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CNN Larry King Live

Encore: Interview With Conan O'Brien

Aired December 27, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: He's done it. Tonight, Conan O'Brien is back. And we've got him for the hour.


KING: I'm your guardian angel.

Can his second act surpass the first?

O'BRIEN: This is more important to me than my wife and family.

KING: Look out. Coco reveals all. Next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Conan O'Brien is the host of "Conan" on CNN's sister channel TBS and we're pleased to welcome him back here. New show is a little more than a month old and if you haven't been watching, here's a sample of what you've missed. If you have, enjoy the fun again. Watch.


ANNOUNCER: Coming to you from Warner Brother Studios, it's Conan.

O'BRIEN: There is hanky pank with a lanky Yankee.

ANDY RICHTER, CO-HOST: Sun, clouds, wind, other stuff. Back to you, Conan.

O'BRIEN: Great. Oh, for god's sake. Give me a call.

RICHTER: I am supposed to smell your hair. Oh, is that honey suckle?


KING: This is the last week of LARRY KING LIVE after 25 1/2 years. The last week of LARRY KING LIVE live.

In the two weeks leading up to New Year's we'll be showing re- runs of great shows and I imagine this will be one of them because we welcome back Conan O'Brien.

How's the new show going? Are you enjoying it?

O'BRIEN: It's amazing. It's --

KING: In what way?

O'BRIEN: Well, I'm the host which I think is always a good start. I -- no, we're having a lot of fun. It's got a nice feel to it. And first of all there is nothing like being off television for nine months to make you really appreciate being on television.

I realized -- yes. I realized you go through an experience like I went through last year and I realized, yes, this is more important to me than my wife and family. So --


O'BRIEN: Hi, kids. So, yes. We're just having a blast. And it's a good fit with TBS. They just pretty much let us do whatever we want which is a terrible mistake.

KING: Is it a lot different than the network -- network network?

O'BRIEN: You know, the essentials are the same. Do you know what I mean? It's -- my personality is the same. I've been doing this for 17 years. And so my sense of humor is the same.

Andy is there. So there's a lot that hasn't changed. I think it's -- it has changed in small ways. Like I say, I think -- I just think there is a sense of, let's try anything again. You know? Let's just go for it. I've got nothing to lose.

I think that's one of the best feelings you can have in comedy, is the feeling that you got nothing to lose.

KING: But you do, don't you? You want to do good ratings. You have --

O'BRIEN: You do, yes. But I -- you know, I feel like this is -- again, I went through all of those years of network and sort of climbing up that ladder and then you go through an experience like that and you feel like, hey. Life is short. Let's just try anything. Let's try anything we can think of.

KING: Was it tough being off?

O'BRIEN: You know, I realize that I am -- my wife saw it, she was the first one to notice it. She thought, this guy, doing a show is the organizing principle in his life. That's what she said. And -- so I had a need to perform and so I immediately went out on the road.

I mean, very quickly I went out on a 32-city tour and later on I looked at the whole thing and I thought, wait, that was my time to go to Paris, that was my -- that was my chance to see the world, make pottery, become a male model. Here's a chance to do --

KING: So many opportunities.

O'BRIEN: So many opportunities and what do I do? I go right out on the road and do schtick for people. Essentially Vaudeville. I mean I was playing a lot of these theaters across the country and I get such energy from it that I realized OK, this is just what I do. I really love it.

KING: So there's very little -- who came up -- I imagine you did -- with the back drop of the water and the moon that moves?

O'BRIEN: You know, it's funny. This Hasbro light set was taken. We couldn't do that.

KING: This is a famous set.

O'BRIEN: Look, I'm not knocking this set.

KING: Don't knock this set.

O'BRIEN: Am I knocking this set, Larry?


O'BRIEN: I would never knock it.


O'BRIEN: I love this set. I think it's gorgeous. And I commend the elementary school that made it. But I -- we were looking at -- it was one of the first things where we thought let's just mix everything up and we met with the set designers and they started to show us the L.A. backdrop.

