NAZIS & CONAN. (What's Up With That?)


Lisa de Moraes' is the television columnist for the Washington Post. I don't think she's a very good writer. I actually think she's a terrific writer, and a great read. And I'm on the record (if they record radio show's that is) of saying so about her. That said, yesterday she wrote a column, "Conan tells Fortune: NBC like an 'Indiana Jones' Nazi" about some of the stuff that Conan O'Brien had said to me, and I quoted in my recent Fortune Magazine piece, "Conan 2.0: How a late-night Luddite accidentally fought his way back into bedrooms (and computers, smartphones, and tablets) across America." Her piece appears to be based solely on the Fortune PR release and not the full article, as her conclusions seem off-base and out of context.

Among other things, she insinuates that the powers that be at Time Inc. (Fortune's parent company) published the piece to give Conan's show (which airs on TBS, which is owned by Time Inc.) some badly needed publicity, and that Conan himself is consumed by bitterness towards NBC. Well, neither of those things strikes me as true, and I've just written as much in the "comments" section of the Washington Post page where her column lives.

Here in full is my "comment" back to Lisa:

Lisa —

I'm the author of the Fortune story...

I have the greatest respect for you—honest—in fact, you just may be my favorite newspaper read and have been for years (and you can ask our mutual friend Tony K. about that), but I think your take on the Conan article is way off the mark, and seems to have come from reading the press release (which I've actually not seen, myself), rather than from reading the article. First off, and most importantly:

Time Inc. had nothing to do with commissioning this article. I pitched Fortune—and I'm not a Time Inc. employee, nor have I ever been. (In full disclosure, I have done other freelance work for Time Inc. properties but not for close to a decade; oh, and I sold them a photo about five years ago. But I think that's it.)

In short, I had no interest in writing this piece to promote Conan on behalf of Time Inc., and they didn't publish it for that reason.

My only motivation for writing the piece—outside of getting paid—was that, as a digital strategist who for many years was a television journalist and producer, I find it fascinating that "traditional media" people still don't understand the social media phenomenon...and I found Conan's story particularly fascinating—and fun to tell—because of how he accidentally was thrown into the digital world, and how he and his team have now made a major investment in it.

. * As for Conan's bitterness:

Nobody on the show—from Conan to his writers, to his bookers, to his stage manager or the rest of the crew—pissed one drop of bitterness on NBC the entire time I was with them. And I had full access to everybody. (And since I've worked as a producer at NBC at various times since 1989, I've casually known a bunch of the Conan folks, from the producers to the crew, for a long time. So, trust me, they'd have no problem pissing to me, and none of them did, not even off the record.) .

* As for Nazi bitterness:

Yeah, Conan made the Harrison Ford fighting the Nazi allusion, but it was far more about feeling like he was thrown through a windshield than it was about a Nazi doing it. That said, my guess is that Conan won't be buying Jeff Zucker a Valentines day card on Monday—still, I don't think Conan has dreams in which Jeff's wearing a little box mustache, like the one Michael Jordan's sporting these days. (What's up with that, anyway?) .

* As for Conan comparing himself to the Beatles and Elvis:

It happened while we were talking about the process of performers needing to evolve as technology evolves, and how they need to find their own voice —Conan was comparing the process more than the players. That said, no one gets to host their own late night show without having some ego. .

While we may have differences of opinion about how to interpret the Conan quotes, I think most of the above is clear to anyone who has read the full article—whether or not they like Conan the person or the show. (The full article is at )

— Douglas Warshaw