Conan O'Brien

Active - 1999 - 2020  |   Born - Apr 18, 1963 in Brookline, Massachusetts, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Rachel Sprovtsoff

If Richie Cunningham and Phyllis Diller mated, would it equal Conan O'Brien? It's probably not a good enough match to poop on, but definitely one that has brought some laughs to television audiences everywhere. Conan Christopher O'Brien was born April 18, 1963, in Brookline, MA, to Ruth, a lawyer, and Tom, a doctor. He has three brothers, two sisters, and his cousin is comedian Denis Leary. At Brookline High School, he was on the debate team and served as editorial editor on the Sagamore. After high school, he attended Harvard University where he was the editor of the Harvard Lampoon; he graduated magna cum laude in 1985 with a B.A. in American history. After graduation, O'Brien went out to L.A. to put his education and sense of humor to work for him. He was on the writing staff of HBO's Not Necessarily the News for two years and worked with the improv group the Groundlings. In 1988, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels recognized O'Brien's talent and hired him as a writer for the show. He wrote for the show for three and a half years and in 1989, shared an Emmy with the writing team for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series. In 1991, he left the show and pitched an idea to NBC for a series starring Adam West, but it was not picked up. Good thing, though, because O'Brien's next gig would be yet another high-profile show on its way to television history. As a writer and producer for Fox's The Simpsons, he wrote such hilariously memorable episodes as "Marge Vs. the Monorail" and "Whacking Day." After the much-ballyhooed decision that Jay Leno would replace Johnny Carson on NBC's Tonight Show instead of David Letterman, and when Letterman left for CBS, Letterman's old timeslot was left open. Enter one tall, funny Irish guy with a classically dry sense of humor to keep late-night audiences tuning in. Late Night With Conan O'Brien premiered September 13, 1993, with Michaels serving as executive producer. An aspiring writer/performer, Andy Richter, had hopes of getting on the team behind the new show, but instead wound up in the role of "trusty sidekick" to O'Brien. Rounding out the late-night backdrop was music director Max Weinberg, who had been the drummer with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, and his backing band. This amalgam of performers, plus an Emmy-winning writing team, led to such comedic bits involving Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Pimpbot 5000, and In the Year 2000. In 1997 and 2000, he and the writing staff won the Writer's Guild Award for Best Writing in a Comedy/Variety Series. Richter left in 2000 to work on his own television career, starring in Fox's Andy Richter Controls the Universe in 2002. O'Brien took over hosting The Tonight Show from Leno on June 1, 2009, but only held down the desk for a mere seven months. Network politics and the ratings game led to Leno returning to the job he left after his own show, which aired at 10 p.m., tanked. Instead of compromising himself and the show by accepting a later timeslot with Leno serving as the warm-up act, O'Brien chose to leave the network. Later in 2010, he signed a deal with TBS for his own show (Conan) for the fall.

O'Brien married advertising executive Liza Powell in January 2002 and welcomed daughter Neve in October 2003 and son Beckett in November 2005.

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  • Valedictorian of his high-school graduating class.
  • While at Harvard, wrote for The Harvard Lampoon and was elected president for two consecutive terms in 1983 and '84.
  • Cowrote and produced (with Robert Smigel) an ill-fated pilot for NBC titled Lookwell, which aired in July 1991 and starred Adam West as a former TV detective turned real-life investigator.
  • Former writer for Not Necessarily the News, Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.
  • Plays the guitar.
  • Distant cousin of Denis Leary (through marriage).
  • In 1996, was named by People magazine as one of the 25 Most Intriguing People of the Year.
  • Briefly took over as host of The Tonight Show in 2009.
  • In November 2010, premiered his late-night talk show Conan on TBS.