You know on these shows it's always the New York backdrop or the L.A. backdrop. And the first thing I said was how come no one looks at the ocean? You know you go to a nice fish restaurant you look out at the ocean and they said, I don't know why. Let's look at the ocean.

And I said, could we have a three dimensional moon, I mean a real, giant oversized moon and can it move with electronics? They said, sure it can. And that's the spirit of the show we're doing now which is think of it at 9:00 in the morning and implement it at 11:00 in the morning and get it on the show that night.

KING: And pour water on Tom Hanks.

O'BRIEN: Pour water on Tom Hanks. You know, I think there's a sense of play. That's what is important to me about this show is I've never taken myself that seriously. And I really do want there to be a sense of silliness so people come on the show it's a relatively small space. We try and create an intimate atmosphere and let -- get people very comfortable and then get them to do things that they'll always regret. KING: I was -- I was proud to be part of your first night. That was a great opening night.

O'BRIEN: You were really nice to help us out. And it was -- and we wanted to -- we wanted to tell the story on the first night of what had happened to me in the -- a wrap-up of the previous nine months and a silly wrap-up but we at one point had become very despondent about being off television.

I don't know what's going to happen. And I'm about to jump off a bridge and take my own life when an angel from basic cable appears to me, Larry King.

KING: I'm so thankful you thought of me.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, you're such a -- you are -- you are such an iconic figure and it's Larry King, the suspenders, the glasses. And we said, would you do it? I didn't know if you'd do it. You said immediately yes, I'll do it.

So we were at a bridge downtown in L.A. and I show up, and I'm ready to shoot and they said Larry is here and I turn around, and you are strutting across the bridge wearing giant angel wings, and the suspenders and we hadn't blocked off traffic. So trucks and cars are passing. Everyone is looking over. It's Larry King in angel wings.

KING: And Conan is trying to kill himself.

O'BRIEN: And Conan is trying to kill himself. It's just another day in Los Angeles. You see that stuff all the time.

KING: By the way, speaking of that scene as we go to our first break, watch it.


KING: Don't do it, Conan.

O'BRIEN: Larry King?

KING: I'm your guardian angel.

O'BRIEN: But you're not dead.

KING: Never mind that. I have two words for you. Basic cable.

O'BRIEN: Basic cable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Conan, I think you'll find our terms very attractive.

O'BRIEN: I think you have a deal.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with Conan O'Brien. He's back on TBS nightly at 11:00 Eastern.

Why are you on at 10:00 in Los Angeles? I don't understand that.

O'BRIEN: I'm not even aware that we're on 10:00. Is that -- why are we on --


O'BRIEN: My producer is in the room. Why are we on at 10:00 in Los Angeles? Oh, DirecTV. That's right.

KING: DirecTV.

O'BRIEN: I'm not a detail guy. But yes.

KING: On normal cable channels when they -- like Turner, Time Warner or something.


KING: You're on at 11:00.

O'BRIEN: I'm on at 11:00 most places I guess it's 10:00 on DirecTV in L.A. and for some reason 3:00 in the afternoon in Cleveland. We don't know. We have no idea.

KING: We asked your fans to tweet questions for you. "The King's Things." A whole bunch of them involved the beard.


KING: A whole bunch. All right. So why and how long will it last?

O'BRIEN: OK. First of all --

KING: The why.

O'BRIEN: The why. Why a beard? I went -- you know, the first thing you do when you -- 10 months ago now, 11 months ago, when I had to walk away from "The Tonight Show" I -- the first thing I did was you just stop shaving because you realize when you do a show you have to shave all the time when you're a broadcaster as you know. You shave constantly.

And I have a lot of testosterone. I have to shave every 20 minutes and we have a team that works on my back. It's the same team that works with Robin Williams. And formerly with Ed Asner. It's a long story. We don't have to get into the whole thing, but I started growing a beard just because I could and then I thought the beard somehow -- I kept it.

I took it through the tour. And a little bit became wrapped up with this transformation that I went through. I think visually. You know I went through -- I went through something. And then you've got a beard and it's a little bit the feeling of it's Conan 2.0, it's the next generation of Conan. So I thought well, we'll leave it for the beginning of the TBS show and then we'll see what happens.

