

O'BRIEN: Wow, I didn't think this would come up. You know, it was funny, I was talking to this friend of mine who is a Catholic priest -- and you know, it's not a funny topic, but he was saying he thinks that in the end this could be good for the church. He thought that actually if it's going to educate people, if it's going to create reform, if it's going to actually change some things, then this could end up, as tragic as it is, being good, as long as this problem has been publicized and gets out there and they make changes, then, you know.

KING: How do we deal with that thin line, when Rudy Giuliani was on with us some time after 9/11, and he said it's OK to laugh now. When for you was it OK? By the way, where were you that day?

O'BRIEN: I was in my apartment on the Upper West Side. And -- with my fiancee at the time, because we were shacking up. Sorry, mom.

KING: Conan!

O'BRIEN: One night!

KING: And that was it?

O'BRIEN: That was it. So obviously, I heard, like anybody else -- the TV wasn't on, but I heard it on the radio and I turned on the TV and I found out like everybody else. And it was immediately clear, OK, we're not doing a show tonight. I don't know when we're doing a show. We may never do a show again.

To me, I took my cue from the audiences, which they let you know. The audiences let you know, I think, to a certain degree what's OK, and a lot of this is just common sense. It's just -- the way anybody in the world decides what's appropriate and what's not appropriate, that's how anyone in comedy decides.

KING: So it's funny when it's funny?

O'BRIEN: Yeah. I got the sense that people -- what I realized was that my show is a choice. People can watch it or if they're feeling like they want to laugh, or they can decide not to watch it. No one is forced to watch my show, which I think they should be, but no one is. And so I decided that I will try and provide a light mood. We have a show that does a lot of, as you know, silly things, and I say visual things. And we do a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with the news. We'll concentrate on that. We'll try to create...

KING: But in the monologue, you do stuff in the news.

O'BRIEN: Yeah. But we didn't -- we just stayed away from it. I mean, the first night back, we were showing -- when we came back, we were showing little babies lifting things. We were just providing silliness and humor for people who wanted it, and I think trying to -- you know, trying to say to people, if you're not in the mood for this, don't watch it.

KING: How long were you off?

O'BRIEN: We were off -- I think everybody was off for about a week.

KING: What did you think of the way David Letterman came back?

O'BRIEN: Oh, I thought it was extraordinary what he did. And I thought what's interesting to me is that I think it just showed what an evolution David Letterman has had. I was very much influenced by him and watched him -- watched his morning show when I was a senior in high school. And that's where I really started to get interested in this format, these talk shows. And I thought the Letterman of 1982 could not have done that, I don't think. This guy has matured.

KING: Grown?

O'BRIEN: Grown a lot. He's matured, and he's taken on this almost a moral authority just because on the quality of his work and his integrity, and I think that he arrived at a point where he was able to do that, which I thought was pretty amazing.

KING: Do you maintain a friendship with both he and Leno? Because there are stories now that there's a rift again?

O'BRIEN: Yeah. I don't think they've been pals. I haven't seen them sipping a soda with two straws in quite a while.

KING: But there's been some critique, right?

O'BRIEN: Yeah, I mean, I wouldn't -- I'm not -- I don't consider myself like a close friend of either one of them. I wouldn't want to misrepresent it. I get along well with David Letterman. I've always had really cordial relationship with him, and I think there's been a mutual respect. And Jay and I talk, you know, pretty frequently, and he's always been good to me and he has me on his show and he, you know, promotes me. So I've gotten along well with both of them. As to how those two, the Hatfield and McCoy get along, I have no idea what their relationship is like.

KING: When did like -- did Osama bin Laden ever get funny?

O'BRIEN: Yeah. I mean, you know, in a way, I think Mel Brooks made this point. People were saying about "The Producers," some people were very offended when "The Producers" came out. And Mel Brooks made this point: "The greatest victory I can have over Adolf Hitler is to make him absurd and ridiculous."

And I think that although you have to be careful and things take time, that that is a way that maybe our culture can have some kind of comfort. Do you know what I mean? If we can find him ridiculous in some way, or anything about that whole situation, maybe that is somewhat healthy. I don't know. I mean, my main point is I don't think celebrities should be -- I don't think we know anything more than anybody else. I think we actually know less.

