|Intro||American television show host and comedian|
|A.K.A.||Conan Christopher O'Brien|
|Is||Television presenter Comedian Writer Screenwriter Actor Television actor Film actor Voice actor|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Film, TV, Stage & Radio Humor Literature|
|Birth||18 April 1963, Brookline, USA|
Conan Christopher O'Brien (born April 18, 1963) is an American television host, comedian, writer, podcaster, and producer. He is best known for hosting the late-night talk shows Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, and since 2010, Conan on the cable channel TBS. Prior to his hosting career, he was a writer for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.
Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, O'Brien was raised in an Irish Catholic family. He served as president of The Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, and was a writer for the sketch comedy series Not Necessarily the News. After writing for several comedy shows in Los Angeles, he joined the writing staff of Saturday Night Live. O'Brien was a writer and producer for The Simpsons for two seasons until he was commissioned by NBC to take over David Letterman's position as host of Late Night in 1993. A virtual unknown to the public, O'Brien's initial Late Night tenure received unfavorable reviews and remained on a multiweek renewal cycle during its early years. The show generally improved over time and was highly regarded by the time of his departure in 2009. Afterwards, O'Brien relocated from New York to Los Angeles to host his own incarnation of The Tonight Show for seven months until network politics prompted a host change in 2010.
Known for his spontaneous hosting style, which has been characterized as "awkward, self-deprecating humor", O'Brien's late-night programs combine the "lewd and wacky with more elegant, narrative-driven short films (remotes)". He has hosted Conan since 2010 and has also hosted such events as the Emmy Awards and Christmas in Washington. O'Brien has been the subject of a documentary, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (2011), and has also hosted a 32-city live comedy tour and later an 18-city live comedy tour.
With the retirement of David Letterman on May 20, 2015, O'Brien became the longest-working of all current late-night talk show hosts in the United States, at 26 years. Conan was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in 2010.
O'Brien was born on April 18, 1963, in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, Thomas Francis O'Brien (b. 1929), is a physician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. His mother, Ruth O'Brien (née Reardon; b. 1931), is a retired attorney and former partner at the Boston firm Ropes & Gray. O'Brien has three brothers and two sisters.
O'Brien attended Brookline High School, where he served as the managing editor of the school newspaper, The Sagamore. In his second year, he was an intern for Congressman Robert Drinan and in his senior year, he won the National Council of Teachers of English writing contest with his short story "To Bury the Living".
After graduating as valedictorian in 1981, O'Brien entered Harvard University. He lived in Holworthy Hall during his first year with future businessman Luis Ubiñas and two other roommates, and in Mather House during his three upper-class years. He concentrated in History & Literature, and graduated magna cum laude in 1985. O'Brien's senior thesis concerned the use of children as symbols in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. During college, O'Brien briefly played drums in a band called the Bad Clams, was a writer for the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine, and developed a spoof of the video game One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird in which the Boston Celtics play against a classical ballet troupe. During his sophomore and junior years, he served as the Lampoon's president. At this time, O'Brien's future boss at NBC, Jeff Zucker, was serving as president of the school newspaper The Harvard Crimson.
Saturday Night Live (1987–1991)
O'Brien moved to Los Angeles after graduation to join the writing staff of HBO's Not Necessarily the News. He was also a writer on the short-lived The Wilton North Report. He spent two years with that show and performed regularly with improvisational groups, including the Groundlings. In January 1988, Saturday Night Live (SNL) executive producer Lorne Michaels, hired O'Brien as a writer. During his three years on SNL, he wrote such recurring sketches as "Mr. Short-Term memory" and "The Girl Watchers"; the latter was first performed by Tom Hanks and Jon Lovitz.
While on a writers' strike from Saturday Night Live following the 1987–88 season, O'Brien put on an improvisational comedy revue in Chicago with fellow SNL writers Bob Odenkirk and Robert Smigel called Happy Happy Good Show. While living in Chicago, O'Brien briefly roomed with Jeff Garlin. In 1989, O'Brien and his fellow SNL writers received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series.
O'Brien, like many SNL writers, occasionally appeared as an extra in sketches; his most notable appearance was as a doorman in a sketch in which Tom Hanks was inducted into the SNL "Five-Timers Club" for hosting his fifth episode. O'Brien returned to host the show in 2001 during its 26th season. O'Brien and Robert Smigel wrote the television pilot for Lookwell starring Adam West, which aired on NBC in 1991. The pilot never went to series, but it became a cult hit. It was later screened at The Other Network, a festival of unaired TV pilots produced by Un-Cabaret; it featured an extended interview with O'Brien and was rerun in 2002 on the Trio network.
