When Conan Auditioned for Late Night

Slate's Culture Blog
April 15 2013 11:10 AM

When Conan Auditioned for Late Night

Twenty years ago, on April 13, 1993, Conan O’Brien auditioned for Late Night. To mark the anniversary, O’Brien’s TBS crew posted a clip of the mock show the late-night host taped as part of his tryout. It’s very short—not quite a minute long—but, if you’re a fan of late-night TV and O’Brien himself, watching him interview Mimi Rogers and Jason Alexander for an audience of networks suits is fascinating. As someone who tuned in for Conan’s first late night appearance in 1994, and many early episodes thereafter, the most striking thing for me about the tape is that Conan looks more comfortable in this audition than he did for the first few months of the actual show.

Sure, his suit is riding up awkwardly above his shoulders, and he hugs the desk and taps the pencil in nervous fashion. But in these brief moments, at least, he is quick and witty and happy to push back playfully against his guests. I liked Conan right away when he debuted on NBC, but was always a little amazed that the network went with someone who at times struggled mightily to seem at ease on television. This tape makes that decision a little more understandable—they knew he had this in him, even if it took a while before he brought it fully to the small screen.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

What Hillary Clinton’s Iowa Remarks Reveal About Her 2016 Fears

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter


Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Frame Game
Sept. 15 2014 5:13 PM Hard Knocks I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 5:26 PM Robin Thicke’s Bizarre “Blurred Lines” Deposition Is Both Unflattering and Convenient
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 8:41 PM You’re Cut, Adrian Peterson Why fantasy football owners should release the Minnesota Vikings star.