KING: Let me ask you about celebritydom. And what it's like. The writers don't get famous, the performers do.

O'BRIEN: That's right, baby.

KING: Conan O'Brien, the host of -- what a good named show, "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." We'll be right back.


O'BRIEN: You're promoting a fight between Geraldo Rivera and Osama bin Laden?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (AS DON KING): Yes, indeed, dodneedo, Conan O'Brien, my Guinness chugging, leprechaun hugging, giant face mugging muchacho.

It is going to be called the man in the underground lair versus the man whagot hit with the chair. The snake in the grass versus the mustachioed ass. I'm telling, the most hated guy in America versus Osama bin Laden.



O'BRIEN: Really, don't get me wrong. I'm very proud that I have a network special, but we still have to remember that cable is expanding and they've got some great channels, too.

ANDY RICHTER, SIDEKICK: We should check it out.

O'BRIEN: One of my all-time favorites is the "punch in the face channel."

RICHTER: Oh, everybody loves that one. Who is on tonight?

O'BRIEN: Larry King. Larry King is on the "punch in the face channel." We've got to check this out. So let's...




KING: I remember that.

O'BRIEN: Nice job.

KING: I did it good.

O'BRIEN: That check is coming, by the way. You will get paid.

KING: You do get paid on that show.

O'BRIEN: A little bit.

KING: It takes a while, though.

KING: It takes a while, though.

O'BRIEN: We don't have a lot of money, but we're good about it.

KING: What do you make of our celebrity-driven culture? You've been in the tabloids. Tabloid...

O'BRIEN: Please. I could be in the tabloids a little more.

KING: You want to be in?

O'BRIEN: Please, that's a sign that you've made it. I was in the tabloids once, I think. A picture of me looking sad. Close pals say Conan O'Brien doesn't wash his hands after using the bathroom. I thought, that's it? No shacking up with Loni Anderson...

KING: Your wedding made the tabloids.

O'BRIEN: Yeah, that, finally. I had to get married.

KING: What about celebritydom, though? What's it like?

O'BRIEN: It's absurd, it is ridiculous. In the 19th century actors and comedians were considered low-lifes who had to use the rear entrance. I think we should go back to that time in our history. Because I don't, you know, after 9/11, everywhere I went someone was putting a microphone in my mouth and saying, Conan, tell us, how do you define hero?

I thought ask anybody but me. You see what I do for a living. No one should be asking my opinion on anything except may how to kill an hour of time late at night. But certainly, this business that we should look to celebrities, Jennifer Lopez will tell us what we should do in these times of trouble. It's a little absurd.

KING: But it goes with the territory, doesn't it? You're a celebrated person.

O'BRIEN: Actually, I'm not. I actually really haven't been celebrated. I could use a little more of that, too.

KING: You want more adulation?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I think it would be nice. You didn't even decorate the set or anything. Very crude map of the world. Which by the way isn't accurate. That's a map of the United States? That's a Rorschach drawing.

KING: That's what it is supposed to be. You got applause from the crew when you walked in here tonight. You didn't appreciate that?

O'BRIEN: They know I'm pro union.

KING: You said you're treated better here than with your own people.

O'BRIEN: Don't say that on TV, make me look bad with my people. You know, yes, I just have this feeling that -- I don't feel comfortable -- I don't feel like I'm a celebrity. First of all, I don't get out much. I have a very mundane life. I do my show in a little concrete box.

KING: What do you do all day?

O'BRIEN: What do you I do all day?

KING: You go to work early?

O'BRIEN: I work out a lot in the morning, as you can tell. You can't see, I have a very sculpted.

KING: You look very good.

O'BRIEN: I know, your knees keep rubbing against mine. I now know why you have this desk. The little footsie you like to play. But no, I get to work. I do work out a little bit just for stress. Then I get into work.

KING: Work all day?

O'BRIEN: Yes, and I get out about maybe 9:00 at night. Sometimes. Sometimes earlier.

KING: You go home?

O'BRIEN: Yes, I go home.

KING: So you don't make the cocktails parties or social circuit?

