It was a night of "Fire and Ice" at the Paley Center for Media in New York City Friday night when Conan O'Brien and Anderson Cooper took to the stage for a post-screening panel of the former's Conan in Cuba show that aired early March.
The Q&A, which covered a range of topics beyond Cuba -- including the late night host's comedy process, his depression and even a fake feud with the CNN journalist -- was a mix of humor and seriousness that began with Cooper joking, "I'm glad you're the flaming one on this stage; it's a rare occurrence."
O'Brien said Cuba was a country of great improv partners, and that he has always loved shooting field pieces where he can mix it up.
"I like the DNA of my show to be changed when we go to a different place," he told Cooper. And the result is a standout episode full of memorable segments where O'Brien banters with a rum factory tour guide (who has amazing timing), joins a band, learns to dance and basically just drinks and smokes with locals.
Shot over four days in Cuba, O'Brien said the episode -- which he said had a "sweetness" but was "strange and improvisational" -- was the one he was most proud of in his time on television, and he wants to do more in other countries. But while those plans are still in the works, his next big trip will be a week's worth of shows (July 8-11, 2015) filmed at San Diego Comic-Con.
"I think comic con is going to completely turn our show upside down," he said.
So naturally we had to talk to Coco about the nerd Super Bowl that is SDCC. In the interview below, conducted on a press line and one-on-one at the Paley, the redheaded one shared thoughts on why the con is a good place to film while also briefly discussing his "Clueless Gamer" bits and his in-development "very funny X-Files" alien abductee series The Group, coming to TBS. Oh, and the hair. In a very special quote, Conan O'Brien reveals the secrets to his famous locks.
And don't forget to check out the entire "Fire and Ice" conversation with Conan O'Brien and Anderson Cooper, embedded below, along with our photo gallery from the event (photos courtesy The Paley Center).
We're talking about it. I really love doing [Clueless Gamer]. It didn't start out intentionally that way, it was just one of those things we were messing around.
Are your skills improving?
No, I'm getting worse! I'm terrible, but people like that part of it. I think they like I have no idea what I'm doing.
Out of all the games you tried, what was your favorite?
The Witcher 3 … there was a lot of nudity. I'm sorry. I really did just feel like I had an affair. It was just me and a game controller. I won't let [my wife] watch that episode. I think she would leave me.
You're doing the alien abductee series The Group …
Yes, but I hesitate to say what the official title is going to be, but yeah, we're working on a series with Greg Daniels [The Office]. We're going to make a pilot, and it's this fantastic script we read. It's really funny, original, and we thought this could be a really funny TV show. So let's give it a shot.
And you're planning on doing comic con?
A week at comic con, and I think we're the first late night show to do that. It is going to be a blast, and will completely change our show for the week. The show itself may be an absolute wreck, but we're going to do it.
Between Cuba and San Diego Comic-Con, which is going to be the bigger culture shock?
I think comic con. Yes, I lose all focus when I see someone dressed as Wonder Woman. Even if it's a man, I can't focus. I think it will be a very strange week of shows. It will be a very fun experience, and I'm really looking forward to it, but more than any other location we go to, it's going to change our show -– which I like. I feel like when we travel the shows, it really should feel like the whole DNA of my program has changed by where we have gone. We tried to do that in the past, and I think comic con is really going to probably break my show.
You did do "The Flaming C"/Museum of Conan Art exhibit at comic con back in 2011, so why is now a good time to go back and do a whole week there?
Why now? Sometimes it's just when you have the idea. From the stuff we do on social media and some of the things we work on across the slate, we felt like we have a good connection with a lot of people who go to comic con. So we thought maybe we could do this. We talked to the comic con people, and they said, "We'd love to have you do it." So they helped us. But I think it was just having the idea to finally go do it. So if we had thought of it two years ago, we would have done it then.
I look forward to seeing you there, and seeing the fans on stage with you.
Well, no. We're not going to allow that. We are going to taser them. No, it is going to be fun. I think it is going to be an audience with people dressed as Thor. It is going to be very hard to concentrate. I doubt the interviews will be that serious. I don't what's going to happen; I honestly don't. At some point the room is just going to fill with foam, and the whole thing will be a disaster. But I'm looking forward to it. It will be good television.
What superhero would you be mistaken for there? I was thinking Elongated Man (tall with red hair).
Elongated Man would work. Awkward Man. He's the cousin of Aquaman; he's Awkward Man.
Even less useful than Aquaman?
Yeah! His power is uncomfortable silences, and he's just bad on first dates.
How do you manage to keep your hair looking the exact same way every day?
It's made of wood. Feel it. It's made of a powerful … there's an old trick I came up with. It's a combination of ingredients, and I can't give you exact ingredients because I don't want my competitors to steal it. You get some spackling compound, and nutmeg is important, and you want to use mustard and plaster of Paris. I use a caulking gun, and the center of this thing is filled. It's like a French pastry; it's filled with a delicious crème fraiche.