In 1991, O'Brien's engagement to be married was called off and Lookwell was not picked up. Burned out, he quit Saturday Night Live. "I told Lorne Michaels I couldn't come back to work and I just needed to do something else," O'Brien recalled. "I had no plan whatsoever. I was literally in this big transition phase in my life where I decided, I'll just walk around New York City, and an idea will come to me."
The Simpsons (1991–1993)
— O'Brien on his first moments at The Simpsons
Mike Reiss and Al Jean, then showrunners of the animated sitcom The Simpsons, called O'Brien and offered him a job. The series was notorious in the writing community at the time; O'Brien recalls "everyone wanted to be on that show, but they never hired." O'Brien was one of the first hires after the show's original crew. With the help of old Groundlings friend, actor Lisa Kudrow, O'Brien purchased an apartment in Beverly Hills. He and Kudrow became involved as well, and Kudrow believed he should begin performing rather than writing. O'Brien disagreed, feeling that Kudrow was flattering him and asserting he was happy as a writer. In his speech given at Class Day at Harvard in 2000, O'Brien credited The Simpsons with saving him, a reference to the career slump he was experiencing prior to his being hired for the show.
From 1991 to 1993, O'Brien was a writer and producer for The Simpsons. When O'Brien first arrived at the Fox lot, they temporarily gave him writer Jeff Martin's office. O'Brien was nervous and self-conscious, feeling that he would embarrass himself in front of what he regarded as an intimidating collection of writers. O'Brien would pitch characters in their voices, as he thought that was the norm, until Reiss informed him that no one did this. He fit in quickly, commanding control of the room frequently; writer Josh Weinstein called it a "ten-hour Conan show, nonstop". According to John Ortved, one of his fellow writers said that if Conan had been shoo-in to take over as showrunner.
O'Brien wrote some of the series' most acclaimed episodes: "Marge vs. the Monorail" and "Homer Goes to College". The show was initially a highly realistic family sitcom; after O'Brien's debut, the show took a rapid shift in the direction of the surreal. O'Brien also has sole writing credits on "New Kid on the Block" and "Treehouse of Horror IV", on which he wrote the episode wraparounds. Wallace Wolodarsky described a "room character" Conan put on for the writers: "Conan used to do this thing called the Nervous Writer that involved him opening a can of Diet Coke and then nervously pitching a joke. He would spray Diet Coke all over himself, and that was always a source of endless amusement among us." During his time at The Simpsons, O'Brien also had a side project working with Smigel on the script for a musical film based on the "Hans and Franz" sketch from Saturday Night Live, but the film was never produced.
Meanwhile, David Letterman was preparing to leave the talk show Late Night, prompting executive producer Lorne Michaels to search for a new host. Michaels approached O'Brien to produce; then-agent Gavin Polone stressed that O'Brien wanted to perform, rather than produce. He arranged with Michaels that O'Brien would do a test audition on the stage of The Tonight Show. Jason Alexander and Mimi Rogers were the guests, and the audience was composed of Simpsons writers. Wolodarksky recalled the experience: "Seeing this friend of yours, this guy that you worked with, walk out from behind that curtain and deliver a monologue was like something you could only dream up that you couldn't ever imagine actually happening." The performance was beamed by satellite to New York, where Lorne Michaels and NBC executives watched.
O'Brien was picked as the new host of Late Night on April 26, 1993. As the writers headed to the voice record for "Homer Goes to College", O'Brien received a phone call from Polone informing him of the decision. "He was passed out facedown into this horrible shag carpet. He was just quiet and comatose down there on that carpet," recalled postproduction supervisor Michael Mendel. "I remember looking at him and saying, 'Wow. Your life is about to change, in a really dramatic way.'" Fox, however, would not let O'Brien out of his contract. Eventually, NBC and O'Brien split the cost to get him out of the contract. After O'Brien's departure, the writers at The Simpsons would watch videotaped episodes of Late Night at lunch the day following their midnight broadcast and analyze them.