O'BRIEN: No, no. I'm burned out. I go home and want to watch documentaries on Rommel, the Desert Fox on the History Channel. I don't want to see comedy. I don't want someone to try to make me laugh. I want to actually go the other way. I like to read. KING: Have you had fun with the Enron thing?

O'BRIEN: We've done some jokes. Basically in our job, have you to have fun with everything. So we've done our fair share of jokes about Enron, until about a week ago when I found out that I had Enron stock. Then I said, you know, this really isn't funny. So we stopped.

KING: What do you make of the Arthur Andersen debacle?

O'BRIEN: They're going to lay off, I think it is 7,000. They said maybe 8,000, we're not very good with numbers. I'm here all week if anyone -- the crew is leaving. The crew is actually filing out. It will be like Charlie Rose now, where there are no cameraman, it is four robots, including Charlie. Charlie is like, what's up.

KING: It is all robotic cameras.

O'BRIEN: When you do Charlie Rose -- people don't know this. They lead you into a room, dark room, no beautiful accurate maps of the United States. Made of colorform plastics. They lead you into a darkened room and you sit at this table and Charlie isn't even there and it is robotic cameras. Because I guess he doesn't like human beings. You sit down and Charlie enters at one point and it is like the Spanish Inquisition. Then the show begins, no audience. It is very frightening. I've had to be in therapy because I was on Charlie Rose once.

KING: Have you had a guest that disappointed you? You don't have to name it -- or maybe you do.

O'BRIEN: Forty percent of the time maybe.

KING: Really?

O'BRIEN: No. It's not that bad but definitely there are people who -- there are people who, as you know, we do a volume business, and so you're not always talking to the most -- the greatest raconteurs in the world. Every night isn't Peter O'Toole spinning great yarns.

There are nights when you're out there and these are the people who are in town that week. Some of them shouldn't be doing talk shows. There are people who don't know how to tell a story, don't have much to say, but they have a movie coming out. So you are sitting with them, they give you monosyllabic yes, no answers, then I fill the time by dancing around like a monkey on speed.

KING: In those moments, do you miss Andy? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Andy, can't you?

O'BRIEN: Right. But you know, it's fortunate not is that the show mutated a little bit after he left, and I started working off the audience more and playing to camera. So we have managed to find a couple other ways. But yes, definitely, there are times it would be really nice if Andy was here. Because sometimes he and I would just talk to each other. You know, there would be a supermodel sitting in between us.

I'd give up because you know, she's from Iceland or something. She doesn't know what's going on. She's like a cat watching a ping- pong tournament. The head going back and forth.

KING: Did you ever date anyone you had on, any of the -- pre your falling in love.

O'BRIEN: It was nice of to you add that because I've dated a few after the marriage. I'm not dead, fellas. Hello? Missoula Falls -- OK, hold on, I'll calm down -- let's see, Cher and I went out for a while...

KING: I read that. What was that like?

O'BRIEN: OK, it didn't happen. I should have gone with it, but I didn't have guts, and I thought Cher might call and say how dare you.

I tell people I went out with Cher, just to impress them.

KING: Did you date a famous person?

O'BRIEN: Well, dated someone who then went on to be famous.

KING: Lisa Kudrow and I used to go out back in the day, and Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox. So I dated all the friends. And Schwimmer, Schwimmer and I were an item for about six months. I'd like him to call.

KING: So in other words, you went through the cast?

O'BRIEN: Hey, I don't like to brag but let's just say I've been there and back.

KING: We're going to take a break and include your phone calls. Conan loves this. Missoula, Montana.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I love that.

KING: Conan O'Brien is our special guest, the host of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." Surprise guest tomorrow night.

O'BRIEN: It is going to me again. Don't watch. Don't tune in.

KING: We'll be back with your calls right after this.


O'BRIEN: So, I die after you die.

STEVE IRWIN, "CROCODILE HUNTER": Once I restrain it by the neck, you take the tail end, man. Here we go.


O'BRIEN: I'm actually really incredible. My skills are really amazing.




O'BRIEN: It's nice to have you here, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, yep. That's still me. Yes!

