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Conan O'Brien Is Returning To 'The Tonight Show'

By Andrew Sanford | TV | April 4, 2024 |

By Andrew Sanford | TV | April 4, 2024 |


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Conan O’Brien’s late-night career began when he was relatively unknown. A few fans may have recognized his name as a writer on The Simpsons or SNL, but those people were few and far between. The fresh-faced young man replaced David Letterman as the host of Late Night and would eventually become synonymous with the show. His career would continue to rise as he set his sights on the ultimate prize: The Tonight Show.

In 2004, Conan was named host of The Tonight Show… in 2009. NBC guaranteed that, after five years, host Jay Leno would retire and Conan would replace him. It was a strange contract, but everyone seemed to be on board until they weren’t. When the time came, Leno decided he wasn’t ready to leave the only thing he’s ever been good at (good being a relative term). Ole Jay began hosting a show at 10 PM. But that wasn’t enough for him.

Jay convinced the folks at NBC to give him a timeslot at 11:35, pushing The Tonight Show back half an hour. Conan, rightfully, was furious about this. It undercut all the work he had been doing. NBC argued that Conan’s version of The Tonight Show was not the biggest ratings draw, but it had only been on for half a year. His run on Late Night took years to draw significant viewers. The Tonight Show has higher stakes, but Conan would have gotten it there.

NBC did not feel the same way. They moved Leno’s show to 11:35 and told Conan to move his to 12:05 or another network. O’Brien chose the latter. He moved over to TBS and continued his rise as one of the greatest hosts in the game. His talents would extend beyond late night when he started an incredibly successful podcast. Now, he’s launching a new travel show. He needs to promote it, so he’s returning to a familiar place for the first time in over ten years.

Conan O’Brien will return to The Tonight Show as a guest. He will appear on the April 9th episode, sitting across from current host Jimmy Fallon. I say this as a fan, so there’s a little bias, but this will be must-see TV. O’Brien did not shy away from making jokes at Leno’s and the network’s expense when dealing with the debacle. He certainly won’t hold back now.

O’Brien is no longer the upstart who won over curious viewers. He’s not even the Megaforce he was when he took over Leno’s slot. He’s something more. His legend is one respected by the comedy community and beyond. The world is on his side. He’s returning to a place that did not have faith in him, and he’s going to show them how wrong they were.