Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert
Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: Conan/The Late Show

Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert are both the smart, responsible sons of respected scientists as it turns out, so naturally both late-night legends have been keeping it socially distanced while providing their corporate overlords with content. On a time-saving double-interview on Tuesday, the two hosts were one-upping each other with the cool junk they’ve got sitting around their home offices/current broadcast studios (Conan’s vinyl copy of James Brown—Live At The Apollo vs. Colbert’s secret bottle of desk gin) when they both realized their dads had not only been in essentially the same, suddenly buzzed-about field (microbiology in Conan’s case, immunology in Colbert’s), but that both patriarchs had gone to the same college. (Holy Cross College, represent.) With Colbert noting that his National Institutes of Health-retired father was “basically Anthony Fauci” (who also went to Holy Cross) but for leprosy, Conan shot back that his dad had warned him something bad was coming a year ago, but that the O’Briens “take care of their own.”

And while the on-air coincidences seemed to be heading for a truly shocking sweeps-worthy reveal about shared parentage, it was not to be, sadly. Still, the pair amiably goofed around about their respective home-broadcasting budgets (Colbert’s CBS-funded satellite truck and fancy camera vs. Conan’s “flip phone” and U.S. Mail method of getting clips to the Turner people in Atlanta), and pretty much anything else they felt like. Now, if airing the same interview on two different shows on the same night and calling it a day seems like lazy double-dipping, watching the two interviews one after another shows just how much of an art the meticulous process of TV editing really is. Or it shows how much Conan likes to screw around, as he picked up on a Late Show joke about replacing Colbert with stock footage of “a monkey washing a goose” with stock footage on Conan of a monkey washing a cat. (Apparently that goose thing is tough to come by.) Another, perhaps actionable Easter egg involved Colbert’s semi-mock anger at Bob Dylan who apparently put an emphatic kibosh on a Late Night writer’s timely(?) coronavirus-themed “Subterranean Homesick Blues” song parody.

On The Late Show clip, Colbert’s reading of the emailed lyrics is ostentatiously censored by CBS legal—even if, at one point, Colbert holds up his phone long enough for viewers to catch them. Meanwhile, perhaps in some insidious late-night sabotage, Conan’s version of the interview left the mocked-up verses right in there. So let’s see how that plays out. At any rate, the two hosts were clearly enjoying just shooting the shit, each performer’s mock-asshole personae merging just enough to keep the bit alive. Conan confessed that “being able to yell at people in person, belittle them in person” is what he missed most, while Colbert copped to getting all of his self-worth from hearing the studio audience chant his name. And when Colbert dared qualify their shared inconvenience as being insignificant compared to others’ non-celebrity isolation and anxiety, Conan snapped back, “What happened to you man?,” proving that, on this night of dueling late-night faux-jerk schtick, Conan O’Brien is still the king.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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