NBC Refused To Let Conan O’Brien Rebrand ‘Late Night’ To A Hilariously Juvenile Name

Conan O'Brien

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When the legendary Johnny Carson retired as the host of The Tonight Show in 1992, Late Night host David Letterman seemed like the top contender to swap studios and slide behind the desk he’d formerly occupied.

However, NBC ultimately opted to name Jay Leno as Carson’s successor, which resulted in Letterman opting to take his talents to CBS for a show in a competing time slot and left a void that would ultimately be filled by Conan O’Brien.

While he’d eventually become a household name, O’Brien was a relative unknown who’s spent the bulk of his career behind the camera as a writer for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live.

It took him a little while to get settled in, but he eventually carved out a very solid niche for himself thanks to the absurdist and irreverent sense of humor that defined a show helmed by a man who seemed to take pleasure in pushing the envelope in an unspoken quest to see what kind of antics NBC would tolerate.

While the network eventually forced him to shut down the recurring Walker: Texas Ranger Lever bit and (unsuccessfully) attempted to ban Norm MacDonald from appearing on the program, Conan never had trouble coming up with other classic gags, including Paul Rudd’s long-running Mac and Me prank.

However, there was apparently one joke he was never able to pull off.

On a recent episode of the Inside Conan podcast, O’Brien revealed he attempted to do away with the Late Night moniker in favor of another title that apparently didn’t fly with the suits at NBC, who rebuffed his attempt to rebrand his show as Nighty Night with Conan O’Brien (which he felt “was just really cartoony and funny and arch, like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse”).

It’s kind of easy to understand where NBC was coming from, but I also appreciate the ill-fated attempt.

Connor O'Toole avatar
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.