Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Conan went to Japan, rented a family who were contractually obligated to laugh at all his jokes

Conan O’Brien’s been doing his “Conan Without Borders” segments over on TBS for a while now, transplanting his gawky, sarcastic sense of weirdness to places as diverse as Haiti, Italy, and Mexico. His most recent trip may have finally put O’Brien’s natural talent for awkwardness to the test, though, as he headed to Japan for—among other things—a little rental family experience.

As shown in the clip above, Conan sat down with Family Romance founder Ishii Yuichi to help him pick out a new wife, daughter, and father from his company’s catalog, full of actors who regularly hire themselves out to serve as pliable family members for those dealing with Japan’s “loneliness crisis” (or just to make the client look happy and successful, as the case may be). Conan managed to pick out a pretty good crew, despite his obvious glee/discomfort at the absurdity of the whole concept, making jokes about needing to find a “wife” sufficiently young to meet his California lifestyle standards.

As it happens, we’ve written about Yuichi before, both because Paramount was looking into developing a show about Japan’s rent-a-family industry earlier this year, and also just because his whole business model is simultaneously fascinating and fucked-up. (For instance, Yuichi isn’t just the company’s operator, but also one of its most successful rentals; he’s gotten fake-married to more than a dozen women, supposedly, and served as a surrogate father to a little girl for more than a decade.) That’s enough to make the three-year contract that Conan floats toward the faux-Briens (who laugh it off because, well, they have to) seem positively fleeting, even if the host seems to really enjoy finally having a father figure who’s contractually obligated to tell him he’s the best. (At least he resisted the urge to get the whole group to chant “Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon are the worst”.)

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