In the opening moments of the episode, O’Brien joked about the reduced time. “I assure you, it’s going to feel like two hours. That’s the effect I have,” he said, and admonished the audience for cheering too much: “Ladies and gentlemen, we did not have time for that.”
So what were the differences? Nothing too extensive, at least for now. The first night rang pretty similar to hour-long “Conan,” as he had a monologue, a comedy bit and an interview with Tom Hanks. But there were a few key changes:
1) He has new clothes.
O’Brien, dressed down in jeans and a jacket, seemed thrilled to be out of his usual suit and tie.
“I’ve got kind of a new look, this is how I dress in real life — I call my look ‘hip biology teacher,’ ” he said. “I hope you like it. I’m the cool biology teacher that sells weed after class, only I’m middle-aged, so I call it ‘the weed.’ ”
Later, O’Brien joked that his new “casual” get-up was “what the focus group liked the best."
2) There’s a new set.
The desk is gone, leaving a simple backdrop. In a bit called “This Is Conan,” a parody of NBC’s family drama “This Is Us,” O’Brien comforted his sidekick Andy Richter (who’s still there!) about all the changes.
“It looks like a strip club in ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ ” Richter lamented of the new set.
“Andy, we’re still working out the lighting!” O’Brien said. “Would you just get off my back?!”
Meanwhile, “This Is Us” star Milo Ventimiglia showed up for a brief cameo. O’Brien confessed that Ventimiglia was his secret son, but Richter wasn’t having it: “Conan, this is not your son, he is way too ruggedly handsome.”
3) There’s no band.
When O’Brien revealed the changes to the show in October, the only time he got emotional was talking about how Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band would not be joining them. In the “This Is Conan” sketch, Richter was also upset about this.
“The band lives on a farm in Upstate New York,” O’Brien assured him. “They’re very, very happy.”
Tom Hanks wasn’t pleased either. During his interview, after Richter made a crude joke, the actor stared at Richter and asked with faux disgust, “Let me get this straight, you lost the band?”
“Listen, the band cost money,” Richter explained.
4) Only one celebrity interview.
Hanks’s sit-down took up the second half of the episode, as O’Brien explained that the two are good friends; after all, Hanks is the one who gave him the nickname “Coco.”
So Hanks, who was O’Brien’s final guest on NBC’s “Tonight Show” and one of his first guests when the TBS show started in 2010, returned again. The two discussed topics including the actor’s obsession with taking photos of lost gloves and the way to tell whether Hanks — known as the nicest guy in Hollywood — is actually mad about something: He’ll say the phrase “Let me get this straight.” So watch out for that.