Conan (TV series)

Conan (TV series)
Conan logo.png
The Conan intertitle
Format Talk show
Variety show
Created by Conan O'Brien
Presented by Conan O'Brien
Starring Conan O'Brien
Andy Richter
Jimmy Vivino &
The Basic Cable Band
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 173 (as of November 17, 2011) (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Jeff Ross[1]
Running time 42 minutes
Production company(s) Conaco[1]
Original channel TBS
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Original run November 8, 2010 (2010-11-08) – present
Related shows Late Night with Conan O'Brien
(NBC; 1993–2009)
The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien
(NBC; 2009–2010)
External links

Conan is an American late-night talk show airing each Monday through Thursday on TBS in the United States. The hour-long show premiered on November 8, 2010, and is hosted by writer, comedian and performer Conan O'Brien. The program's host previously starred on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien for 16 years, then presented The Tonight Show for seven months until Jay Leno's return to his version of The Tonight Show due to the 2010 Tonight Show conflict.

Describing itself as a traditional late-night talk show, Conan draws its comedy from recent news stories, political figures and prominent celebrities, as well as aspects of the show itself. The show typically opens with a monologue from Conan O'Brien relating to recent headlines and frequently features exchanges with his sidekick, Andy Richter, and members of the audience. The next segment is devoted to a celebrity interview, with guests ranging from actors and musicians to media personalities and political figures. The show then closes with either a musical or comedy performance.

In January 2010, after The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien had been on the air for seven months, it was announced that NBC intended to move Jay Leno from primetime back to his original timeslot, with O'Brien's show starting shortly after midnight. Following a brief conflict, NBC announced that they had paid $45 million to buy out O'Brien's contract, ending his relationship with the network. Months after his official leave, O'Brien went on a comedy tour called The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour, which was largely inspired by the outpouring of support for O'Brien on the Internet during the conflict. It was announced on the first day of the tour that O'Brien would be joining TBS in November.

On TBS, Conan airs Mondays through Thursdays beginning at 11:00 p.m. eastern time, and is immediately followed by reruns of The Office. The show had been followed by comedian George Lopez's talk show, Lopez Tonight until its final episode on August 11, 2011. Comedian and actor Andy Richter continues his role as sidekick to O'Brien, and as the show's announcer. Conan's long-time house band continues with the host under the new moniker Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band, with Max Weinberg being replaced as bandleader by guitarist Jimmy Vivino and as drummer by regular substitute James Wormworth, both of whom regularly substituted for Weinberg during his brief departures.


Episode format

Conan follows the established six-piece format used during O'Brien's tenure as host of The Tonight Show and Late Night, as well as numerous other talk shows across various networks. Each episode of Conan is 60 minutes in length, including commercials,[2] and typically features two celebrity interviews and a following musical performance or stand-up comedy act.[3] Guests come from a wide range of cultural sources, and include actors, musicians, authors, athletes and political figures.[citation needed] Taping of each episode begins at 4:30 p.m. PST, which usually follows a rehearsal, lasting from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.[4]

Opening titles

The episode opens with the show's opening title sequence, introducing O'Brien, Richter, and The Basic Cable Band, as well as that night's guests.[5] Each episode of Conan has a title, unlike most late-night talk shows, which Richter announces at the end of the opening sequence. The humorous titles are in the style of old fashioned murder-mystery radio shows, television sitcoms, or other scripted series.

The title sequence was designed by Rob Ashe, a designer who had previously worked on Conan's Legally Prohibited tour, along with Dan Dome and Eric McGilloway, who worked as lead editor and motion graphics designer, respectively, for The Tonight Show.[5] There were several different variations of the opening credits, with the final product being inspired by graphic designer Saul Bass, which O'Brien appreciated. The opening design process was described by Ashe as utilizing "organic-looking textures made of construction paper, soak them in soda, and light them in Photoshop."[5]


O'Brien opens each episode with a monologue drawing from current news stories and issues. The monologue is sometimes accompanied by clips and brief comedy skits,[6] in addition to occasional interactions between O'Brien and Richter, and the audience.

