Conan O’Brien Is Haunted By Two Failed Remotes

Remotes are arguably what Conan O’Brien does best, but even he can’t make every idea work. 

The host-turned-podcaster looked back on two remote segments that never came to fruition on Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend.

“Not all of [the remotes] made it to public viewership,” O’Brien recalled of his days in late night while chatting with co-hosts Sona Movsesian and Matt Gourley.

One that stands out to him in particular? “We did a sign-spinning remote,” O’Brien shared, recounting how writer Matt O’Brien assured him the segment would “be great.”

“He had us shoot it in an empty backlot at Warner Bros.,” he explained, noting that a public street corner would have provided much more comic fodder. “I immediately sensed, ’This is a comedy vacuum. There’s no one to bounce off of here.’”

O’Brien remembered how the sign-spinner hired to teach him the craft was “pretty serious about it,” save for the occasional pun. “The remote was going nowhere, and I looked up and saw vultures circling.”

With the segment falling flat, O’Brien tried his best to squeeze some comedy out of its abject failure. “I started just saying things into the lens. Sometimes I think about the writers watching this later in the edit room, so I say little things like, ‘You did this to me. I’ll get you.’”

“I know this remote will not get made. I know that this is all going down in flames,” O’Brien continued. “So I just start saying, ‘Having a good time editing? This isn’t going to make it.’ I’m literally talking to the writers two days from now, who are going to be looking at the footage.”

But the sign-spinning remote isn’t the only aborted bit that sticks with the comedian. He went on to describe another remote that didn’t go well—this time with ghost hunters.

“They took me through an empty studio,” Conan said of his paranormal tour.

“Again, there’s a common denominator here: no other people. Open space or enclosed space with nothing in it. And then the person kept saying, ‘I think I maybe see a ghost, but I’m not sure.’” 

O’Brien added that all his attempts at humor were met with echos and silence. “It just didn’t go anywhere.”

While he didn’t find any ghosts, O’Brien remains haunted by the experience: “I wake up at night sometimes thinking about ‘sign-spinning remote’ and ‘ghost hunting remote,’ covered in sweat.”

“Those were the ones that got away,” Gourley remarked.

“No, those were the ones that never were there,” Conan corrected. “They didn’t get away. There was nothing there to catch in the first place.”

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