Late Night (1993–2009)
Late Night with Conan O'Brien, originating from Studio 6A at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, premiered on September 13, 1993 to unfavorable reviews from contemporary critics. This reception was not completely unsurprising; O'Brien wrote a self-deprecating The New York Times piece titled "O'Brien Flops!" on the day of the show's premiere. Critics attacked O'Brien: Tom Shales of The Washington Post suggested that "the host resume his previous identity, Conan O'Blivion." Generally, critics viewed O'Brien as nervous and fidgety on-camera, and that he was "too smart, too East Coast, too sophisticated, too young and even too tall to be successful." The show was constantly at risk for cancellation; at one low point in 1994, NBC threatened to put him on a week-to-week contract. Executives were anxious to replace him with Greg Kinnear, who followed O'Brien with Later at 1:30 am. Interns filled empty seats in the audience while affiliates began to inquire about replacement hosts. In one installment after a short stretch of reruns, sidekick Andy Richter described his vacation activities as follows: "I sat back and reminded myself what it's like to be unemployed." The in-joke referenced the rumors floating in the trades that NBC was near canceling the program.
Things would improve slowly. Banter between O'Brien and Richter improved, and sketches grew in popularity ("If They Mated", "Desk Drive", "In the Year 2000"). A reliable staple involved a TV screen, lowered behind O'Brien's desk and displaying a still photo of news figure. The lips and voice of these characters – frequently a party-crazed hillbilly interpretation of Bill Clinton – were supplied by writing partner Robert Smigel. A turning point was David Letterman's February 1994 appearance. "It was a morale boost," said O'Brien. "I'm thinking, If the guy who created the 12:30 thing comes on and says we're smart and funny, let's go." The show went through a wobble in January 1995 when Robert Smigel, feeling burned out, quit as head writer. The show's quality improved slowly over time, and most credit O'Brien's growing comedic performance. Within a year, a comedic formula began to arise: the show would combine the lewd and wacky with a more elegant, narrative-driven remotes. Regular characters would typically include a "Masturbating Bear" and a famous remote found Conan visit a historic, Civil War-era baseball league. That piece was one of O'Brien's personal favorites, later remarking, "When I leave this earth, at the funeral, just show this, because this pretty much says who I'm all about."
O'Brien's audience, largely young and male (a coveted demographic), grew steadily and the show began to best competitors in the ratings, which it would continue to do for 15 seasons. In the early days of the Internet, fans launched unofficial websites, compiling precise summaries of each episode. Even Tom Shales was a convert: he called the show "one of the most amazing transformations in television history." Beginning in 1996, O'Brien and the Late Night writing team were nominated annually for the Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series, winning the award for the first and only time in 2007. In 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004, he and the Late Night writing staff won the Writers Guild Award for Best Writing in a Comedy/Variety Series. In 2001, he formed his own television production company, Conaco, which subsequently shared in the production credits for Late Night.
As of October 2005, Late Night with Conan O'Brien had for eleven years consistently attracted an audience averaging about 2.5 million viewers. The apotheosis of the Late Night remotes centered on the realization, in 2006, that O'Brien bore a striking resemblance to Tarja Halonen, entering her second term as president of Finland. "We took the show to Helsinki for five days," O'Brien recalled, "where we were embraced like a national treasure."
During the writers' strike in 2008, O'Brien staged a mock feud with Comedy Central's Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show) and Stephen Colbert (of The Colbert Report) over a dispute about which of the three were responsible for giving a "bump" to Mike Huckabee's campaign to become the Republican presidential nominee. This feud crossed over all three shows during the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike.
On February 20, 2009, NBC aired the last episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The show consisted of a compilation of previous Late Night clips and included a surprise appearance by former sidekick Andy Richter. Will Ferrell, John Mayer, and the White Stripes also appeared. O'Brien ended the episode by destroying the set with an axe, handing out the pieces of the set to the audience, and thanking a list of people who helped him get to that point in his career. Among those thanked were Lorne Michaels, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and O'Brien's wife and children.
The Tonight Show (2009–2010)
O'Brien hosted The Tonight Show for over seven months in 2009 and 2010. As part of a new contract negotiated with NBC in 2004, it was decided that O'Brien would take over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2009. O'Brien was a guest on Jay Leno's final episode of The Tonight Show. On June 1, 2009, Will Ferrell became Conan's first Tonight Show guest on the couch and Pearl Jam appeared as his first musical guest.