Sketches and comedy bits

One or more comedy bits follow the monologue. Following the monologue, some comedy bits (such as those based on video clips) are presented from the monologue stage. Following the first commercial break, additional comedy sketches are typically presented from the desk area. Some sketches are recurring while others are original and appear only once. Occasionally an additional sketch will air between the first and second guest.


The Tonight Show conflict

On September 27, 2004, NBC officially declared that Conan O'Brien, then host of Late Night with Conan O'Brien would take over as host of The Tonight Show in 2009, replacing Jay Leno, after a seventeen year run. On the following night's Tonight Show, Leno explained that he wanted to avoid the hardship that he had experienced in his competition with David Letterman over who would take over the show after Johnny Carson retired; Leno also said O'Brien was "certainly the most deserving person for the job."[7] In 2008, however, several reports emerged that Leno, still the ratings champion in the timeslot, was rethinking his departure plans.[8] Speculation was put to an end when it was announced he would instead host a new prime-time variety show on NBC entitled The Jay Leno Show, which aired weeknights at 10:00 p.m. from September 14, 2009, until the show's cancellation on February 9, 2010.[9] On January 7, 2010, multiple media outlets reported that beginning March 1, 2010, Jay Leno would move from his 10 p.m. weeknight time slot to 11:35 p.m., due to pressure from affiliates, for a thirty minute show. NBC also cited Conan's poor ratings against David Letterman as being responsible for the timeslot change, though it was widely speculated[10] that Conan's numbers were down as a result of Jay's poor lead-in.[11] O'Brien's contract stipulated that NBC could move the show back to 12:05 a.m. without penalty, though the stipulation was mainly to be used for the limited run late-night NBC Sports recap shows for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, rather than a permanent relocation, leaving him with no apparent recourse other than resignation.[12][13]

After two weeks of negotiations, on January 21, 2010, it was announced that Conan O'Brien had signed a $45 million deal to leave the network.[14][15] As part of the agreement with NBC, O'Brien was prohibited from performing on the Internet, television or radio until September 1, 2010. O'Brien was also prohibited from making negative comments about the situation, NBC or Leno during this period. It was also expected that certain intellectual property including characters, comedy pieces or bits that O'Brien created during his time at NBC would become the property of NBC, therefore prohibiting his use of them in the future at TBS. However, NBC Universal TV Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin stated that while those conversations have yet to take place, he stated that they "wish Conan the best."[16]

"The Legally Prohibited" tour

Following his departure from NBC, O'Brien created a Twitter account through which to explore new comedic media. On March 11, 2010, O'Brien announced via his Twitter account that he would embark on a 30-city live tour, entitled The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.[17] Many locations sold out within hours of the announcement, and additional shows were added on to meet demand. The tour began on April 12, 2010 in Eugene, Oregon, and ended on June 14, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.[18] It incorporated many elements from his tenure hosting Late Night and The Tonight Show, and included video bits, comic performers, and cameo appearances by celebrities. O'Brien joked about the legal constraints placed on him by NBC, for example having to rename the Masturbating Bear, the "Self-Pleasuring Panda", in order to avoid a lawsuit.[19] O'Brien also performed music throughout the show, including the disco hit "I Will Survive" and a personal parody of "On the Road Again".[19] Comedian Reggie Watts appeared on the tour as the opening act for O'Brien.[20]

TBS announcement

Conan O'Brien at a supporter rally held outside TBS headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia in June 2010.