O'BRIEN: Yes, sir. You know, I really appreciate you coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You kidding, Conan? Conan, you the man! You're the man, baby! You know what I love about you, Conan? You don't hate me. You're the last one left who hasn't come out against me.

O'BRIEN: Well, no, sir, I like you. I think you're a nice guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks. Want to go get high?



O'BRIEN: That was really him, by the way. That wasn't the lips. He's irrepressible.

KING: We're back with Conan O'Brien. Before we start taking some calls, why did that bit with the jumbo teeth work?

O'BRIEN: It shouldn't work. It is so stupid. I think the reason it works is we're really using their faces and it plays a little bit of a mental trick. You actually start to believe that that's Bill Clinton or whoever we're doing. For a second, you forget. And I think that's what makes it funny.

KING: Because it works. Rockford, Illinois, for Conan. Hello?

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Hi, Conan.


CALLER: Conan, were you a geek in high school?

O'BRIEN: Yes, definitely. And I try to be very honest with people about this because...

KING: Tell me what it was like for you? No girls?

O'BRIEN: Oh, like you didn't have trouble, too, Larry. KING: Oh, what, are you kidding? I was the worst.

O'BRIEN: I can picture you. You had those glasses. You had suspenders.

KING: Four eyes.

O'BRIEN: It took me a long time to grow into the body that I have now, which, as you said before, is incredible.

KING: You are an adonis.

O'BRIEN: But, no, I had -- I was 6'4, 155 pounds when I was in high school. Just please do the math at home. It doesn't work out. That doesn't add up to a human being. And I was very awkward. And I think that's where you develop your sense of humor is that's -- you have to develop a sense of humor when you look like that. It looked like the circus was in town and staying.

KING: But having a name like Conan, which is the name of strength.

O'BRIEN: That didn't help either, is that there was this popular movie came out. And I actually had talked to Schwarzenegger about this on my show. I said you helped ruin my life because this name comes out and Conan suddenly is synonymous with a muscle man and I'm walking around, hello, fellas and, you know, having trouble standing up.

KING: Must have been a good student though to go to Harvard?

O'BRIEN: You know what? I had my strengths, which was I was pretty good creative writer, and I think that helped get me in. Yes.

KING: To Portsmouth, Virginia. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Conan.


CALLER: I was wondering, considering you did go to Harvard, was there a profession you were prepared to pursue if comedy had not worked out?

O'BRIEN: Well, I'm still not clear whether it's worked out or not. So, I'm still keeping my options open.

KING: If it didn't, what would you have...

O'BRIEN: You know, I was interested -- it is a good question because I had no idea that I was going to get into comedy until I started writing comedy in college and then used that as a way to start trying to perform a little bit. But I think at the time, I remember thinking, well, I'll probably go to law school. I'll try and, you know, maybe I'll get a law degree or maybe I'll try to be a creative writer. But... KING: Was Harvard great?

O'BRIEN: It's -- you know what? It's interesting. It's not -- I don't think it's better than a lot of other schools. And I think some people who don't go there have a bit of a, oh, you went to Harvard and it has got this mystique to it. But I think undergraduate, it has got a lot of problems, too. There are many people who I talk to who went to much smaller schools, schools that don't have the name renown who sounded to me like they got just as good an education or better.

KING: Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry and Conan. I love both of your shows. And I just wanted to ask Conan what you missed, if anything, about writing material for shows such as "The Simpsons" and "Saturday Night Live" as opposed to delivering the material in front of a live audience on a nightly talk show?

KING: Good question.

O'BRIEN: What I loved about "The Simpsons" was I think it was the funniest group of writers that I ever had the privilege, you know, to work with in that kind of show. I mean, I love the writers I have now. "The Simpsons" was this very specific kind of writing. And it was really fun to sit in there and just trade lines with people. And you felt like you were on a little bit of an all-star team.

And I think the thing I miss about it the most is this feeling that you're sort of -- you have teammates. You're working with other people, and it's a collaboration. Although I get a lot of help on my show now, sometimes it feels lonely. You know, there's problems and you have to go out there and you have to do the show, and everyone is looking at you. And what's nice is that when you're a comedy writer and you're in a room with 10 other people, if you haven't got it that day, you can just kind of sit back in the chair and maybe you're a little quiet that day. And I think the pressure isn't on you as much. So, I definitely miss that.

