The Late Night Fan Abstract Project was one of those expressions of fannish exuberance you got in 1990s Usenet culture. I suppose you get it now too; I just don’t know to handle exuberance anymore. But on Usenet group alt.fan.conan-obrien — organized no later than April 1994 — there grew this tradition. It was one of writing abstracts, summaries of episodes, for those who couldn’t see a show, or who wanted to look up when some guest or some sketch was done, or some noteworthy discussion happened.
I joined, of course. I wasn’t alone, although some weeks it felt like it. Most every night — plus special events, such as when The Allbell got hold of a videotape of Conan’s premiere episode — someone would videotape an episode and go slowly over it to describe what happened. I’d do, usually, about one episode a week, sometimes filling in for Abstracters who had something terribly concrete mess up their plans. I’d like to credit my skills in writing story strip plot summaries to this experience but I doubt that. I fell out of the thing around 2000, probably when I was nearing the end of my thesis and surely when I moved to Singapore. (Late Night with Conan O’Brien didn’t really air in Singapore in the early 2000s, although some episodes would sometimes run on CNBC weekends.) And, of course, Usenet fell apart around then, and Late Night by 2009, and you know. We all have other stuff to get to.
I don’t know that there was ever a Fan Abstract Project for Conan O’Brien’s TBS show, but what the heck. Here’s one entry, as one of the few things I never missed becomes impossible to miss again.
Conan Abstract Project Episode 1510 – 24 June 2021
Cold Open: Homer Simpson does exit interview with Conan O’Brien.
- Homer’s there for a big star at TBS; figures it’s one of the Impractical Jokers. ‘That time you and Sal blew up that toilet, I can’t believe that guy lived!’
- Homer’s had hundreds of jobs, at one point even a monorail conductor, ‘What a stupid idea that was!’ Conan thinks that’s a nifty idea.
- ‘How long have you been working at Tibs?’ ‘I think you mean TBS.’ ‘Thanks a lot, smart guy, but I think I know how to spell Tibs.’
- Homer’s favorite moment was that time Conan asked an actor if there were any wacky stuff on the set of his movie and told a mildly interesting anecdote and Andy fell asleep. ‘You just described pretty much all the shows I’ve ever done.’ ‘Good thing I only saw one, then.’
- How would his coworkers describe him? In one word or less. ‘Irish.’ ‘Funny, you don’t look Irish.’
- ‘You know what? I’m gonna get a pencil and write this down.’
- Conan reveals his Homer-level baldness. ‘Oh my god! You’re beautiful! You mean the world to me, Conrad!’
- With Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Four
- Closing jump obscured by audience sign. No string dance! Conan chant tamped down, ‘It’s getting creepy … I know how Mussolini felt.’ Andy: ‘I don’t think you should say that.’ ‘I thought it all turned out well for ol’ Mussolini, didn’t it?’
- ‘Our final show on TBS.’ Andy: ‘Wait, *what*? I just bought an amphibious car!’
- They’ve done over 4000 hours of TV. Always promised tonight was really great, was often lying.
- Thanks everyone at the Simpsons for the cold open, promotes this little show that’s never broken through.
Live Over Zoom: Will Ferrel.
- He’s in Boston, shooting a secret project. It’s Batman. ‘In this version he gives oral’.
- Wishing all the best, excited to see what comes next. Was there for the last Late Night, and the last Tonight Show, and now this. It’s krunking *exhausting*.
- Pretapes a few goodbyes for when his next several shows flame out.
- Slates, introducing ‘string of Conan talk show goodbyes’, claps hands together.
- Congratulations on HBOmax show, six episodes isn’t a lot but you packed enough for eight episodes.
- Will from set of his Batman sequel, we all miss his late night talk-show on Al-Jazeera Network. Sorry about the fatwa.
- When I heard MTV3 was looking for host of new reality show, ‘Videos of People Dry-Humping in Trucks’ you were the first name that popped into my head and now, 12 seasons later … good luck, next host Logan Paul Jr.
- I wish we were done! Truly going to miss your Delta Airlines talk show ‘Wheels up!’
- YouTube won’t be the same without your classic unboxing videos, such reverence and wit to episodes such as Kitchen-Aid Serrated Bread Knife.
- Reality Competition Show ‘Celebrity Room-Temperature Oyster Eating Contest’ cut down by explosive diarrhea outbreak; who could have predicted? Everyone.
- Conan is 80% sure we have a great show tonight.
[ Commercial Break ]
- So many amazing guests. Here’s a sample.