Conan acquired the nickname "Coco" after its use in the first "Twitter Tracker" sketch during the second episode of his Tonight Show run. Guest Tom Hanks used the nickname during his subsequent interview, even getting the audience to chant it. In reaction to the moniker, Conan remarked to Hanks in jest, "If that catches on, I'll sue you."
During the taping of the Friday, September 25, 2009, episode of The Tonight Show, O'Brien suffered from a mild concussion after he slipped and hit his head while running a race as part of a comedy sketch with guest Teri Hatcher. He was examined at a hospital and released the same day. A rerun was aired that night, but O'Brien returned to work the following Monday and poked fun at the incident.
By January 2010, O'Brien's ratings for The Tonight Show were much lower than they had been when the show was hosted by Jay Leno. On January 7, 2010, NBC executive Jeff Zucker met with Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien to discuss how to move Leno out of prime time, where his ratings were lackluster, and back into late night. It was proposed that O'Brien would remain as host of The Tonight Show, which would run at 12:05 am with Leno hosting a 30-minute show at 11:35 pm. Three days later, NBC Universal Television Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin confirmed that The Jay Leno Show would be moved to 11:35 pm following NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
—Conan O'Brien, on his departure from The Tonight Show, January 22, 2010
Sources familiar with the situation told the New York Post that O'Brien was unhappy with NBC's plan. On January 12, O'Brien released this statement: "I sincerely believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't The Tonight Show." On January 21, 2010, it was announced that Conan had reached a deal with NBC that would see him exit The Tonight Show the next day. The deal also granted him $45 million, of which $12 million was designated for distribution to his staff, who had moved with Conan to Los Angeles from New York when he left Late Night.
The final Tonight Show with Conan aired January 22, 2010, and featured guests Tom Hanks, Steve Carell (who did an exit interview and shredded Conan's ID badge), Neil Young (singing "Long May You Run"), and Will Ferrell. For Ferrell's appearance, Conan played guitar with the band and Ferrell sang "Free Bird" while reprising his SNL cowbell. Ferrell's wife, Viveca Paulin, together with Ben Harper, Beck, and ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, also joined the band for this final performance.
Jay Leno returned to The Tonight Show following NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Under the $45 million deal with NBC, Conan was allowed to start working for another network as soon as September 2010. Conan's rumored next networks ranged from Fox to Comedy Central. Other networks reportedly interested in O'Brien included TNT, HBO, FX, Showtime, Revision3, and even the NBC Universal–owned USA Network.
On February 8, 2010, it was reported that O'Brien was attempting to sell his Central Park West penthouse in New York with an asking price of $35 million. He had purchased the apartment in 2007 for $10 million. Two years earlier, O'Brien had purchased a home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles for over $10.5 million. Some industry insiders have speculated that O'Brien had chosen to stay on the west coast in order to facilitate a return to late night television and because he did not want to put his children through another move.
O'Brien was included in the 2010 Time 100, a list compiled by Time of the 100 most influential people in the world as voted on by readers. After being prohibited from making television appearances of any kind until May, O'Brien spoke about the Tonight Show conflict on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes on May 2, 2010. During the interview with Steve Kroft, O'Brien said the situation felt "like a marriage breaking up suddenly, violently, quickly. And I was just trying to figure out what happened." He also said he "absolutely" expected NBC to give him more of a chance and that, if in Jay Leno's position, he would not have come back to The Tonight Show. However, Conan said he did not feel unfortunate. "It's crucial to me that anyone seeing this, if they take anything away from this, it's I'm fine. I'm doing great," said O'Brien. "I hope people still find me comedically absurd and ridiculous. And I don't regret anything."
On March 11, 2010, O'Brien announced via his Twitter account that he would embark on a 30-city live tour beginning April 12, 2010, entitled "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour". Co-host Andy Richter, along with members of the former Tonight Show Band, joined O'Brien on the tour. Max Weinberg, however, was not able to join, except for a guest appearance at one of Conan's New York City shows.
On April 12, 2010, O'Brien opened his two-month comedy tour in Eugene, Oregon, with a crowd of 2,500 and no TV cameras. The tour traveled through America's Northwest and Canada before moving on to larger cities, including Los Angeles and New York City, where he performed on the campuses that house both of the NBC-owned studios he formerly occupied. The tour ended in Atlanta on June 14.
