Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Remembering the Lesser-Known Characters From Late Night with Conan O'Brien

Since it debuted in November, Conan O’Brien’s TBS show has been gradually loosening up and it’s starting to feel like the old Late Night show. Personally, I couldn’t be happier. But as I’ve noticed this transformation happening, I've found myself pining for some of the classic, random characters that helped define Late Night.

When Conan made the switch to the Tonight Show, everyone wondered if he'd use any of his old characters or bits from Late Night. Similarly, after the separation from NBC, everyone asked the same question, secretly hoping that somehow old friends like the Masturbating Bear would make the transition with him to TBS. I don't know where things are legally in terms of Conan's contract, but he's gone on record saying that he's not going to use any of the old material. On the one hand, this has been a good way to move forward and there’s been great stuff to come out of it — Will Forte’s Ted Turner, for example. But sometimes you just want to see the Pimpbot 5000.

If you search around the Internet for lists of Conan’s best characters from his old Late Night show, you’ll find a few. But most of them are full of old, reliable stalwarts like Triumph, Preperation H Raymond, and the FedEx Pope. I figured I might as well curate a list of some of the lesser-know characters. Late Night with Conan O’Brien was on for 16 years (which is crazy) and there have been tons of characters that, while equally hilarious, never stuck around like your Masturbating Bears or your Coked-Up Werewolfs. And here are a few of them:

Mick Ferguson, the Bullet-proof Legs Guy

Brian McCann has been with Conan pretty much from the beginning and has done some amazing characters over the years. But this has to be one of my absolute favorites.

The Guy Who’s Protected From 3-Inch Bees

Anytime Max is involved, you know you’re in store for something good. This is definitely one of the wackiest things I’ve ever seen on this show… and that’s saying something. Plus, you gotta love that song.


Brought to life by Andrew Weinberg, who was more of a writer than a performer, Shoeverine seemed to really resonate with the audience. No doubt due to Weinberg’s uncanny resemblance to Hugh Jackman.

Tomari the Ostrich

A super-early regular character powered by the incredible crazy of Dino Stamatopoulos. I definitely have hazy memories from when I was too young to be up at 1am of a giant bird laying eggs on Conan’s desk. But thank God for YouTube, where Tomari’s hilarious shrieks and ostrich gibberish live on! My favorite moment from this clip is around the one minute mark.

Quackers the Shit Eating Duck

What is it with bird characters being so funny? Quackers was something special. I can’t find the original clips online, but this one is from a show that re-capped everything. But I remember watching it happen live and it was one of the dumbest, most amazing moments I’ve ever seen on Late Night.

Lumbar Lew

Back giving you some troubles? Sounds like you need a visit from this early Conan character who’s totally in competition with the 3-Inch Bees Guy for the best song.

Zell Miller

This technically isn’t a character, but good god is it funny. For the brief time that Zell Miller was on the national stage, Robert Smigel would absolutely kill it in the Clutch Cargo bits. This one in particular literally had me tearing up it was so funny.

Wrist Hulk

Jon Glaser is awesome in this and really sells it after he mutates into Wrist Hulk. After watching this and the old Tomari bits, I really would like to see Conan start using the upcoming guests more as an opportunity for new characters.

"Kim" The Impressionist In the Witness Protection Program

Another great character from Jon Glaser and clearly the inspiration for his show Delocated. That Kate Hepburn impression is spot on!

Traveling Salesman

Brian Stack, the other hilarious Brian, has also contributed some amazing characters over the years. Artie Kendal the Ghost Crooner, Frankenstien, and The Interrupter just to name a few. But I always wanted to see more of his Traveling Salesman character… his old-timey patter is unparalleled.

World's Oldest Stuntman

This is Brian McCann at his best. Such a simple joke, but done to perfection.

Shrieking Raccoon with a Jet Pack

No surprises here… this character delivers exactly what’s promised.

Cactus Chef Playing "We Didn't Start the Fire" on the Flute

For some reason, there’s no video of this anywhere (damn you, Billy Joel). But to me, it’s the essence of what makes a good Conan character and one of my all-time favorites.

Ben Worcester was an intern for Late Night with Conan O'Brien a long time ago and has the swag to prove it.

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  • Bill Haverchuck

    these are all great, but where's dino's ass-kissing turkey?

  • http://mattpayton.tumblr.com/ BobSacamano

    What? No Gaseous Wiener?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Worcester/818292220 Ben Worcester

      @BobSacamano @Bill Haverchuck Even though it's been a long time since he made an appearance, I figured the Gaseous Weiner belonged in the bin w/ the staple characters. And this list already has one insane bird courtesy of Dino S. ;)

  • HerooftheBeach

    Oh man, these are all so great. Quackers should have been a regular.

    He doesn't belong on this list since he appeared a few times, but "There's No Reason To Live" guy makes me fall over laughing every time. It's weird that he's the one character they kinda sorta brought back on the new show, although stripped of the suicide gimmick.

  • http://www.twitter.com/becca_oneal Rebecca O'Neal

    Love it! Anything Brian Stack does makes me laugh. Deeeefinitely my favorite of the Late Night writers.

    • grumblecore

      @Rebecca O'Neal Do you ever listen to the podcast "Jordan, Jesse Go!"? Stack was on as a guest a while back and he was utterly delightful. Aside from being funny, he seems like he might literally be the nicest guy in existence.

  • HernandezBobby

    How could you forget such classics as "Gorilla Nurse Using an Old Fashioned Abdominal Exerciser While Listening to 'Angel of the Morning'" or the "Really Tall Daschound" or "The Evil Puppy"? But props to you for including Shoeverine.

  • Tim Chuma

    "The Interrupter" was my favourite and he can also be found in an Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Lost World" (not in the same context.)

    Chewbacca stuck in a glory hole? There was a lot random stuff on the old show.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Worcester/818292220 Ben Worcester

      @Tim Chuma @HernandezBobby part of the challenge of making this list was trying to find stuff that was posted… a lot of that random genius just isn't online anywhere.

  • Lara Puno@facebook

    Happiness is a Fidel Castro Rabbit DJ.


  • This Guy

    A list without Reverend Otis K. Dribbles is horrifically incomplete.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Worcester/818292220 Ben Worcester

      @This Guy Point taken… I've been getting a lot of flack from the "Seven Foot Groucho" camp as well.

  • RotBot@twitter

    Does anyone remember a recurring incoherent hillbilly character who had a chicken for a pet/wife circa 1997? I forgot what his official name was, or any specific details of the sketches for that matter. I think they were doing their taxes in one of them?

  • ineffable.me

    embryonic rockabilly polka-dotted fighter pilots have always been one of my absolute favorites.

  • Rene Reds@facebook

    where is machine wielding goose on a red cart with the "ave maria" theme weirdest ever for me lol

    and of course CONAN OF THE NIGHT!

  • Josh Sparta@facebook

    Does anyone know who this character was?


    Been searching for a video of it since it aired, and that picture is all I can find.

    • B

      don't know his name, but i remember the bit. "i got a 2-incher. it ain't 2 inches all the time, but it is when it's party time!"