Because I'm not -- I don't think of myself as a beard guy.

KING: So what do you -- when --

O'BRIEN: I don't know. I'm taking it day to day. I mean -- if you -- I'll shave them -- I'll shave right now if you want me to. But I --

KING: No, you won't.

O'BRIEN: What's that?

KING: You won't shave.

O'BRIEN: No. Would never do that.

KING: But you'll shave on television when you shave it.

O'BRIEN: I think when I do shave it's got to be on television. I mean I think every --


O'BRIEN: What's that?

KING: Straight or electric?

O'BRIEN: Can't use electric. Electric -- my skin is very sensitive. And I'm glad we're getting to this and I want this to be the focus of the interview, but my skin is very sensitive. Electric razors don't work. So I have to use a lot of special cream and emollient, mayonnaise mixed with bathroom spackling compound, and we rub it into my skin, tarragon herbs, and we shave me very slowly.

KING: That'll take up quite a bit of the show.

O'BRIEN: Takes nine shirtless men to shave me. Don't ask me why.

KING: The decision to bring Andy back.


KING: Was it --

O'BRIEN: He was broke.

KING: Oh. He begged to come back?

O'BRIEN: He was on his knees. And he -- it was sad. And, yes. He is a terrible --

KING: You made him famous.

O'BRIEN: What's that?

KING: You made him famous.

O'BRIEN: I made the guy famous. I breathed life into him whose life was clay when I met him. And he's been with me a long time and he's one of the funniest people I know. And we just -- it's very hard to find real chemistry in show business and in comedy and we always -- he can finish my thoughts. I can finish his. And he really has a great spirit. And so it worked out. It was nice.

KING: To the host is the sidekick an anchor, a blanket, or what?

O'BRIEN: Occasionally a wet blanket. No. You know what it is? It's funny because every relationship is different. The classic host/sidekick relationship is Johnny Carson/Ed McMahon, which is sort of the prototype obviously.

And with Andy what's interesting is it's different, is Andy -- I never tell him what to do. He doesn't take a backseat which is something that I think really works. If Andy has an idea or if he has a way to top me, he'll do it on the show. There's no sense of I take the lead and you step back.

If he's got something funny he goes for it and he keeps me on my toes because he's a very funny guy. So I think it's good. It's just good to have someone that good in the studio with you.

KING: You were a writer for a long time.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. I wrote "Saturday Night Live," "The Simpsons." I wrote for those different shows.

KING: When you transform and you look back now --


KING: Is it kind of like -- do you pinch yourself a little? Did you ever think this would happen to you?

O'BRIEN: I have moments like that. I have bad qualities, I have good qualities. I think one of my better qualities is that I am grateful. I am eternally grateful for what I have and I've used the word "grateful" more than any other word in the last year.

People come up to me oh, that was -- it's too bad what happened and I'll say you know what, I'm grateful. I'm a very lucky person. And I'm never become jaded about my success. I'm very thrilled every day that -- and I've had amazing moments in my life meeting people.

I'm sure you've had the same thing.

KING: All the time.

O'BRIEN: You've meet -- you've met every single famous person in the world including Erik Estrada and you get to constantly -- because you get to constantly just say to yourself, I can't believe that this is happening to me.

KING: If you don't say it there is something wrong.


KING: You should say it.

O'BRIEN: And you know what's interesting is that people looking at the show right now, they look at you. You're Larry King. And they believe you've always been Larry King and that this -- you're used to this, but you know that you used to be the guy standing in line that no one was paying attention to who was dreaming about doing something like this.

KING: Correct.

O'BRIEN: And I think when you can stay in touch with that, when you can stay in touch with -- I remember getting a bill. I drove a 1977 Isuzu Opal, which is -- I don't want to offend any company but it's the crappiest car that's ever been made. And now -- you take me to court if you want. I don't care.

And it cost -- it was a car that I drove, this is back when I was paying $380 a month rent, driving an Isuzu Opal and the car broke down. This was out here in Los Angeles back in 1985 and I pushed it into a gas station and they told me it was going to cost I think $600, which was more than the car was worth, to put a new carburetor and do some valve work or something.

