The new streamlined, half-hour, interview-focused Conan is set to return this Monday, January 22nd, as Conan endeavors to change late-night television again, a little more than 25 years after he debuted as host of Late Night. Conan has been (darkly) philosophical about his legacy ahead of his rebooted show’s launch, but it’s worth remember how a former SNL writer and The Simpsons writer — who had never really appeared on television before (except to put Tom Hanks 5-timers jacket on him during an episode of SNL) — managed to land one of the most coveted spots in late night.
Strangely enough, the story involves Lisa Kudrow, the Friends star who Conan O’Brien used to date. Kudrow, in fact, credited Conan O’Brien for being a crucial motivator in her jumpstarting her own career. As it turns out, that encouragement cut both ways.
Back in 1993, Conan O’Brien was a fairly unknown comedy writer in the broader world, although he had helped to evolve The Simpsons and his imprimatur remained on that show even after he left. After Letterman announced that he’d be leaving Late Night for his own show at CBS, Conan wasn’t even in the mix. However, because of the way he came up with sketch ideas, he was well-liked by Lorne Michaels, who was running point on finding a replacement for Letterman.