Conan O’Brien is making a show on HBO Max, but the industry scuttlebutt about what that show will be has apparently been all wrong so far. According to O’Brien, who ended his late-night run on TBS earlier in the year, some lawyer completely messed up the way people are talking about his new show. Which is probably why he’s clearing the air about what people should expect.
O’Brien addressed it on his podcast this week, denying the notion that he will bring back an old TV format for the modern streaming age. As his co-hosts pointed out, many described the new venture as a “variety show,” which traditionally meant bringing on a variety of performers in rapid succession a la The Andy Williams Show or some early Muppets Show stuff. Late-night TV shows have evolved out of that genre for sure, but O’Brien made it clear that there will be no juggling or vaudeville revival coming on HBO anytime soon.
“I know exactly why that happened, which is someone in the machinery somewhere I think at the network threw the word ‘variety’ in there because we’re in the variety comedy category,” O’Brien said. He actually said the news made a juggler and magician friend excitedly reach out to him about an opportunity to perform on the new show, which obviously will not happen.
“That hit the press and I had friends saying, ‘So you’re bringing back the old variety show?’” O’Brien said, making some jokes about what a modern variety show would look like. And while it’s clear the media reports got the framing wrong here, O’Brien isn’t lacking ideas for what the show actually will be. For starters, it will be a weekly program that will hopefully get him out of the studio a lot more than he could while on air five nights a week.
“I’ve been thinking, we have this world now, this streaming universe, where people can make fewer somethings. And it comes on once a week, and I’m thinking I really want to double down on the things I love,” he explained. “Which involves getting out of the studio and combining a bunch of the elements I think maybe make me a little different. Because whatever I do obviously I’d like to be something that can contribute or feel like it’s needed.
“There’s so many late-night shows now and I feel like I’ve done so much of that,” he continued. “I feel like it should be something that is more unique to me and something that maybe we can spend a little more time crafting. I have a lot of ideas, I have a lot of very specific ideas.”
Fans of his earlier work in late-night will certainly perk their ears up at the thought of Conan on the streets and exploring the space a bit more. But there will be some disappointment in the news that a variety program is out the window. Especially among the juggling enthusiasts out there.