And I remember thinking, I don't know how I'm going to do this. It's $600. And I think -- I never lose sight of that. I've had a lot of great things happen since then. But --

KING: It's important. Never lose it. If you lose it you're not yourself.

O'BRIEN: Right.

KING: We'll be back with -- I'm giving you advice. We'll be back with more --

O'BRIEN: I've lost it. I was -- I'm just faking.


O'BRIEN: That never happened. I'm independently very wealthy.

KING: We'll be back with more after this.



O'BRIEN: But I wore jeggings. What if I wore it for a whole show, I wore jeggings one night? OK. I have a motto on this new show. If I say I'm going to do something, I do it.


KING: Conan now wishes to publicly apologize.

O'BRIEN: I apologize to all the women out there and some of the men.

KING: What was that?

O'BRIEN: Do you know what those are? Those are jeggings. It's all the craze now, Larry.

KING: Jeggings.

O'BRIEN: Jeggings.

KING: Not leggings.

O'BRIEN: Leggings that look like jeans. So I became obsessed with jeggings because I would see --

KING: Would you wear them on the street?

O'BRIEN: I have not but I would see women wearing them and they're quite --

KING: Sexy?

O'BRIEN: Yes. It's a good look, Larry. It's a good look. And they're very tight and I say, man, those are tight jeans. And one day my assistant was with me and she said, those -- get with it daddy-o. That's how she talks. She's a beatnik. And she said get with it.

Those are jeggings, and I became obsessed with the idea of jeggings, and then Tim Gun said yes, and he thought that some men wore them. I challenged him. He kind of dared me to wear jeggings and I did.

KING: You know what I miss?

O'BRIEN: What?

KING: Because I used to be part of it. In the year 2000 --


KING: Bring it back.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know --

KING: Bring it back.

O'BRIEN: Bring it back? Year 2000? You know we've been waiting a little bit.

KING: I loved doing it.

O'BRIEN: Of course there is a question of whether it's the intellectual property of another company.

KING: Really?


KING: They think they own it?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes. They do. And --

KING: Really?

O'BRIEN: Yes. I'm lucky I got the jeggings. They tried to claim those, too. But, you know, I think we're going to sort all that out. You know time goes by.

KING: Still in the mix?

O'BRIEN: You know what? I wouldn't say, we haven't directly challenged that. I've been trying to take the opportunity with the new show, I wanted to send a signal which is I didn't want the -- when the new show first launched, the new one, I wanted to go out of our way to not do anything from the past, to send a signal that we are going to use this as an opportunity to try new things and to try and reinvent ourselves. I give that another two weeks. And then it's back to the old crap.

KING: The return of the masturbating bear?

O'BRIEN: Masturbating bear, year 2000. It'll all come back.

KING: It's part of you.

O'BRIEN: It's part of who I am.

KING: Is late night -- I guess except for Chelsea Handler, it's a boys club, right?

O'BRIEN: I think it's changing all the time. You know, yes, obviously, historically it's been dominated by men but as time goes on I think it's becoming kind of a moot point because people -- you know, I look at, say, Ellen DeGeneres's show. I think she's very good at what she does.

She is excellent and she is very funny personality and I think well, that show could be on at 11:00 at night. That show could be on at 12:00 at night.

KING: Sure.

O'BRIEN: It's just becoming a little bit -- it's, you know, semantics almost. There are so many funny people, funny women out there that, you know, whether it's Tina Fey or an Amy Poehler, I mean, any of these women could do a fantastic late-night show. KING: The "Hollywood Reporter" recently did analysis of who was watching you and Leno and Letterman and Jon Stewart. It found -- this is very interesting -- that your viewers are more likely to be single, tech savvy, atheist, and own a Volkswagen.

O'BRIEN: That's right. That's what we were aiming for.

KING: That person.

O'BRIEN: I said I want a show for atheists, single, tech savvy, Volkswagen owners. And I did it.

KING: You got them.

O'BRIEN: I don't know where they come up with the Volkswagen owners. Really?

