Transcript of Conan O'Brien interview by Arto Nyberg

Conan O'Brien arrived in Finland for a few days in the first half of February 2006. On Sunday, 12 February 2006, he was a guest in the local national television talk show hosted by Arto Nyberg.

Arto Nyberg is, despite his relative youth, a star host in Finnish national television. He spent years cohosting one of the two major news-oriented breakfast shows, after which he cohosted a popular music show. He has hosted his own talk show since 2004.

The following transcript follows the discussion word-for-word except for some stylization to make the discussion easier to read (removing most of the distracting spoken word artefacts such as "um", "ah" and repetitions) while still keeping the feel of the discussion unchanged, as much as I could. However, there are bound to be transcription errors. Verified corrections would be appreciated (my email is at the bottom).


Arto Nyberg: Welcome, Conan O'Brien.

Conan O'Brien: Arto!

Arto Nyberg: Here you are! Welcome!

Conan O'Brien: Hey, how are you? Thanks for having me.

Arto Nyberg: Thanks for coming!

Conan O'Brien: Very nice! (To the imaginary studio audience:) Everyone settle down!

Arto Nyberg: Cool down!

Conan O'Brien: Yeah, yeah.

Arto Nyberg: So, you've been here less than thirty hours.

Conan O'Brien: Yes, I believe so.

Arto Nyberg: So how are your feelings now, when you remember yesterday's crowd waiting for you outside the airport?

Conan O'Brien: I'm still getting over it, that was a high point of my life because I've never…

Arto Nyberg: Be honest.

Conan O'Brien: I'm being honest, I've never… I've been in front of some happy, excited crowds before, but the intensity of that reaction, there were, I think, several thousand people… I'm just going to say fifty thousand… I don't know if that's the exact number, but let's go with eighty thousand.

Arto Nyberg: Let's…

Conan O'Brien: There were many, many people at the airport, and they were extremely excited, and they were very nice, and they seemed to genuinely like the show and… like what we're doing, and I was excited.

Arto Nyberg: Did you expect one hundred thousand people coming greet you?

Conan O'Brien: Ah, no, I didn't, actually. I'm a very… you know, I have a lot of inner doubts always, that's a part of my personality, so I expected maybe one person, you know, and that's just me, I'm always expecting nothing, and so that reaction was fantastic.

Arto Nyberg: You also did the Pope thing.

Conan O'Brien: I kissed the ground when I got off the plane, and what I didn't realize is that there's jet fuel all over the ground, so I was a little high afterwards. There's some powerful fumes, so the Pope probably, I've noticed, when the Pope does it, he gets up and he's dizzy afterwards for about a half an hour, and I realize now why.

Arto Nyberg: I have to translate a bit about this in Finnish, so…

Conan O'Brien: Okay

Arto Nyberg: … if you don't mind… (gives a rough summary in Finnish of the above) Is there anything…

Conan O'Brien: … you mind …

Arto Nyberg: Yeah?…

Conan O'Brien: I would like to translate what you just did into Spanish (talks in Spanish or at least something sounding like Spanish for a few seconds).

Arto Nyberg: Should I do this in German…

Conan O'Brien: Yes, you do German. (Speaks German gibberish in his Schwarzenegger-imitation style.)

Arto Nyberg: No no no, that was my line!

Conan O'Brien: Oh, sorry!

Arto Nyberg: Okay. let's save that for later.

Conan O'Brien: Yes.

Arto Nyberg: Okay, anything that surprised you while you've been in Helsinki, mainly?

Conan O'Brien: Well, let's see… it wasn't a surpr… you know, I didn't know what to expect, and the women here are drop-dead beautiful, gorgeous… and I can say that because my wife isn't watching this show right now, she's at home with my children.

Arto Nyberg: We'll send a tape later…

Conan O'Brien: Yeah yeah, don't send the tape… We're always late, 'cause we're trying to shoot a lot of things while we're here, and I'll get in my little van to go shoot something, and some women will come and say, "Oh, Conan, please…", and I'll run out of the van because they're… they're stunning. The people have been extremely nice, and very warm to us, and that's been a lot of fun. The biggest surprise to me so far is that it's so cold here and which I… I knew it was cold, but the people seem willing to take off their clothes, and as I was at the airport, people… there were a lot of naked people, people without shirts waving, and I, … is it the susi… suso… what is it that… your word for fortitude… strength…

Arto Nyberg: Sisu.

Conan O'Brien: Sisu! The sisu! The ability to push forward and to say, I don't care, I'm going to be naked. Stunning! Admirable! And erotic.

Arto Nyberg: (Again, summarizes the discussion in Finnish) What have you been shoo…

Conan O'Brien: That's very impressive, by the way. No-one in America can do that, nobody, that's incredible.

Arto Nyberg: Translate in Finnish?