Shortly before his tour began, O'Brien announced that he had signed a deal with cable network TBS to host a talk show on their late-night lineup, beginning in November 2010. Before the deal was announced, O'Brien initially had reservations about the move, as it would place comedian George Lopez's show, Lopez Tonight, one hour later to midnight, effectively doing to Lopez what NBC had wanted to do with O'Brien. However, Lopez reportedly called O'Brien and expressed his excitement about the move.[21] Lopez went on to state, "I can't think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in [...] It's the beginning of a new era in late-night comedy."[22] In an official press release by Turner Broadcasting, it stated that O'Brien had only begun negotiations a week prior to the official announcement of the show.[22] Steve Koonin, President of Turner Entertainment Networks, went on to comment of the announcement, "Conan has been the comedic voice for a generation. TBS already has a huge audience of young comedy lovers, and Conan’s show will give these fans even more reasons to watch our network."[22]

In his own statement about the deal, O'Brien stated, "In three months I’ve gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I’m headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly."[22][23] O'Brien's production company, Conaco, reportedly owns all rights to the show.[24] In addition to the announcement of the television series, TBS also announced a one-hour TBS Special, featuring several writers for Conan, as well as comedian Reggie Watts, who participated in O'Brien's Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.[25] The show was broadcast on June 27, 2010, leading up to the beginning of Conan in early-November.[25] Additionally, in preparation for the show, a 24-hour "Live-Coco Cam" was set up on October 20, 2010,[26] and featured various characters and staff members of Conan, including Richie Rosenberg, otherwise known as "LaBamba,"[27] as well as a short online broadcast from O'Brien's office entitled "Show Zero" on November 1, 2010. The show featured O'Brien as host, and was accompanied by Andy Richter, as well as Jimmy Vivino, a member of the Basic Cable Band. The broadcast hosted several guests, including actor Jim Parsons and indie rock band Steel Train, and lasted a total of four minutes, and 51 seconds.[28]

Weeks before the premiere, an orange Conan blimp was introduced to further promote the show. Designed by Blue Sky, an Atlanta firm,[29] the dirigible provided aerial footage for 2010 Major League Baseball postseason games airing on TBS. It has since been incorporated into sketches on Conan, including a running gag where the blimp would follow actor Gary Busey around southern California, much to his chagrin.[30]

Series premiere

Actor Seth Rogen was O'Brien's first official interview during the series premiere, following Arlene Wagner and Lea Michele.

The first episode of Conan, entitled "Baa Baa Blackmail",[31] premiered on Monday, November 8, 2010 at 11 p.m. EST on TBS.[32] The episode's first guest was Arlene Wagner, the curator of Leavenworth, Washington's Nutcracker Museum.[33][34] Wagner's position as Conan's debut guest was chosen by fans through a "rigged" poll at Conan O'Brien's official website, The poll also consisted of Pope Benedict XVI, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, performers Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, and actor Jack Nicholson, among others.[34] Wagner's brief appearance was followed by actor and comedian Seth Rogen and actress Lea Michele, along with musical guest Jack White, who performed "Twenty Flight Rock", along with O'Brien himself.[31][35] Actor Jon Hamm, appearing as his character Don Draper from the AMC series Mad Men, and talk show host Larry King, of CNN's Larry King Live, made cameo appearances in the show's cold open, with actor and comedian Ricky Gervais sending Conan a pre-taped message expressing his well wishes on the new series, then going on to express condolences for future job losses.[31]

Reviews of the premiere episode by television critics were positive, calling it "a looser, quirkier take on a late-night talk show, but still a late-night talk show."[31] James Poniewozik of Time found the episode to be enjoyable, and compared it to O'Brien's tenure during Late Night. Itzkoff went on to state, "The message, overall [...] is that Conan the show is not so much about a reinvention of the talk show form as a restoration of Conan. He was doing something he wanted to do, a late-night talk show, and NBC made him stop doing it." He also praised the opening monologue, and Conan's performance with Jack White during the episode's conclusion.[31] Frazier Moore of the Associated Press went on to call the episode "a stylishly back-to-basics hour that radiated hard-won lessons from his brief stay hosting The Tonight Show," in addition to admiring O'Brien's "appealingly stoked yet comfortable" appearance on the show.[36] Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly also appreciated the Masturbating Bear cameo, and went on to call the show "pleasant, if a bit underwhelming."[37] Less positive assessments of the show included Tom Gliatto of People, who accused the show of being a "modest, lowkey and slightly awkward affair."[38]