The day his live tour began, O'Brien announced that he would host a new show on cable station TBS. The show, Conan, debuted on November 8, 2010, and airs Monday through Thursday at 11:00 pm ET/10:00 pm CT. O'Brien's addition moved Lopez Tonight with George Lopez back one hour. Refusing at first to do to Lopez what had happened to him at NBC, O'Brien agreed to join the network after Lopez called to persuade him to come to TBS.
In February 2015, following the onset of the Cuban Thaw, O'Brien became the first American television personality to film in Cuba for more than half a century. Conan O'Brien then visited Armenia. In April 2016, O'Brien visited South Korea in response to a fan letter urging him to visit, as well as a growing fan base online. His visit included a trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which resulted in O'Brien and Steven Yeun to also visit North Korea on a technicality by stepping across the border line at the DMZ. Conan commented on the significance during the sketch, claiming, "The idea that you and I could be in North Korea, talking and communicating freely, seems like kind of a cool message."
TBS extended the show through 2018 in 2014 and through 2022 in 2017.
In the fall of 2018, Conan took a hiatus while O'Brien launched another national comedy tour. The show returned January 22, 2019, in a new half-hour format without the live band.
Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend (2018–present)
In 2018, O'Brien's production company, TeamCoco, partnered with Earwolf to launch his own weekly podcast, Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend. The podcast debuted November 18, 2018, with Will Ferrell as the first guest. The title of the podcast refers to the premise that O'Brien is lonely and is thus inviting people onto the show to see if they could be his actual friend. In each episode, Conan is joined by his guest, as well as his assistant Sona Movsesian and the show's producer Matt Gourley. Guests on the podcast have included Stephen Colbert, Michelle Obama, and Bob Newhart among others. The podcast has received strong reviews and is the top podcast on iTunes. This podcast has also won the iHeartRadio Podcast Award for Best Comedy Podcast and Best Ad Read.
O'Brien was executive producer and co-wrote the pilot of the 2007 NBC adventure/comedy series Andy Barker, P.I., starring O'Brien's sidekick Andy Richter. After six episodes and low ratings, the show was canceled despite being named one of the Top Ten Shows of 2007 by Entertainment Weekly. Later, USA Network handed out a 90-minute, cast-contingent pilot order to the medical-themed Operating Instructions from O'Brien's production banner; O'Brien served as an executive producer through his Conaco label. In January 2010 NBC ordered two pilots from Conaco, the one-hour courtroom drama Outlaw and a half-hour comedy. Outlaw was produced in eight episodes and premiered on September 15, 2010.
O'Brien's first guest appearance after beginning his late-night career was playing himself in the season five Simpsons episode "Bart Gets Famous", interviewing Bart Simpson during his rise to fame as a catchphrase comedian. In 1999, O'Brien made an appearance on Futurama in the second-season episode "Xmas Story". O'Brien played himself as a head in a jar and still alive in the year 3000.
O'Brien has made multiple voice appearances on the Adult Swim series Robot Chicken, including the specials Robot Chicken: Star Wars and Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II.
Other voice work performed by O'Brien has included the voice of Robert Todd Lincoln in the audiobook version of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, the voice of talk show host Dave Endochrine in the 2013 DC Universe animated original movie Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Part 2), the voice of the character Kuchikukan in the "Operation: Lunacorn Apocalypse" episode of Nickelodeon's The Penguins of Madagascar, and the voice of Santa Claus in The Backyardigans episode "The Action Elves Save Christmas Eve".
On the TV show 30 Rock, O'Brien is depicted as an ex-boyfriend of lead character Liz Lemon, who works in the same building. In the episode "Tracy Does Conan", Conan appears as himself, awkwardly reunited with Lemon and coerced by network executive Jack Donaghy into having the character Tracy Jordan on Late Night, despite having been assaulted in Jordan's previous appearance. O'Brien also made a cameo appearance on the U.S. version of The Office. In the episode "Valentine's Day", Michael believes that he spots former SNL cast member, Tina Fey, but has actually mistaken another woman for her. In the meantime, Conan has a quick walk-on, and the camera crew informs Michael when he returns from talking to the Tina Fey lookalike. In 2011, he starred as himself in the web series Web Therapy (opposite Lisa Kudrow) for three episodes. O’Brien also made a guest appearance as himself in the 2019 game Death Stranding, where he communicates with the player using voice lines and facial expressions recorded during his visit to Kojima Productions’ headquarters.