KING: How did they come up with that? Leno viewers are the wealthiest, most likely to be religious, and they drive a Chevy or a Pontiac.

O'BRIEN: Right.

KING: Letterman viewers are more likely to be divorced, watch CNN, drive a Toyota.


KING: This is -- I'm feeling ridiculous reading this.

O'BRIEN: They're making this stuff up.


O'BRIEN: They are making it up.

KING: Jon Stewart viewers are most likely to be married, Catholic, and drive a GMC truck.

O'BRIEN: OK. I think what they did is they put index cards in a tumbler, spun it around and pulled things out. That makes no sense to me.

KING: Has it affected your broadcast in any way?

O'BRIEN: No. I never, ever, ever, ever, ever think about who I want to watch or who I'm supposed to be -- who is supposed to be watching or who could I get to watch. I've had people tell me, now you're -- who are you aiming for?

KING: Yes .

O'BRIEN: And I say, it's just -- I'm just doing what I've been doing since I was in the 4th grade. Literally. And if I know when I'm happy, what I aim for is I want to create a fun -- funny environment in that studio. KING: Were you a silly kid?

O'BRIEN: Oh, I was -- yes. But you know it's funny, I was not the class clown. People say were you the class clown, and I've always maintained that the class clown, the guy that when the teacher is out of the room sets the clock back, makes noise, throws water balloons around the room, those kids are always -- they grow up and they're killed in a motel shoot out.


O'BRIEN: Or their meth lab blows up on them. That is not -- a lot of the comedians that I really admire, the people who I really love and whether it's a Woody Allen or a Steve Martin, you know, these people that I idolize or -- you know, Johnny Carson, you find out later on or when you meet them in person they're very shy people.

They're quiet people. They're serious people. And when you talk to them one-on-one. And I think they were serious or quiet people when they were students. They weren't the crazy persons.

KING: Back with more of Conan O'Brien, nightly on TBS. Don't go away.


KING: All right. You went through a lot. We're not going to dwell on it but you dwelled on it. You brought it up.

O'BRIEN: Sure. It's like therapy. You're my therapist right now.

KING: I'll try to help you.


KING: Because you may be able to help me.

O'BRIEN: And actually this is the set up in my therapist's office. I actually --

KING: With the same --

O'BRIEN: I asked them to replicate Larry King's set and so this is how I go in and I talk about how I didn't know if I had my father's approval.

KING: Did you need a therapist?

O'BRIEN: Oh, I've always needed a therapist.

KING: Really?

O'BRIEN: Yes. I mean I've been in and out of therapy for, you know, a large chunk of my adult life.

KING: Was it heightened during that period?

O'BRIEN: No, actually. No, not so much that because I found, you know, the -- I married the right person. I'm very fortunate that my wife is amazing so she had to kind of roll up her sleeves and I was trying to piece together because I'm still trying to figure out just what the hell happened 10 months ago but for a while there, and especially in the first couple of days, couple of weeks, my wife was very helpful and just, she knows me very well and she had a better perspective on it all. And I have good people in my life. And then my producer Jeff Ross who's also one of my best friends, we've been together for 17 years through the late night show and through "The Tonight Show." And so a lot of the people in my life --

I don't have any yes men or yes people in my life. I'd kill for -- Gary Shandling said to me once, do you have a lot of yes men in your life? I said I would kill for one. I don't have anybody who tells me what I want to hear. I have people that tell me the truth.

KING: I have people -- my producer is not a yes person, also 17 years.

O'BRIEN: I asked her if she was a yes person and she said yes. Kind of shocking. But the -- and that helped me a lot. So ironically, I didn't even have a therapist out here probably at the time in my life when most people would say you have to have one. But the people, my friends and my -- the people I work with were great.

KING: Does the bitterness last?

O'BRIEN: No. I have moments -- you have moments of, you know. I won't lie to you. I have moments when I'm in traffic on the 405 freeway where my mind drifts to things that happen, some things that were said, some things that certain people did that I completely disagree with, and you get angry about it. But I just take that out on the drivers around me, like everyone else in Los Angeles.