KING: What do you think of this celebrity boxing?

O'BRIEN: I want in.

KING: Who do you want to fight?

O'BRIEN: You. I think you and I -- think about it. You without the shirt, but the suspenders, people would love that. And I would grab them.


O'BRIEN: It is about time the Jews and the Irish settle their differences. I would grab your suspenders, I'd pull them out and then I would let them go. They would hit your nipples at 40 mile an hour. That's a fight. I'd pay to see that fight.

KING: Well, you'd be favored because of height and age.

O'BRIEN: But I'm also -- I'm a very -- my technique is very bad as a fighter. I tend to just flail and I shriek a lot. And I just flail.

KING: Do you think CNN and NBC would let us do it?


KING: Murdoch would go for it.

O'BRIEN: Murdoch would go for it because he's a betting man. That guy's crazy, Murdoch, so he'll go for it. And NBC, they'll do as I tell them. They'll do as I tell them.

KING: Because you've got clout.

O'BRIEN: I'm maybe their most important star. There's talk that "ER" and "Friends" generate more revenue. But when you get right down to it, I think 12:30, we all know, is the most watched time slot.

KING: And you own it. You own 12:30.

O'BRIEN: Let me tell you something, 12:30 is my lady and I own 12:30. That's the way I look at it. And I really believe that I can build a much bigger base from there. I plan to move later and later into the evening.

KING: You want to go on at 2:30?

O'BRIEN: I will have the coveted 3:30 in the morning slot soon, which is great, because you do a little comedy, then you tell the farmers if it's going to rain tomorrow or not.

KING: And you get a 90 share.

O'BRIEN: Huge, huge numbers. Everyone thinks go this way, 11:30, 10:30 -- no, baby. That's not how it goes.

KING: Go the other way.

O'BRIEN: Go the other way. No one's going that way. Always go where no one else is going. That's what I learned in business school, and I didn't even go. Think about it. It's amazing.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Conan O'Brien. Don't go away.


O'BRIEN: Would you take a big bite out of this Taco Bell burrito?

MARTHA STEWART: Is it going to fall all over me?

O'BRIEN: Yes, and then you can wash it down with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


O'BRIEN: Yeah.

STEWART: Is it bean? All beans. Is that good?

RICHTER: And room temperature.

O'BRIEN: Yeah.

STEWART: It's so cold, I would say.

O'BRIEN: I got it yesterday. What do you want?

Now, I didn't think I'd have to pry this away from you.




O'BRIEN: You want to see something really scary?

Put this on, Bernie, right now. Just like that. Cover up nice and cover up right there. All right. Now look at this.


KING: How do you know that that's going to work?

O'BRIEN: Well, you don't. That's what's scary. And that's a piece that, you know, a few years ago I used to do with Andy sitting next to me. We would rehearse the whole thing. And this is an example of after Andy left, I started -- we did it tonight on the program, tonight at 12:30.


O'BRIEN: I just -- I do the monologue, I cross over to the desk, I say, "I'm going to take a little drive, does someone want to come with me?" I walk into the audience and I pick somebody. And I don't know what's going to happen. Sometimes it's a woman. Yeah, I did it tonight. That was one that we did maybe a year ago, or maybe nine months ago, and that's just a guy from the audience.

And what's great is you do get this whole added element of everyone who is watching TV can identify with that person. And they're not professional performers, but they're playing along, and they don't know what's going to happen. We dump water on them, confetti. I say, give me your wallet, I go through it on the air. And it's scary, but it's very funny and electric, and it works.

KING: Is tonight a woman or a man?

O'BRIEN: Tonight I picked a young man out of the audience, a guy who's like 22 years old.

KING: Before we take the next call, you hosted the 75th anniversary?

O'BRIEN: Fiftieth. Yeah, the 75th anniversary of NBC is coming up, but I hosted the 50th anniversary of late night television on NBC. And unfortunately, the original airing was I think a few days after September 11, and I was going to go out and promote it, but for obvious reasons none of us felt that was appropriate. So we let it run, and it did fine. We just -- NBC just reran it last Sunday night. And the rerun did better -- it was great. It was a big hit. And it did better than the first run of it. And it was great.

