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Conan O’Brien on how to embrace an ever-changing media landscape – TechCrunch

“Like many of the greatest issues in my life,” Conan O’Brien explains, with a wry smile, “the success of the podcast was a whole shock.” The reply is a sometimes self-effacing one from the comic. Since launching “Conan O’Brien Wants a Good friend” practically two years in the past, the present has shortly risen up the podcasting charts to turn out to be one of many nation’s hottest.

For individuals who have adopted his 30-odd-year profession in leisure, it’s straightforward to see why. Fast-witted and nearly superhumanly affable, the transition to podcasting appears nearly a given looking back. In spite of everything, internet hosting a sequence of late-night community speak exhibits for many years isn’t precisely ranging from scratch on the subject of launching a brand new leisure enterprise. Nor, for that matter, is having tens of thousands and thousands of Twitter followers and your personal on-line media firm, Team Coco.

Not that issues have all the time been straightforward. An extended-promised Tonight Present slot wasn’t all he’d hoped for, resulting in a really public exit from the most-coveted present in late evening after just below eight months. It was the shortest tenure within the sequence’ historical past, culminating in a televised “exit interview” with Steve Carrell that discovered The Workplace star shredding his NBC badge. However O’Brien’s late-night hiatus was short-lived. Later that yr, he returned with TBS’ Conan, which can rejoice its 10th yr on the air in November (and is renewed at the very least via 2022).

The 2018 launch of “Conan O’Brien Wants a Good friend” discovered the comic embracing the new-found freedom of podcasting.

“There are a few issues about doing podcasts which might be superior or extra enjoyable than doing a chat present,” a quarantine-haired O’Brien mentioned in an interview at TechCrunch Disrupt this week. “Once I’m doing the normal speak present, I’m restricted. For years and years and years, when it was on community tv, I needed to take six- and seven-minute turns, which imply I’m having a dialog with you or I’m having a dialog with somebody I’ve all the time dreamed of speaking to, whether or not it’s Tom Hanks or Jim Carrey or Robin Williams. Then after six or seven minutes, there must be amusing and we’ll take a break and we’ll be proper again.

“That’s not a pure conversational movement,” he continues. “What you are able to do with a podcast is de facto unbelievable. I can speak to somebody for an hour and 15 minutes. We attempt to trim them again, however for probably the most half, individuals let their guard down. The opposite factor I choose: no hair and make-up. It appears like I’m kidding. However after nearly 30 years of individuals caking my very white face with make-up in order that I appear to be I’m nonetheless alive.”

Staff Coco has produced 10 exhibits in all, together with exhibits from longtime sidekick Andy Richter and actor Gown Lowe, writers Mike Sweeney and Jessie Gaskel’s intimately titled Inside Conan and a six-part mini-series interview with SNL alum, Dana Carvey.

“I don’t wish to set a quantity objective,” O’Brien says. “I’m amazed — in two years, we’ve rolled out 10 completely different podcasts, a few of them unscripted, however some scripted ones, as nicely. I’m not sitting round saying, ‘hey, we’ve received to get to 35 podcasts by this level.’ As a result of I’d like them to be good.”

The speak present has soldiered on, as nicely, present process its personal transformations within the course of.

In 2019, this system was retooled for a half-hour format. O’Brien dropped the desk and the swimsuit, adopting a looser format maybe impressed partially by the brand new freedoms afforded by his podcasting ventures. When COVID-19 made the in-person present an impossibility, he began working from residence like so many others, switching to distant Zoom interviews. All through all of it, “Conan O’Brien Wants a Good friend” continued posting weekly interviews.

Requested whether or not he deliberate to proceed his late-night present after the contract runs out in a few years, O’Brien appeared uncertain.

“I believe it’s a mistake to consider it as, will you cease doing the present, and solely do the podcast? Or will you retire after which quietly work in your letters in a shack? I like to create issues. I’ve quite a lot of vitality. I like to attempt to make individuals snigger. And so I see All of this converging, I believe the message that I’d have for everyone watching TechCrunch Disrupt proper now’s that folks have to open up their minds a bit of bit. If I’m making podcasts, it doesn’t prohibit me from additionally perhaps do perhaps doing one thing, it doesn’t need to essentially be for Turner, it may very well be for anyone.”

Picture Credit: Bryce Durbin

A number of many years of success, it appears, have put O’Brien within the comparatively distinctive place of having the ability to be considerably platform-agnostic. Not being tied to a single medium is a powerful place to be on the subject of bracing oneself for the sudden technological modifications that can proceed to disrupt and upend the leisure trade.

“5 years from now our leisure might are available capsule type,” he says. “You possibly can binge The Sopranos. You possibly can simply take an entire bottle of Sopranos after which simply drink quite a lot of water after which, you understand, simply don’t want any purple meat.

“That is gonna sound far-fetched, however I believe that is probably the most excited I’ve been in my profession, as a result of there have been so some ways to be artistic. There are such a lot of methods to make individuals snigger, and I take pleasure in these new alternatives. I believe once you’re somebody who has been round so long as I’ve, you might have a alternative. You could be afraid of change, otherwise you could be delighted by it.”

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Brian Heater