But I would say I have moments. I have moments of going back there and then I -- you know, anger, confusion, disappointment. You know, like a lot of people in comedy, "the Tonight Show" was this pinnacle. And I had the honor of, you know, growing up watching Johnny Carson, and then getting to meet him and talk to him on a number of different occasions, and actually talked to him about taking over "The Tonight Show" when that was announced back in 2004. And I talked to him on the telephone.

So I had, I've had -- that was something that was in my brain for a long time and I think in my heart. And then when that doesn't work out, for whatever reason, there is always going to be some -- you know, some bad feelings.

KING: Were you surprised at all about the outgoing of support for you?

O'BRIEN: I got to say that I knew that -- I thought, OK, I think I've conducted myself well here. And I think I have fans. But the intensity of it surprised me. And I'm not a tech savvy -- even though I told my viewers are tech savvy and drink vodka, I am not a tech savvy person. I might as well -- I'm Amish practically. I have a computer that I whittled out of wood. It's steam powered. I have now the beard to match.

And so I didn't -- I wasn't that aware of the Internet, and then there is this explosion that was very organic. I think what was very funny is at the time the people at NBC thought that I was doing this. I think they gave me credit for it. What is he doing? How is he making this eruption happen? And I think thanks for giving me credit for it. I was as surprised as anybody. I was delighted, but I was surprised.

KING: Back with Conan O'Brien right after this.


KING: We're back with Conan O'Brien. Couple other areas in that area and then I want to go to other things. Do you ever keep in touch with any of -- ever talk to Leno ever? Touch in any -- no?

O'BRIEN: No. I haven't spoken -- I don't think I'll be hearing from them. And there's nothing really for either of us to talk about. I haven't talked to anybody. You know, I'm friendly with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And they were really nice enough to come and help me when I did the tour. They came onstage in Radio City, and they were absolutely hilarious. Brought the house down. We did a big skit together.

So I think that -- you know, the other guys I don't have that much of a relationship with them, and I don't know if there is much of a, you know --

KING: Was Johnny Carson helpful?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, I'll go way out of my way to make it clear that I wasn't friends with Johnny Carson. But I got to speak with him on a number of occasions and meet him. And he was always very nice to me. And that's the thing, is that you think that -- you know, you talk about being grateful or putting things in perspective. And I always think back to there are certain things people can't take away from me.

I know that I got to -- when it was announced that I'd be taking over the "Tonight Show" back in 2004, it was arranged that I could have this phone call with Johnny Carson. And I spoke to Johnny for a while on the phone and he talked to me about the franchise. And it's an amazing experience in my life. I got to -- you know, he got to talk to me about the "Tonight Show." And what was amazing is he talked to me -- it was like he had an old truck that he used to drive that he used to love, and he heard that I was going to be driving it, and he was telling me, you know, it sticks in third. Go easy on the clutch.

And it was an amazing experience. So whatever else has happened, I'll always have that.

KING: From a host standpoint, what did he have?

O'BRIEN: He --

KING: He was guest driven. He let the guest be funny.

O'BRIEN: He let the guest be funny. But I think people talk a lot about Johnny obviously, and trying to figure out exactly what was it. I think when he was hosting "the Tonight Show," he was the most charming man in America. Actually had one of the most charming men in America on television, which doesn't always happen. Sometimes the most charming man in America is never found. He is in a cocktail party somewhere.

He actually was the most charming man in America. He also had a few things I really admire. He would do all these things that a lot of hosts I think today are afraid to do. They're afraid to be -- you know, compromise their dignity. And people have I think put Johnny Carson up on a pedestal, which is appropriate because he was so great, but they forget that he would dress up as a cave man. He would dress up as Aunt Gladdy, wear a dress. He would jump into a hot tub with Don Rickles, wearing only a bathing suit.

KING: Let an animal jump on him.

O'BRIEN: Let an animal jump on him. And what he would do, which I always think is a great sort of magical slight of hand, he would apparently surrender his dignity and only -- and reinforce it. Do you know what I mean? He'd get -- it looked like he was surrendering his dignity, and the whole time he was only -- he was the coolest guy in the room, which is an amazing trick.