KING: This was with Jack Paar, Steve Allen.

O'BRIEN: Starting at the beginning, from the very first show -- yeah, Jerry Lester. And we showed the clips. And you know, Jack Paar, Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, and we showed a lot of classic David Letterman from the '80s. And we showed...

KING: Did you need his permission?

O'BRIEN: Well, what we did was -- I guess technically probably we did, but I wanted it to be done the right way. So we put together a montage, and when we were producing it -- and I sent it over to Dave with a note and I said, "let me know what you think." And he called back and was -- said he really thought that we had done the right -- a good job, so.

KING: Blacklick, Ohio, for Conan O'Brien. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: Yes, Conan.

CALLER: My question is very simple. What person haven't you interviewed that you would like to interview?

O'BRIEN: You know, it's funny. It used to be a long list. It has gotten shorter over the years. It's been about nine years that we've been doing it, and I pretty much have gotten to everybody I wanted to talk to. Some of the people on that list are no longer with us. You know, Richard Nixon was someone who I always thought would be an amazing interview, John Lennon. There are certain heroes of mine that I would have loved to have talked to.

Probably Woody Allen is a name that comes to mind, because he's someone who influenced me a lot. Great, great prose writer, and performer, and filmmaker, and he someone who I always thought I'd love to talk with Woody Allen, but that's...

KING: As a writer, do you ever think what it must have been like during the Sid Caesar days when Woody Allen was a junior writer and Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, "Laughter on the 23rd Floor," the play about it. What a riotous... O'BRIEN: What a stable of writers, yeah.

KING: And Larry Geldhoff.

O'BRIEN: Yeah. You know, sometimes I fantasize that maybe the people that are writing for me now are going to go on to do things, and they can hire me when I'm hitting the sauce and having my troubles, because it's going to happen.

KING: Toronto, hello.

CALLER: Conan.


CALLER: Question.


CALLER: Do you see a difference between your Canadian audiences and your American audiences?

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes.

KING: Is there a difference?

O'BRIEN: Yeah, there is. There is a palpable difference.

KING: Tell us.

O'BRIEN: First of all, Canadians embraced our show before Americans did. And I have to give them their props for that. When I debuted, there were a lot of things wrong with the show, but I think one of the things that was right with the show was that we were doing a lot of innovative and strange things with the medium of television. And a lot of people were very resistant to it.

KING: You were kind of like a Kovacs, Ernie Kovacs.

O'BRIEN: No, I wouldn't -- you know.

KING: But he was way ahead of his time.

O'BRIEN: Yeah, but I'm not going to put myself in his league. But yeah, we were just trying things. We wanted the show to be let's throw a lot of strange things up against the wall and see what sticks. And our original writer, Robert Smigel (ph), said this is our flailing period. Let's just flail around and don't be afraid to try things.

So we did that. And some nights the crowd would be just there from the beginning. They liked it, they got it. And I would always say, "great crowd tonight." And they would say, "yeah, it was a lot of people from Canada." And they just -- they aren't afraid to go with you.

Look at all the great comedy that comes out of Canada. I think they aren't afraid of new ideas; they aren't afraid of something that's a little different. And they gave me the benefit of the doubt. And so I've always been indebted to -- whenever we have people from Toronto or Montreal in the audience, they really don't mind seeing the stranger stuff.

KING: Of course, a completely different era, but did you feel the loss of Milton Berle?

O'BRIEN: You know, it's funny, I only -- I met Milton Berle once and got to talk to him. And I'm a little bit of a nerd about the old days of broadcasting, so I got to ask him some questions. And he was really, really nice to me.

We had one experience with Milton Berle, and this is a true story, My first year on the air, Milton Berle was in the hallway, he was taping something.

He saw that our light was on and he said what is going on in there, and they said it was Conan O'Brien's show. And he said I'm going to do a walk-on. And without asking anybody, without saying anything, he walked straight through the doors, walked out. The crowd went crazy. He waves to everybody. Did some shtick -- ran over to me, like shoved a cigar in my mouth, grabbed my ass, I don't know. Did a million things.