- Steve Martin reading his diary of Conan’s sluggishness.
- Martin Short, would love to do the shore more often but, you know, pride.
- Jordan Schlansky brings Lego Millennium Falcon to Harrison Ford, who trashes it.
- Fake clip from The Notebook 2. Conan wrote Ryan Reynolds every day for a year; they kiss.
- Tequila Slaps with not sure.
- Betty White is ‘getting better’ seeing muscle-y guy on magazine.
- Lord of the Rings guy showing off a prop ring; ‘My Precious’ guy comes in and swipes it.
- Will Ferrell shows off his dog-training, with maze of dog stunts to perform. Absolutely none of the dogs do anything and it’s all about the dogs going out of control while he freaks out.
- Medley of Zach Galifianakis entrances.
- Woman doing impression of turtle, eats lettuce.
- Woman talking about being single; it gets dirty, shocking Conan. ‘Why does every question I ask you go down a certain [path]?’
- Blue-screen riding stunt with Tom Hanks and Woody on a motorcycle; Woody gets knocked off by road sign.
- Andy Samberg ‘and his new baby girl’; doll is riding on a chest charrier; does a lot of chest-bumping, jumps on the ground and all.
- That cell phone crotch trick I don’t want my Dad to know about.
- Animal expert on; a large (iguana?) wraps their tail around Conan’s leg so the tail pokes out between his legs. Andy: ‘Now they all know the Conan that we know.’
- Comic be-bop singing duet with actor I didn’t recognize.
[ Commercial Break ]
- Conan trying his hand at other careers, ‘I hit it out of the park every time.’
- Mary Kay Beauty Consultant. Goes outside to stare in from the window with mis-painted lips.
- Commercial Actor. Scenario of being too calm while driving in crises. ‘Wait, you’re saying I hit a guy on a bike, but because I’m in such a nice car, I don’t give a krunk? That’s crazy, this car is making me immoral!’ Lighting makes Conan look eight years old.
- Modern Dancer. Alvin Alley dance troupe. Conan gets his head edited on top of a better dancer’s body. Conan starts drumming, picks people who are still dancing when he stops and picks them out. ‘*You* are now Uber drivers.’
[ Commercial Break ]
- Conan Without Borders clips.
- Cuba. Dancing; Cuban pay phones. Supermarket with rows of one product. Manager doesn’t want them filming there. Sings ‘I am Nutella’, other gibberish with street band.
- Korea. Learning the language. Creeps out language instructor. ‘I don’t like you.’ Visiting Demilitarized Zone. K-Pop video.
- Armenia. Sheepherders dressed like bouncers. Conan and Sona Movsesian dress in more traditional garb. Her voice drives sheep along.
- Haiti. Conan desk-drumming in a schoolroom; kids join in. One kid slaps his hand.
- Israel. David invites Conan for coffee, thinks he’s beautiful.
- Australia. Male echidnas have four-pronged penises. ‘Why?’ ‘Why not?’ ‘She’s good.’
- Mexico. Conan giving monologue in Spanish. Collects for the wall; people give the finger.
- Ghana. People get fantasy coffins. Coffin-maker laughs at the turkey coffin gag (‘you get to be the stuffing’), to be polite. ‘It’s not the cough that carries you off, it’s the coffin they carry you off in’. Conan’s fantasy coffin is a giant Conan with a NASCO tv.
- Berlin. The Happy Bavarian dancing, including accidental face-slappings.
- Japan. Companies provide fake families for the lonely. Conan’s fake family doesn’t understand his jokes but laugh to be nice. ‘Do you guys like ramen? Not me, I like my men cooked. … Please tell them to laugh.’ ‘What if I don’t understand his joke?’ ‘You don’t need to, just laugh.’
- Greenland. Conan gives the weather report, reading off the teleprompter.
- Italy. With Jordan Schlansky. Conan yells out random things. Conan wants pumpkin-spice-lattee from bartender; guy in background makes hideous, offended face. Driving with Jordan; Conan has music ‘this sounds very stereotypical to the point of insulting’. Movie sound effects. ‘We can also have silence as well.’ Car stalls out; Conan has fallingsound effect. Raspberry sound effect. Jordan cracks up (!), calling Conan a fool.
- Mentions, went to Armenia with Sona Movsesian, she’s not there as she’s expecting twins any day now. She’s in the audience. Conan didn’t know. ‘You told me you couldn’t work, but you can come here and check the show out?’ Thanks her for everything.
