Conan O’Brien, host of TBS’ “Conan,” nurtured his early love of comedy within a large Irish Catholic family that loved to “take the piss,” he told Piers Morgan.
When asked where he came in the pecking order among his siblings, O’Brien replied, “We’re not sure, we’re always finding new ones. I’ll walk into the bathroom and — ‘I’m Liam!’ ‘Oh, we don’t think we’ve met.”
Despite the quip, O’Brien said his large family manages to remain very close.
O’Brien, who told Morgan he speaks daily with members of his family, said his comedic goal and ongoing benchmark was “trying to make my dad laugh or my brothers laugh at the table when we were having meals together.”
Morgan introduced O’Brien by describing him as “very tall and very Irish.” Although O’Brien was born and raised in Brookline, Mass., he identified his personality — and his perpetual expectation of doom — with his Irish heritage.
“I’m Irish — we always think that the worst is ten minutes away, or five minutes away,” O’Brien said.
Opening up to Morgan about his leadership of “The Tonight Show” — announced five years ahead of time— and subsequent awkward departure, O’Brien noted that the move on the part of the network was uncharacteristic for “The Tonight Show” in particular and television in general.
He called his appointment to the Tonight show a “strange, clearly absurd plan announced five years ahead of time, like one of Stalin’s grain-production plans for the Soviet Union.”
“That’s not how television works,” he continued.
The harsh criticism handed to O’Brien’s arrival on “Late Night” was “devastating,” but understandable, O’Brien said. He compared the situation to Chip Whitley succeeding Ted Williams on the baseball field.
“If I had not been myself and watched Conan O’Brien debut after David Letterman, I’d have been horrified as well,” he said.
As for the more personal jabs that appeared in print at the time, O’Brien said, “I’ve never thought about my eyes in the same way again. They are rat and beady-like.”
“I’m having them completely redone,” he joked. “They’re going to be twice the size.”
This self-effacement, or “insecurity,” is the “common denominator” among artists and performers, O’Brien observed.
He claimed the initial draw of comedy was that it was the only way he could get girls to notice him.
O’Brien began his relationship with his wife after meeting her on-camera during his work for the Late Show.
“We just talked on the phone for a while,” he said. “That was our relationship, because I’m impotent. Is any of this going to get in the papers?”
In response to Morgan’s probing questions about love, O’Brien acknowledged, “Under layers and layers of repression and ham and layers of carbohydrates there is a romantic guy down there, but man is that covered up. It’s a slim jim of romance with massive insulation layers of insecurity and self-loathing wrapped around it.”
The three quintessential traits O’Brien would like to be remembered for are his hair, a well-endowed package, and his ability to make people laugh, he told Morgan.
“Acting like a complete ass... that’s my favourite thing to do,” O’Brien said.
VIDEO - Conan O’Brien on his Irish Catholic family: