During his nearly 30 years as a late-night host, Conan O’Brien brought us many great sketches (here are 25 of them!), but arguably none are more beloved than “Walker, Texas Ranger Lever.” The premise should be self-explanatory, but just in case: Conan pulls a lever that plays a ridiculous clip from Walker, Texas Ranger starring Chuck Norris.
“I think nine months went by [after Norris himself appeared in a meta send-off on Late Night] and we had two weeks off and Conan came back from break and he said, ‘All anyone’s saying to me everywhere I go is you’ve got to keep doing more. We need more Walker clips,'” writer Mike Sweeney told us. “It was an endless supply. They went down and found more great clips and we ended up doing it again for another two months. Then we stopped again. The same thing happened again nine months later. Fans on the street were like, ‘Come on, show more clips.’ I think there was a third round of it.”
But Conan eventually had to stop playing Walker clips, or else the show would have gone bankrupt. “I loved that bit. It was one of my favorite things to do and then we had to stop doing it,” he said on the latest episode of his Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast. “The actors who were in the clips, they started to recognize that we were showing these clips of them and they started to demand all the money that you needed to pay them in residuals.” After his producer, Jeff Ross, told him that they couldn’t do it anymore because it would “cost them millions of dollars,” Conan replied, “No, we’re going to keep doing it… I want it to go to trial, and I want to defend myself. And I want to show the clips to the jury and say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, that is not acting.'”
Conan didn’t go through with his idea, but let’s pull that lever!
You can listen to the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend episode below (the Walker talk starts around the 15 minute mark).