Conan O'Brien: To do that and then ask a good question. I can't do that, that's very good, and also, it's a little disconcerting, 'cause I don't know what you just said.

Arto Nyberg: Exactly.

Conan O'Brien: You could have just said – "Thank you, Conan. My guest tonight is obviously an idiot, he smells horribly, and I think he stole something from the dressing room." – and then ask me a question.

Arto Nyberg: That's right, and you still can keep your face.

Conan O'Brien: Exactly.

Arto Nyberg: So… what have you been shooting?

Conan O'Brien: We've been doing a few things, we went to this, well, first of all, we got a lot of mail in our country from young fans here in Helsinki, so today we chose a letter or two and randomly just went and rang that doorbell and surprised those people and shot that, which was a lot of fun. We also went to a … the sauna society… I didn't have the guts to jump in just yet, I'm building up to that, but I watched a lot of other naked men jump in, and for me that was a thrill.

Arto Nyberg: Erotic?

Conan O'Brien: Well, that was your word, not mine, Arto, but for you to come out on this show like that is … it takes a lot of guts.

Arto Nyberg: But I needed to do it with somebody who's more famous than I am, so that's why I did…

Conan O'Brien: We'll find you that person. Nice of you.

Arto Nyberg: (Summary in Finnish, again.) So, let's go back to the basics…

Conan O'Brien: Incredible, I'm in awe, that's hard to do. Very cool.

Arto Nyberg: Thank you. But that's the way it goes now.

Conan O'Brien: I could do this (waves his hands)

Arto Nyberg: Yeah, that's right.

Conan O'Brien: That's hard to do. And look… (plays more with his hands) Those are my skills. Who's to say who has the better skills.

Arto Nyberg: You play guitar as well.

Conan O'Brien: Yes, I do, I play very mediocre guitar, and the bongos, I play the bongos.

Arto Nyberg: Let's go back to the basics, when this all started. Is it true that somebody from the audience gave a picture of President Tarja Halonen to you and you immediately, you took the picture on the show and …

Conan O'Brien: That's how this whole thing… What really … That is true, what happened was we're doing something on the show, where we just wanted to find out who was watching us around the globe, and to find out, we told nasty jokes about each country in the world, to see who would write us letters, and so we get some nasty letters from different countries saying "how dare you", and then we said something about Finland, and all this mail came in, tons and tons of mail, and you could tell that people really watched the show and they were very funny, and we thought, something's going on. Then we started to notice that people in our audience, studio audience… more and more Finnish people were showing up, and then one of those people that came gave us the picture of Tarja and said, "you look exactly like our president", and we put it up on our show, and all the Americans, you know, people that you might not think would understand the joke or care really laughed, and then we started doing things about Tarja, and we started getting involved in the election, and it just took on a life of its own.

Arto Nyberg: So you did it by yourself, there's no-one here feeding you with all this information and stuff?

Conan O'Brien: No, well, my writers… No-one here… but my writers, who, you know, they started doing research, and they were the ones that found out, you know, there's an election, and then we started making up ads, advertisements and showing them on our program, and we had someone come in and teach me my lines in Finnish, they probably… I'm sure they sounded horrible but you know, I made the attempt and then the American press picked up on it, and it took on, as I said… We couldn't've thought of something like this, this happened very naturally, and I think a lot of it happened because there's an element of truth, Finland seems to respond to our show in this way that… we have fans in Australia, we seem to have fans in Germany, in Israel and eastern places but there's something about Finland that's different, they seem to really get it and they're very intense about the show, and I mean the reaction at the airport, I don't think I would have had a reaction like that anywhere else in the world.

Arto Nyberg: (Summary in Finnish, again) What's your…

Conan O'Brien: There's no pause, that's the amazing thing, too, you know, "blah blah blah but you see, I find…" and that's what I love, and I'll stop, I don't want to make you self-conscious, but I'm a big fan.

Arto Nyberg: Thank you very much indeed. But the question is, how come this joke can go on and on and on in America? I mean, I understand this can happen in some other places…

Conan O'Brien: Well, one of the things we've been careful about is that we don't do it every day, we do it every now and then, and we don't spend the whole show talking about it, it's something that I'll mention, and we've always tried to make sure that it was something that was funny and would be appealing to the Americans too, and so, I think that has been one of the reasons we've been able to sustain it. I think if we spent every day, every show talking about this for the entire show, people would say "enough already", but I think the fact that it seems to be striking a real chord and we don't do it too much is one of the reasons that…

Arto Nyberg: Right. So, what's the, I mean, the question is, did we take the joke too seriously, what do you think?

