Conan O’Brien’s various late-night shows have always skewed a little absurdist, a fact underlined by the host’s recent decision to start dropping the traditional talk show format from Conan on TBS, but it turns out that his dream guest—the one he’s been trying to get for years—is actually more of a “smart guy” than an “absurdist guy.” According to a piece in the New York Times, O’Brien has a “near-obsession” with Robert Caro, the Pulitzer-winning biographer behind The Years Of Lyndon Johnson (a 3,000 page, multi-volume saga about the life of America’s 36th president), but Caro has consistently turned down requests to appear on Conan.
O’Brien says he received Caro’s first LBJ book, The Path To Power, when he was at Harvard in 1982, and since then the series has become like his Harry Potter. New books come out about once every decade, and O’Brien says if he and his old Harvard roommate could line up at bookstores in “over-large ears and fake gallbladder scars” they would. Lately, O’Brien’s schemes to land Caro have gotten more and more desperate, with him saying that he launched a straight-faced streaming spin-off series called “Serious Jibber Jabber” that was mostly just “a bear trap to catch Robert Caro,” but he still got shot down. O’Brien even offered to fly to New York to interview Caro or meet up for dinner without any cameras, but it still didn’t work out.
In a cruel twist, though, it seems like Caro knows who O’Brien is and has been rejecting the interview offers for fun. He’s appeared on The Colbert Report and Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, and so O’Brien says he has “morbid fantasies” about Caro appearing on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. “I know that someday I’m going to turn on Fallon and see Caro playing Pictuionary,” he told the Times, “And I’m just going to be enraged. He’s going to get everyone cheering, and Cardi B’s there, high-fiving him.”
The New York Times reached out to Caro to see why he won’t go on Conan, and he responded with a statement saying, “Conan—You mean it was O’Brien? I thought it was The Barbarian.” So at least that’s pretty funny.