Conan O’Brien may be known for his self depreciating humour, perfectly coiffed hair and late night talk shows, but it appears he is now adding existential philosophy to that list. In a recent interview, O’Brien sat down with Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times to talk about his up and coming new TBS show.
Conan opened up about his three month hiatus (he hasn’t hosted a show since October last year), his “Conan without Borders” travel special and the meaning of life. Or rather: the lack of it…
At the end of what had been an upbeat pow wow about his creative process and personal life, Itzkoff asked how O’Brien wants to “go out,” which led O’Brien into a spiel about the cold realities of the universe—and a conversation he once had with a famous actor that helped him come to terms with it all.
In true Conan style, he did it with charisma that even a Camel-smoking undergrad would struggle not to smile at: “At this point in my career, I could go out with a grand, 21-gun salute, and climb into a rocket and the entire Supreme Court walks out and they jointly press a button, I’m shot up into the air and there’s an explosion and it’s orange and it spells, ‘Good night and God love,'” O’Brien said.
“In this culture? Two years later, it’s going to be, ‘Who’s Conan?’ This is going to sound grim, but eventually, all our graves go unattended.”
It only gets darker from there, with Itzkoff quipping; “You’re right, that does sound grim.” To which Conan responds, “Sorry… I had a great conversation with Albert Brooks once. When I met him for the first time, I was kind of stammering. I said, you make movies, they live on forever. I just do these late-night shows, they get lost, they’re never seen again and who cares?”
“And he looked at me and he said, [Albert Brooks voice] “What are you talking about? None of it matters.” None of it matters? “No, that’s the secret. In 1940, people said Clark Gable is the face of the 20th Century. Who [expletive] thinks about Clark Gable? It doesn’t matter. You’ll be forgotten. I’ll be forgotten. We’ll all be forgotten.”
While many would see this as a depressing thought, it provides Conan with a profound sense of relief: “It’s so funny because you’d think that would depress me,” he said. “I was walking on air after that.”
So next time you’re feeling stressed about something, take a moment to think about it’s significance in the grand scheme of things, and—who knows—it might just take the pressure off.