O'Brien Debuts as NBC Late Night Host

From the Harvard Lampoon castle to NBC's Studio 6A, Conan O'Brien '85 hit the late night television scene Monday night with topical humor, self-effacing charm, and a leg-wrestling match.

Putting Harvard on the late night television map, O'Brien filled Late Night veteran David Letterman's 12:30 a.m. time slot on NBC.

O'Brien gratefully hosted guests John Goodman, Drew Barrymore and Tony Randall, thanking each profusely for agreeing to appear on the show of an unknown entity in a business where name means everything.

A former writer for "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons," Conan O'Brien worked in relative obscurity until this summer's unanticipated announcement that he would take over the NBC program.

In addition to interviewing and proffering made-up small town news, the novice host also refereed Indian leg-wrestling between Goodman and surprise guest George Wendt.


But noting a sudden dearth of mature behavior, 30 year-old O'Brien admonished sidekick Andy Ritchker: "We have to be professional. We can't act like people who are too young to be on TV."

O'Brien and Randall closed the show with alullaby rendition of "Edelweiss" in German to thedelight of fans who witnessed O'Brien's promise tosing every night in a recent Dateline NBCinterview.

Many Harvard students said they weren'tsurprised by the accomplishments of the alumnuswho was the only two-term president of theLampoon.

"His achievement [at Harvard], and especiallyhis two years running the 'Poon certainly markedhim for comic success," said present-day Poonster,Fred de la Vega '93-'94.

In comparison to the recent debut shows oftelevision veterans Letterman and Chevy Chase,"Conan was a definite improvement. [Letterman andChase's] shows seem so stale," de la Vega added.

Other students, however, gave mild reviews toO'Brien, commenting that the novice just doesn'tmeasure up to late night talk show pro Letterman.

Michael P. Terpstra '96, who watched the showfrom his Leverett House suite, said O'Brien was"not even near where [Letterman] was."

Terpstra and his roommates, however, said theywill continue to watch and predicted that O'Brienwill improve as he gains more experience as latenight's latest addition.

"Conan looked good and I'm sure he'll getbetter. Plus, he doesn't have any competition thatlate," Terpstra said, adding that an additionalincentive to watch is that O'Brien is "so muchbetter than Arsenio."

In the audience was O'Brien's brother, LeverettHouse resident Justin P. O'Brien '94. As ofyesterday, the younger O'Brien had not yetreturned from Monday's premiere taping in NewYork.

Few students and even fewer unpackedtelevisions contributed to sparse Harvard studentviewership of the premiere show, but surelyLampoon editors will keep close watch of theirpredecessor's path toward star-dom.

"It's kinda neat to start on TV," O'Brien said."But where do you go? Ten years from now I wannabe in high school.

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