O'Brien has hosted several awards shows and television specials. O'Brien hosted the 54th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2002 and the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2006, to critical acclaim. O'Brien also hosted the 2014 MTV Movie Awards.
Since 2011, O'Brien had hosted the Christmas in Washington special for TBS' sister network, TNT, featuring celebrity performances and a special appearance by the Obama family.
Conan has served as the master of ceremonies for the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C. twice, in 1995 and 2013.
In 2016, O'Brien hosted the 5th Annual NFL Honors in San Francisco, California.
O'Brien lists among his comedic influences David Letterman, Peter Sellers, Sid Caesar, Warner Bros. Cartoons, Johnny Carson, Ernie Kovacs, Bob Hope, and Woody Allen. In turn, actors and comedians who claim O'Brien as an influence include Mindy Kaling, Pete Holmes, Seth Meyers, Nikki Glaser, John Krasinski, Moses Storm, Ron Funches,, John Mulaney, and James Corden.
On Late Night, O'Brien became known for his active and spontaneous hosting style, which has been characterized as "awkward, self-deprecating humor".
O'Brien met Elizabeth Ann "Liza" Powel in 2000, when she appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in an advertising skit involving Foote, Cone & Belding, where she worked as senior copywriter. The couple dated for nearly 18 months before their 2002 marriage in Powel's hometown of Seattle. O'Brien and Powel have a daughter, Neve (born 2003) and a son, Beckett (born 2005).
O'Brien often affirms his Irish Catholic heritage on his show. On a 2009 episode of Inside the Actors Studio, he stated that ancestors from both sides of his family moved to America from Ireland starting in the 1850s, subsequently marrying only other Irish Catholics, and that his lineage is thus 100% Irish Catholic.
He has been a registered Democrat since casting his first vote for president in 1984 for Walter Mondale. He considers himself a moderate on the political spectrum. O'Brien founded the anti-hunger organization Labels Are For Jars with his friend and former Harvard dormmate Father Paul B. O' Brien. He also helped open the Cor Unum meal center in 2006.
In January 2008, after his show was put on hold for two months owing to the strike by the Writers Guild of America, he reemerged on late-night TV sporting a beard, which guest Tom Brokaw described as making him look like "a draft dodger from the Civil War." After leaving The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien in 2010, O'Brien again grew a beard, which he kept until May 2011, when it was partially shaved on the set of Conan by Will Ferrell (and completely shaved off-screen by a professional barber).
O'Brien purchased a $10.5-million mansion in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California, to prepare for his move there in 2009 from New York City to host The Tonight Show at Universal Studios Hollywood. As part of a long-running gag, he brought his 1992 Ford Taurus SHO with him to California, showcasing it on both the inaugural episodes of The Tonight Show and Conan.
On October 21, 2011, O'Brien was ordained as a minister by the Universal Life Church Monastery, allowing him to perform a same-sex marriage while back in New York, then one of the few states in the US where gay marriage was legal, to tape a week's worth of shows. The wedding, between a member of O'Brien's staff and his partner, was held on the stage of the Beacon Theatre on November 3, 2011, and broadcast on Conan.
Starting in September 2006, O'Brien was stalked by Father David Ajemian of the Archdiocese of Boston, who, despite multiple warnings to stop, sent O'Brien letters signed as "your priest stalker" and came into contact with O'Brien's parents. O'Brien and Ajemian had attended Harvard University at the same time. Frustrated that he had been denied a spot in the Late Night audience, Ajemian sent a letter to O'Brien stating that he flew to New York "in the dimming hope that you might finally acknowledge me." He stated in another letter, "Is this the way you treat your most dangerous fans??? You owe me big time, pal." In another letter, Ajemian seemed to make a death threat, saying, "Remember Frank Costello once dodged a bullet in your building and so can you."
Ajemian then tried to forcefully enter a taping of Late Night but was caught and arrested. He had previously been warned by the NBC security team to stay away from the studio. After a psychological evaluation, he was deemed fit to stand trial. He was bailed out of jail. He was then reported missing by his father on November 10, 2007. He was found and underwent evaluation at a hospital. He was again found fit to stand trial on April 4, 2008. On April 8, Ajemian pleaded guilty to stalking, stating that he "never meant to cause anxiety or to upset anyone." He was ordered to pay a $95 court charge and to sign a two-year restraining order barring him from coming near O'Brien. Ajemian was later suspended from pastoral duties.