In overnight Nielsen Ratings, the series premiere of Conan drew 4,100,000 viewers, leading all late-night talk shows, more than tripling the audience of its direct competition, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. In the 18-49 demographic Conan drew a 2.5 rating and 3,285,000 viewers. It was also watched by 2,451,000 adults in the 18-34 demographic.[39] Ratings throughout the rest of the week fell, and ended with over 2.02 million viewers on Thursday, November 11, 2010. The fourth episode still led every talk show in the 18-34 and 18-49 demographics, however, delivering 980,000 adults and 1,361,000 adults respectively.[40] The median viewer age for the first week of shows was projected to be at 32,[40] significantly younger than that of The Tonight Show and Late Show.[41] The show also premiered in Canada, on The Comedy Network at midnight, drawing 171,000 viewers, and the repeat broadcast at 1 AM on CTV drew 302,000 viewers.[42]

During O'Brien's second week, ratings remained somewhat consistent, and peaked on November 16, 2010, with 1.84 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings.[43] The week would go on to average 1.7 million viewers, and earn an average rating of 1.0 in the 18-49 demographic.[43] During the week of December 13–17, 2010, Conan has fallen behind in the weekly overnight Nielsen Ratings, averaging only 1.3 million viewers, compared to NBC's The Tonight Show (4.2 million), CBS's Late Show (3.6 million), ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! (1.6 million), and Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (1.6 million).[44]

In January 2011, Michael Wright, head of programming of TBS, said the show was "landing right about where we expected it to. At this number, Conan will run as long as he wants it to." [45]

For the month of June 2011, Conan fell for the first time to fourth among U.S. late-night cable talk shows, behind The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Chelsea Handler's Chelsea Lately; Conan attracted an average of 743,000 total viewers, compared with 808,000 viewers for Chelsea Lately.[46] Among viewers 18-to-49, O'Brien averaged 503,000 viewers vs. Handler's 559,000.[46]

Following the cancelation of Lopez Tonight due to low ratings, Steve Koonin of Turner Entertainment stated he "could not be happier with Conan as a show or Conan O'Brien and Team Coco as people and an organization," going on to say that "what Conan has already won is the absolute [embrace] of young people." [47]


A photograph of a large set of buildings, behind several trees and a hill.
Conan tapes at Stage 15 on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California.

On May 16, 2010, it was announced that O'Brien would launch his new show at Stage 15 on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California, where Lopez Tonight also tapes, and not far from NBC Studios where his Tonight Show predecessor and successor Jay Leno tapes.[48] Similar to most talk shows, the series is shot in the 16:9 aspect ratio, with a 4:3 center-cut, and broadcast in 1080i high definition.[49]

O'Brien has made explicit that the staff has made an effort thus far to not to reuse any of the previous Late Night or Tonight Show sketches although noted this was sometimes difficult and they were unsure if some sketches were going to work.[50] However he stated in the past, such as in an interview with Larry King during his last week on CNN, that he possibly would bring back certain bits in time.

Prior to the show's airing, interviews with O'Brien and Richter indicated that the show would more closely represent Late Night than Tonight in regards to content and material, meaning that edgier or questionable content excised as a result of the move to the earlier time slot will no longer be an issue at TBS. On the July 12, 2010 episode of Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Andy Richter said that they no longer have to "worry about living up to a respected franchise", and that on The Tonight Show certain sketches "that just felt too 12:30" would be cut and how "it'll be nice to not have to worry about that anymore". During an appearance at the 2010 San Francisco Sketch Comedy Festival, O'Brien told the audience he was "no longer interested in 'broadening' the audience or trying to reach everybody of all ages," further implying the content will not be toned-down. As the show is on cable, fewer restrictions will apply to the show in regards to explicit content, such as swearing and racier material.

