The "Conan" host recalls the guest -- from way back in 1996 -- who literally tried to flee the studio before he was scheduled to go on the air.
As the unlikely elder statesman of the late-night kingdom, Conan O'Brien is in the midst of reconfiguring his eponymous TBS show and ready to dish on his worst guest ever.
After 25 years on the air and hundreds and hundreds of guests, one experience stands out above all the others in his mind. We've seen the interview (check it out below) and we have to agree it was an absolute trainwreck on the air, but it was apparently even worse behind the scenes.
O'Brien opened up about that fateful taping with Dax Shepard on the latter's "Armchair Expert" podcast last week. It was 1996 and O'Brien was still the fresh-faced host of "Late Night" about to welcome the director of "Dangerous Games" and "Bad Lietuenant," Abel Ferrara, onto his show.
"He's a wild eccentric," O'Brien told Shepard. "And he fled, during the show, before his segment. He ran away, got into the elevator, and was out on the street when [my producer] gave chase."
According to O'Brien, Ferrara was essentially forced back into the studio and even on-stage to fulfill his obligations. "He came on camera against his will. And then, he came out and I think started yelling at me," O'Brien said.
The late-night host described the segment as "compellevision," saying he couldn't describe it as a great experience, but it was certainly memorable. He also joked that he thought Ferrara was drunk, and that if he wasn't, he should have been.
Ferrara sauntered out without a care in the world, smoking, and proceeded to mumble and meander and make virtually no sense at all. You can see O'Brien straining to pull anything coherent out of him in the clip above, as well as doing absolutely all of the work in trying to wrangle good television out of such a disinterested subject.
And in the past 22 years, no one has managed to surpass Ferrara in O'Brien's mind for creating a terrible talk show experience for everyone involved.
But now, O'Brien is looking ahead to a brighter, brisker and happier future as "Conan" transforms into a half-hour show. He's already cut live music -- including his own band -- as he works more toward viral-type moments and continues to stretch the format as he's done with his "Conan without Borders" travel episodes.
"'Conan Without Borders' opened my eyes significantly," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "At this stage, I want to do much more of what I love and am passionate about and what resonates with fans -- especially online -- and do less of what I inherited because that's what I was handed in 1993."
"Conan" is currently on hiatus as it prepares for its transition, with new episodes premiering four nights a week starting in 2019.
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