Conan O’Brien bids farewell to TBS show with Will Ferrell checking in from Boston

The Brookline native ended his 28-year run as a nightly talk show host in style.

Conan O'Brien. TBS

With a mix of favorite guests and memorable clips, Conan O’Brien said goodbye to his eponymous TBS show “Conan” Thursday night after nearly 11 years, ending a nearly unbroken 28-year run as a nightly talk show host.

Early on in the episode, O’Brien welcomed one of his favorite guests, Will Ferrell, who was forced to join via video from Boston because he’s set to soon begin filming “Spirited,” a movie musical for Apple TV+ starring Ryan Reynolds and Octavia Spencer.

Ferrell noted that he had also been a guest for the end of O’Brien’s two NBC nightly talk shows, “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and “Tonight,” which ran from 1993 to 2009 and 2009-10, respectively.


“It’s kind of become a tradition,” O’Brien said to Ferrell.

“It’s become f****** exhausting,” Ferrell joked.

Ferrell then performed a series of farewells for future O’Brien-hosted shows that would inevitably be canceled, including talk shows for Al Jazeera and Delta Airlines, a YouTube channel, and an MTV3 reality show.

O’Brien’s run as a nightly talk show host lasted 28 years, falling just short of Johnny Carson, who hosted “Tonight” for 30 years. Going forward, O’Brien plans to host a weekly variety series for HBO Max, set to debut sometime in 2022.

O’Brien, a Brookline native and Harvard graduate, began his humor writing career at The Harvard Lampoon, then moved to writing for “The Simpsons” and “SNL.” The show paid tribute to those early years by airing an animated HR interview with his HR rep, Homer Simpson.


“Wow, a dying breed,” Simpson said to O’Brien after the latter said he was a talk show host. “There’s only like 800 of you left.”

O’Brien’s marquee guest, Jack Black, arrived on set injured, saying that he had suffered a badly sprained ankle while attempting to film a big song-and-dance finale for the show. Instead, Black serenaded O’Brien and sidekick Andy Richter with a parody of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”

Much like the departures from his previous two shows, O’Brien briefly paused the silliness to share some genuine sentiment.

“I have devoted all of my adult life, all of it, to pursuing this strange, phantom intersection between smart and stupid,” O’Brien said. “There’s a lot of people that believe the two cannot co-exist. But God, I will tell you, it’s something I believe religiously. I believe when smart and stupid come together — it’s very difficult, but if you can make it happen, I think it’s the most beautiful thing in the world.”


O’Brien closed with a larger thought about how to achieve happiness in life, and how his career as a talk-show host allowed him to do so.

“Try to do what you love with people you love,” O’Brien said, of his 28 years hosting talk shows. “If you can manage that, it’s the definition of heaven on Earth.”

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