Crowd goes crazy, walks out. We were in a commercial break. We were in commercial and Milton just didn't know that. And suddenly, so the audience has already had the surprise. I was like can he come back tomorrow? No, he's gone. The cameras weren't even going. But yes, I think we all miss -- there is no me if he hadn't been here.

KING: That's right. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Conan right after this.


O'BRIEN: I want to ask you something. This is a question that people wouldn't expect but when I first got this job, I came here to 30 rock.

DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: How did you get this job, by the way?


LETTERMAN: Was it a theme writing contest or what?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. It was a what would I do with a talk show? And I was fourth.




CHRIS FARLEY, COMEDIAN: Looking at that page again?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Man, I really think she's cute.

FARLEY: Boy, the one I like is the brunette over there.

O'BRIEN: Oh, yes. Now, she's cute, too.


KING: He was something.

O'BRIEN: yes. Sometimes now it is getting to the point now where it is hard to sometimes see the old clips. Just because there are people who aren't with us anymore.

KING: Columbus, Georgia, for Conan O'Brien. Hello?

CALLER: Hi, Conan. I was just wondering if your pompadour had become a trademark, and if so if you would ever consider changing it.

O'BRIEN: I didn't hear it.

KING: He wanted to know if your pompadour has become a trademark?

O'BRIEN: You know, the pompadour in the early days of the show was much higher. It was creating structural damage in the studio. And so at a certain point it calmed down. But I'm angry at the Bob's Big Boy Chain. I think they ripped me off. This Jimmy Neutron cartoon, I think that's clearly Conan O'Brien. I want to see some cash.

KING: You know what I think happened?

O'BRIEN: What?

KING: When you stood up to shake hands with Aaron Brown, a very effusive greeting, you pulled your earpiece out.

O'BRIEN: Oh, is that what happened? Yes, Aaron Brown charged in here and said I must meet Conan O'Brien. Security tried to stop him. I stood to be polite and to deflect an attack. And we pulled it out. Thank you, Aaron Brown. What kind of place you're running here?

KING: Don't pull it. Lima, Ohio.

CALLER: Conan, I was wondering, who was your favorite actor to work with on SNL.

KING: Who was your favorite person working with on "Saturday Night Live?"

O'BRIEN: Oh, boy. That's really hard. Kind of impossible. There's someone crawling -- stand up. I want people to see who this -- he works hard. I want people to see you. Hi. Good to see you. You do a great job. He just took my wallet. I want you to know that. Gee, Saturday Night Live, very difficult question to answer. But boy, that's difficult. Lovitz or Carvey were just two people that I just loved to watch perform.

KING: Were they easy to write for?


KING: Did they go with the flow?


KING: Because some great comics were very difficult with their writers.

O'BRIEN: Not the case. Especially Dana Carvey was just -- he's a pleasure -- pleasure to work with. Such a huge talent and a very nice man.

KING: Speaking of that, you are a huge talent and a very nice man. Not so long between visits.

O'BRIEN: I'll be back. Thanks for having me.

KING: Thank you. Conan O'Brien, the host of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." I want to remind you about LARRY KING WEEKEND, Saturday night -- Conan is so envious, we did this show once. Together on this program, where Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and King Hussein.

O'BRIEN: We had them. They were great.

KING: The occasion was the tenth anniversary of this show which will be 17 years old in June. We were that close to peace in the Middle East. That will be repeated in its entirety Saturday night. We will tell you about tomorrow night, what I can tell you about tomorrow night, right after these words.


KING: This is our wind-up night, this visit to New York. We will be in Washington tomorrow night with a special guest, however we can't tell you who it is. CNN will be telling you all day tomorrow. That's a grabber. We are also going to do a live edition on LARRY KING WEEKEND this Sunday night. It will deal with the situation in the Middle East and one of the special guests will be Senator George Mitchell.

One of the great reasons to come to New York is to just be in his presence, the host of NEWS NIGHT is next, the man of the moment, Aaron Brown, I can right over and see him, Aaron, it's yours.