On September 1, 2010, O'Brien officially announced via a YouTube video that the new show's title was simply Conan. Conan as the title required the consent of Conan Properties International, the owners of the Conan the Barbarian franchise, including a "Conan" trademark covering certain types of TV series.[51]

Prior to the show's broadcast, it was stated that the set for the show, designed by the same designer of Conan's previous sets, John Shaffner, would be inspired by The Legally Prohibited Tour, adopting more of a "theatre" appearance than the previous shows. Shaffner commented on the choice of the show's chair, stating, "You find one that you like and then you build it yourself to make it a little shallower and a little more upright and the cushion a little firmer [...] But not too firm or every time the guest sits down they’ll say, 'Oooh this is a hard chair.'"[52] The rest of the set has been described as being "filled with warm wood tones and electric blue screens," and has been compared to the set of his most recent stint on The Tonight Show.[53] The new set features several differences, however, including a remote-controlled moon, and the backdrop being transformed into a giant blue ocean.[53] Additionally, Andy Richter, who remained behind a lectern during The Tonight Show's seven month run, now joins O'Brien during celebrity interviews on the main set.[53]

Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band

Conan O'Brien's longtime band, originally known as The Max Weinberg 7, then The Tonight Show Band, and later as the Legally Prohibited Band, serve as the Conan house band, and are fronted by longtime guitarist Jimmy Vivino.[54][55] The band also consists of Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg on trombone, Scott Healy on keyboard, Mike Merritt on bass guitar, Mark Pender on trumpet and Jerry Vivino on woodwinds. When the group moved to Los Angeles to play for The Tonight Show, they added an eighth member, James Wormworth, on percussion. Max Weinberg, who had served as O'Brien's bandleader and drummer since 1993, does not appear on the new program.[54][55] Weinberg was not a part of the Legally Prohibited Tour, and remained vague throughout most of 2010 about the possibility of his participation in the new TBS show.[56] Weinberg's decision was influenced by a combination of a major heart surgery he had in February 2010, and the fact that his family never left their native New Jersey, even during the Tonight Show period, both issues that he kept private until an October 2010 interview.[57] Percussionist James Wormworth, who often acted as Weinberg's on-air substitute, serves as the band's permanent drummer.[54][55]

Following Weinberg's exit, O'Brien sought to revamp the show's title theme song. In an interview with New York Magazine, O'Brien expressed his desire to create a new introduction from the previous Late Night and Tonight compositions, which were used for O'Brien's entire 17-year relationship with NBC, and ultimately unveil a new signature sound for the show. The new theme song was co-written by bandleader Jimmy Vivino, and O'Brien himself. Despite no obvious copyright issues to continue using the previous theme, which was written by Howard Shore and John Lurie, O'Brien stated of the transition to a new composition, "it just felt like the right thing to do [...] There's this feeling of, 'Let's try and build something new.' I came out to that theme for seventeen years and it does feel like, you know what? Let's try some new stuff. Let's try and change it up."[58] However, the closing theme from his previous NBC shows was retained in a slightly altered form.

Episodes and guests

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Result
2011 Emmy Award Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series Nominated[59][60]
Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Series
Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety, Music or Comedy Series
Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media


"Finland Wants Conan" demonstrative gathering in Helsinki, Finland. Finnish fans wanted to see Conan's new show air in Finland.

In Australia, the program airs on GEM, a multichannel of the Nine Network. Originally it was intended to screen within 12 hours after its original U.S. broadcast at 11:30pm weeknights,[61] however GEM will now screen the program approximately 36 hours later, beginning on Wednesday, November 10, meaning the program will also air on Saturday nights. The Comedy Channel which aired the previous versions of Conan's shows announced it would not air the program as the Nine Network had exclusive rights to Time Warner programs.