And I don't know -- it's a very hard thing to do. And I -- you know, all those years I watched him and I thought, he had that ability, which is unique.

KING: Are you surprised that he was very removed from his guests before and after the show? No, if any, social contact.

O'BRIEN: I think it doesn't surprise me now. It would have surprised me before I knew about this business and how it works. When I was a writer on "The Simpsons," before I ever got into this late night game, we had -- and it was just after Johnny Carson stepped down from "the Tonight Show," and he wasn't doing anything. And he agreed to be a voice on "The Simpsons." And he came in and he was a voice.

And we were all in awe. All the writers were just in awe. I'll never forget. He walked in the room. He was carrying a file of fax, I think, and a pack of cigarettes. And he drove up to the show in a white Corvette, immaculate white Corvette. And he had dark glasses on.

And he came in. And I remember he was very shy and reserved for a while. And then it took a long time, but he warmed up and then he started telling us stories. And after the recording, which didn't take long. And you could see that -- again, I mentioned this before, but a lot of these performers who are really great, they're not what you think they are. They're not that person right away. They're highly intelligent, shy, and maybe uncomfortable around people they don't know.

And so it doesn't surprise me that maybe he was that way with guests.

KING: Back with Conan O'Brien after this.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does your mom like working for Conan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. She says that he smells like rotten cabbage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My dad says Conan spends most of his money on lip stick and guns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Conan told my mom if she didn't take the cash under the table, he would have her deported.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One time my dad was late for work and Conan called him one of God's greatest mistakes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did your mom say about Conan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom said one time Conan cornered her in the stairwell. Then he said give me some of that sweet, sweet honey, baby. Now she cries a lot.


KING: Great stuff.

O'BRIEN: Yeah. Those kids are wonderful.

KING: A question Tweeted. Do you Twitter?

O'BRIEN: I do, yes. Every day.

KING: This was Tweeted to King's Things. "How did Conan's national tour this summer affect him professionally and personally?"

O'BRIEN: A good question. I'm an alcoholic now. I -- the most interesting thing about the tour was that I always feel like my career in show business has been this -- in a strange way, I've been trying to move closer and closer and closer to the essence of old time show business. You know, Vaudeville.

When I was a kid, the movie they showed all the time on TV was "Yankee Doodle Dandy" with Jimmy Cagney playing George M. Cohan. And I used to watch that as a kid. I've seen it a thousand times. And I say -- as a kid, I thought that's entertainment. That's what I want to be, an entertainer.

But I'm watching this in the early 1970s, as a freckled kid in Brookline, Massachusetts. And I thought that's what an entertainer is supposed to be. So I went out and I took tap dancing lessons and I dreamed about playing theaters.

Well, of course, I started out as a writer, which is way out in the periphery, the cerebral part of show business. And then I kept working my way closer and closer and closer. And I felt after "the Tonight Show", you know, implosion, debacle, I went out on the road. And how it affected me was I went out every night and there would be -- you know, we would play some of these really big spaces, huge spaces, with some nights 5,000 people in the crowd.

One night, we played a giant arena, a WNBA arena. And it's very primal. You're out there. You know, I used to be a guy that thought of weird concepts for the "Simpsons" or for "Saturday Night Live." But now I'm out there and I'm on a big stage with a microphone and a guitar and sometimes for 40 minutes, you know, or 35 minutes before I even get the show really started.

And then I would always end up in the crowd on the tours. It was very important to me that I -- I liked to get in there.

KING: You went into the audience?

O'BRIEN: I would go into the audience. I would disappear for a while. I would run up two flights of stairs and appear on the balcony.

KING: Why?

O'BRIEN: -- and play guitar. Neediness, sad neediness, lack of love as a child. Why? Why do any of us do any of this stuff? This is a cry for help. My parents are watching. It's your fault. But I --

KING: You're a better person for it though.

O'BRIEN: You know what it did? It did give me -- it gave me an incredible amount of confidence in just going for the moment, which I think I had been developing over years. But then, now on my TBS show, I come out and every night I'll find people in the crowd, and we'll just make things happen in the spur of the moment. It's a little bit of that, what have I got to lose feeling?

