With Conan O’Brien touting Wednesday’s Conan as his “sixth-to-last show” on his “fourth-to-last network,” the host, as has been the case of late, cast a beleaguered gaze over his long and storied career. Well, this TBS chapter of his career, anyway, as the stalwart defender of hilariously weird bits and self-deprecating stunts prepares to leave Conan behind for the vast pay cable universe that is HBO Max. And, sure, we still don’t know much about what form O’Brien’s shape-shifting comedy persona will take (or even what the new show’s name is), but fans in need of some original O’Brien comedy salvation can be assured that it will be something really, really goofy.
In his monologue reminiscence, O’Brien took his (at long last) in-studio audience on a tour of one of his favorite such comic journeys, playing in full two of the cold opens from Conan’s much-beloved visits to the annual (when there’s not a pandemic even Conan can’t joke us out of) Sand Diego Comic-Con. With O’Brien’s wonted combination of stalwart nerdiness and willingness to make himself look incredibly silly for a gag, the extended clips did a yeoman’s job of showing Conan fans just what they’ll be missing if they don’t follow their hero to HBO. (O’Brien’s successful Conan Without Borders travelogue specials will continue to air on TBS whenever he feels like taking a trip somewhere he can be humorously out of place.)
The first cold open, from 2015, saw Conan and Andy Richter hitting the road for their very first Comic-Con. Hitting the Fury Road, as it happens, as Andy suited up as Immortan Joe to power-drive them (and the drum-pounding Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band) on the dangerous and chaos-strewn highways between Los Angeles and San Diego. Conan, as is his way, led the charge in full Doof Warrior splendor, his double-necked, flame-spouting guitar licks roaring the show’s presence into the windswept California desert night, while cooking Andy the occasional driving hot dog. Decades-proven comic legend he may be, but if you’re not going to dress up in red long johns while screaming flaming guitar licks while suspended from bungee cords, then why even be a late-night host in the first place.
The second, from 2016, saw Conan and Andy’s idle chatter about just how disappointed they were in Zack Snyder’s dour superhero slugfest Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (as opposed to his previous or more recent dour Zack Snyder superhero slugfest) turn into, well, a dour superhero slugfest. Paying homage to Snyder’s choice to have two of the most beloved superheroes in the world beat the grunting crap out of each other in a filthy men’s room, Conan found himself on the receiving end of former friend Andy’s porcelain-smashing blows from a handy sink and toilet. Luckily for the indefatigable host, Andy forgets about his super-powered action hair. Unlucky for Conan, the Agent Smith-look Andy recovers quickly enough to hurl the requisite rain-soaked Conan straight through every concrete wall in sight. Which is a lot of concrete walls. Perhaps too many, if we’re being honest.
With Conan transforming into whatever HBO Max Conan is going to be, one can only hope that the new show’s weekly variety format will free up the ever-restless host to simply spend his budget doing all manner of crazy shit like this. (Conan didn’t even get to his Comic-Con origin story, or that time he failed to impress Lauren Lapkus and Ego Nwodim’s Amazon’s on Themyscira, or when he revealed his true, Game Of Thrones form, or when he was animated—with a completely different action-hairdo—Into The Spider-Verse.) Conan’s last TBS show is next Thursday, true believers.