[ Commercial Break ]
Guest: Jack Black
- Special note: the musical guest on Episode 1 of _Conan_ in 2010 was Jack White. The symmetry goes without mention.
- Black comes out with a cane and a leg cast in what I thought several times was going to be a bit. No; Conan says he was ‘the healthiest I’ve ever seen you yesterday’. They were going to do a bit where Black does a musical number with a lot of physicality and with a fake injury, and paramedics who’d take him, and whom he’d shake out. They were pre-taping the bit where he escapes the paramedics, and doing one more take, and Black tumbled, spraining his ankle. The paramedics for the bit were actors, of course. The ambulance was a fake; it didn’t even have bandages. The paramedic actors drove to CVS to buy bandages. ‘It was a really quick run to CVS’, said Black.
- It’s a real sprain, says the MRI, and he has to do nothing physical while he heals. (I thought he was going to use this to break out and reveal the whole story was a fake. I was wrong.)
- Conan thought it fitting that given the meticulous perfect finishes of Johnny Carson and David Letterman, *they* came up with a bit where Jack Black hurts himself faking getting hurt.
- Ah, but Jack Black can sing. He does ‘You Did It Cone’s Way’, a filk of ‘My Way’. ‘I wrote/ this song today/ that’s why the lyrics/ are so krunk-y’. Though he can’t do *much*, Black is able to stand and twirl his jacket around and toss it to the audience.
[ Commercial Break ]
- Conan’s beneficiary of hundreds of talented, amazing people. 11 years ago came to TBS; Steve Coonan, ‘what the Irish call a mensch’, said he’d protect you and your people and will support you. They did that. Thanks bunch of TBS people.
- Thank Rick Rosen, Gavin Polone, Libra Keene (?), his squad. Polone’s his agent and I imagine the others are connected similarly.
- Executive Producer Jeff Ross. He peeks out from behind stage. ‘He’s making dinner reservations’.
- Andy Richter, brilliant man, love him forever. Thought of the funniest thing to say a million times. ‘Their chanting is gonna make me cry!’ ‘It would’ve been nice if you, like, fake-laughed once!’ ‘Oh, I did!’
- Always wanted best comedy writers and did, starting in 1993 to now. Courage, ingenuity of writers.
- Particularly: Michael B Sweeney, Matt O’Brien, ‘no relation to me … I always tell people that he’s my uncle’s son and we had to hire him and so many interns think it’s true and don’t give him the respect he’s due and I think it’s the funniest thing in the world.’ Another look backstage, at him.
- Field producer Jason Chillemi who gets everything sorted out on location, ‘gets shot’. He peeks out from backstage; Conan says we didn’t think this through; everyone’s a creep who pokes out of the dark.
- Line producer Sarah Pederovich ‘if she left I’d leave show business’; where are you?
- Lorne Michaels for his faith in a crazy, stupid idea back in 1993.
- Lisa Kudrow, who he met outside these doors in an improv space in 1985; immediately sized her up as one of the coolest people he’d ever meet. In 1993 she had more faith in him than he did, ‘You’re the only one that can do it’. You wouldn’t know him if it wasn’t for Lisa Kudrow.
- Shout-out to parents, who’ll see this three months from now. Siblings ‘they never, ever were impressed by anything … would you?’.
- Most amazing thing was a remote when he met a woman, an advertising executive, ‘you can see me fall in love on camera’, his wife Liza. ‘When we shot the scene in The Notebook when I kiss Ryan Reynolds she said, ‘Well, that ruined both of you for me’.
- And because of Liza, I have two children, I know everyone thinks their children are incredible but I’ve seen some of your children and they suck. My children are better, though.
- ”I have devoted all of my adult life, all of it, to pursuing this strange phantom intersection between smart and stupid. And there’s a lot of people that believe the two cannot coexist, but, God, I will tell you, it is something that I believe religiously, I think when smart and stupid come together — it’s very difficult, but if you can make it happen — I think it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. I am so grateful to all my staff, and the fans in this country and around the world, who have joined me in this really crazy and seemingly pointless pursuit to do things that are kinda stupid but have something smart in there somewhere, and then there’s a little tiny sort of flicker of what is a kind of a magic, I think, that’s what I believe. So, my advice to anyone watching right now, and it’s not easy to do, it is not easy to do, it’s not easy to do, but try, try and do what you love, with people you love, and if you can manage that it’s the definition of heaven on Earth. I swear to God, it really is. So goodnight, thank you very much!”