KING: Conan O'Brien is one of my favorite people. I'll tell you a little bit why in a while. Don't go away.



KING: One of the reasons I love Conan -- there are many -- is my wife sang on his show once. And he never said she was the wife of Larry King. He just introduced her as Shaun King. She never forgot that.

O'BRIEN: That's nice.

KING: That was really sweet of you. Is there a guest you really want?

O'BRIEN: You know, I think I've almost interviewed everybody I would have ever wanted to interview. The -- probably my -- one of my biggest heroes of all time comedically is Woody Allen, and I've never met him, never had the opportunity to meet him. I idolize not just his movies and his stand-up, but particularly his -- you know, he wrote short stories and still does.

KING: For "the New Yorker."

O'BRIEN: Still does for "the New Yorker." But I would read his collection of short stories. I think he's one of the great short fiction writers in modern American -- I think he's absolutely brilliant. So for someone like me, who started as a writer, aspired to be a performer, Woody Allen is the guy. Never met him and never talked to him. And I don't think he does those kinds of shows.

KING: Is the genius that he can -- let's say -- I remember one of his short stories, "The History of the Mafia," which was hysterical. That he surprises you, who think comedically?

O'BRIEN: Yes. I remember he would -- I always as a child I was aware that my mind -- I would think of crazy images. And I thought, well, other people don't think that way. Or is there something wrong with me? And I remember reading a short story of Woody Allen's as a kid. And he's describing -- he said it's late at night and it's dark in his room and he's describing -- he said the -- something like the bath robe hanging on my bed post in the dark resembles the Kaiser on roller skates. It's such a crazy, crazy, image.

And then he's got that great short story where one of the characters is being -- accidentally ends up going into -- I think he goes into a Spanish dictionary at the end. And he's being chased over the hard desert landscape by the irregular verb tennaire. I just -- so he has this ability -- the first time I heard it, it was in my brain. And it stuck with me. And it made me think, OK, you're -- here's this guy who is revered by everybody, you're allowed to think that way.

KING: How long you sign for?

O'BRIEN: For what?


O'BRIEN: I think another two weeks. Then I'm done.

KING: Hanging by a thread?

O'BRIEN: No, no.

KING: How long have they got you?

O'BRIEN: Do we know? Two, two -- my producer tells me two years.

KING: Only two?

O'BRIEN: Only two? After what I've been through, two years is huge. Two years? I used to be on NBC -- I used to be on a 13-week schedule.

KING: Really?

O'BRIEN: Back in -- oh, yeah, I've been through every -- I've had -- I was on a 13-week contract with NBC at one point. This was years and years and years ago. Yes. I had an egg timer on my talk show desk. I had an hour -- I'd just turn it over and every time I'd get renewed. Someone from the network would come in and turn it over. Yeah, I'm thrilled by that.

KING: Would you ever go and do what Carson did, play Vegas?

O'BRIEN: Well, I did. I did Vegas during the tour.

KING: On the tour. I mean, would you do a weekend in Vegas?

O'BRIEN: I would. You know what I loved? It's a different kind of crowd there. But I loved the -- there's a feeling of -- what I did was the corny thing that I think everybody does. I played the Palm -- the Pearl at the Palms.

KING: Yes, that's the young crowd.

O'BRIEN: They have a -- this is one of -- another one of those moments where you pinch yourself. But they put my name up. They have a giant sign. And it looks like it should say Joey Bishop, Dean Martin. It's one of those kind of signs. And my name, you know, is in letters as big as this table. It said, tonight sold out, and tomorrow night, Conan O'Brien, live. And I went out and just stared at that for a while.

KING: You deserve it, man.

O'BRIEN: Hey, thank you. No, I'm not the best, but thank you.

KING: Conan O'Brien. Coming in our last segment, Susan Boyle is here singing "Oh Holy Night."


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. As promised, Susan Boyle is singing for us. Her new album "The Gift," entered both the U.K. and the United States charts at number one. Here is "Oh Holy Night."


KING: Susan Boyle with "Oh Holy Night" from her new album "The Gift." Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."