In Canada, the program airs on cable channel The Comedy Network Monday to Thursday nights (Tuesday to Friday mornings) at midnight ET/PT, and is repeated on broadcast network CTV at 1:05 a.m. local time.[62][63] The program was only initially announced for CTV, leading to some concern about the unusually late time slot, two hours after its airing in the United States for viewers in the Eastern Time Zone (the program airs on CTV Atlantic at 1:05 a.m. AT / 12:05 a.m. ET). This is due to local and national newscasts in the 11:00 p.m. hour, and CTV's existing commitments to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at 12:05 a.m. and The Colbert Report at 12:35 a.m.[64] CTV executives later said the program would likely air earlier on The Comedy Network, owned by CTV.[64] However, that channel also had a conflict, since it has long aired both Daily and Colbert during the 11:00 p.m. ET hour, simulcasting the Comedy Central feed. The Comedy Network then attempted to move up both programs to 10:00 p.m. ET beginning in September 2010, presumably to make room for Conan at 11:00; however, there were intermittent "technical difficulties" with getting the shows in time for the earlier airing, particularly for a series of special live Daily episodes in late October, which meant re-runs were aired in their place. After viewer complaints about the missed episodes, Comedy elected to move both shows back to their previous timeslots, meaning that Conan was rescheduled on that channel to midnight, on a one-hour delay from TBS.[65]

Selling rights to a Canadian channel was necessary, since TBS ceased being available in Canada in October 2007. The local Atlanta station through which Canadian cable subscribers had previously received TBS programming then adopted a distinct schedule as WPCH-TV. Some speculated that WPCH might pick up the program anyway, since the revamped station continues to air some of the same syndicated series as TBS, but WPCH later indicated explicitly that it had no plans to broadcast the new O'Brien program.[66]

In Ireland, the show airs Monday to Thursday at midnight on 3e, exactly one week after each episode's original air date.[67] Conan is also aired in Norway on the brand new digital television channel, Max, which launched on November 1 as a sister channel of TVNorge. It will air Monday to Thursday 10:50 p.m. UTC+1, exactly one week after their original air date.[67][68] In Turkey the program will begin airing on 22 November on CNBC-e. In Singapore, the program will air on SingTel, a video on demand service, with episodes becoming available 24 hours after broadcast in the United States.[67] In Portugal, the program began airing on November 29 on SIC Radical,[69] and in Israel, the show will begin airing on January 1, 2011 on the country's version of Comedy Central.[67]

Unlike Conan's previous shows, the new show was for some time not aired in Finland.[70][71] According to Sub, the previous show did not have enough viewers.[72] Finnish Conan fans organized a rally in Helsinki in December 2010 to get the Conan's new show to air.[73] In response to this, O'Brien launched a project entitled "Finland's Week Stream," which allowed every episode of Conan to be watched on by users located in Finland for an entire week.[74]

Since August 15, Finnish channel SuomiTV has been airing Conan.

See also


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  3. ^ Goodman, Dean (2010-11-09). "Conan O'Brien returns to TV in downsized role". Reuters. Retrieved 2011-02-12. 
  4. ^ Ashe, Rob. "Designing Conan". Creative Cow. p. 2. Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
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  16. ^ Schneider, Michael (2010-07-30). "NBC might let Conan take his 'Late Night' and 'Tonight Show' bits to TBS". Variety. Retrieved 2010-10-22. 
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  26. ^ ""Live Coco Cam" Gives Conan O'Brien Fans Live 24-Hour Peephole into Team Coco Offices on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET". Turner Newsroom. 2010-10-18. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  27. ^ Macht, Dan (2010-10-21). "Conan Launches 24-Hour Live "Coco Cam"". NBC News. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  28. ^ Tucker, Ken (2010-11-01). "Conan O'Brien online 'Show Zero' review: Gee, that was fast...". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  29. ^ Barol, Bill (2010-10-12). "The Birth of the Conan Blimp". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
  30. ^ "Conan Blimp Stalks Gary Busey". The Daily Beast. 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2010-11-24. 
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  33. ^ "Conan's New Show Debuts Tonight With Woman From Leavenworth As His First Guest". KHQ News. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
  34. ^ a b Corsiglia, Gina (2010-11-08). "Cracking Nuts: Washington's Arlene Wagner To Be Conan's First Guest". Seattlest. Retrieved 2010-11-09. 
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