Conan O'Brien: You mean this country? I hope not, I mean, one of the things is that we are joking around and being silly, but there's an element of it that's real, which is, we work very hard for our show, and we take a lot of pride in what we do, and the people of this country seem to have responded to our show and seem to really like it and that's flattering for us, we're, you know, and there's an element of this is why I wanted to come to finland and meet you know these fans, and at the airport that was… you know, sometimes I'm a cynical person, but at the airport I was … I really felt a lot of affection for all those people that came out and had made signs and were giving us all that positive energy, so I love it, I would like to come back, I love this country. they've been good to us.

Arto Nyberg: Yeah, but you've been doing this before, I mean, other countries, Germany, Canada…

Conan O'Brien: We didn't really do anything to this degree anywhere. Canada we went to and did a week of shows, and that was a lot of fun, but I don't remember getting this sort of intense kind of reaction, there's something different about this, there's something that you know, Canada was going to another country but they're our neighbours to the north, and Germany we just did a very quick bit there, but we've never done anything like this, where we, you know, we've come this far and sort of tried to you know find out what's happening in this country, what do they see in us that strikes a chord.

Arto Nyberg: (Summary in Finnish, again) So, talking about your private side, we see you on telly every weekday and 2.6 million people in the States…

Conan O'Brien: I prefer to think of 3.5.

Arto Nyberg: Okay, let's put it 4.2.

Conan O'Brien: Okay, 5.5.

Arto Nyberg: 5.3.

Conan O'Brien: Billion.

Arto Nyberg: Not that much, that would be too much.

Conan O'Brien: All right.

Arto Nyberg: What do you do, when you're…

Conan O'Brien: … crazy?

Arto Nyberg: … not on air?

Conan O'Brien: As you can see, I work out like a fiend. I don't know if it comes across… you laugh… I have an incredible body.

Arto Nyberg: Okay.

Conan O'Brien: I'm all muscle, there's actually no fat, and I've been told by doctors, get a little bit of fat soon, your body needs some fat and I say, dude just deal with it, which is slang for "this is how God made me". But I have to admit I'm fairly boring when I'm not on television, I think one of the reasons that I can act like such a fool for an hour every day is that then I go home and you know try and give my daughter a bath, usually she's clothed at the time and screams, and you know, hang out with my wife and play guitar scales and watch Lost on television, and there's no… I don't do anything that exciting, and I read boring histories of the civil war, so I think that's one of the reasons why I've created this hour of day when I can just be a complete fool, and the rest of the time I'm probably resting from that. If I didn't have the TV show, I'd probably be getting into all kinds of trouble, but I'm able to channel a lot of it in the television show.

Arto Nyberg: Okay. (Summary in Finnish) Now, our time is running out, you're a busy man, you're doing something else tonight, maybe going to sleep, I suppose.

Conan O'Brien: Well, I'll probably go out and get a bite to eat, you have a restaurant in this country… McDonalds?

Arto Nyberg: Yes.

Conan O'Brien: I wanna try that. I've heard…

Arto Nyberg: That's pretty exotic, by the way.

Conan O'Brien: Yeah, I just thought, when, you know, in Finland, live the life, so I'm gonna get a quarter pounder with cheese, maybe with reindeer, apparently it's very popular.

Arto Nyberg: There's a reindeer pizza in one place that I…

Conan O'Brien: You know, what I had last night is I had fantastic reindeer tongue, which was really good. It was fantastic.

Arto Nyberg: So you're… tomorrow you're flying up to…

Conan O'Brien: We're gonna fly to Lapland to see the country there and you know shoot some of what's happening up there and then we're going to come back, and I think I'll be seeing you on Tuesday…

Arto Nyberg: Tuesday night.

Conan O'Brien: At the big award show.

Arto Nyberg: Yes.

Conan O'Brien: And you'll be the only person I know, so I want you to give me a big hug…

Arto Nyberg: I will, I will.

Conan O'Brien: I want the hug to last a little too long.

Arto Nyberg: Okay.

Conan O'Brien: You know what I mean.

Arto Nyberg: I know what you mean.

Conan O'Brien: Yes.

Arto Nyberg: And if I don't, I will ask later.

Conan O'Brien: Yes, someone will tell you.

Arto Nyberg: (Summary in Finnish.) You have to watch out, by the way… the polar bears.

Conan O'Brien: Oh really? Okay. Well, I can fight them, I'm strong.

Arto Nyberg: Yes. Easily. And the penguins.

Conan O'Brien: Yes, polar bears and penguins… none of which are found in your country! I did my reading!

Arto Nyberg: Yes, you did, you did.

Conan O'Brien: But I will say hi to the flamingos.

Arto Nyberg: Yes, that's right. But they're probably frozen now.

Conan O'Brien: Yeah. I'm afraid they are.

Arto Nyberg: Let's see. Dead flamingos up in north, that would be news.

Conan O'Brien: It would be news.

Arto Nyberg: Okay, thanks for coming.

Conan O'Brien: Hey, thank you very much, thanks for having me.

Arto Nyberg: See you later.

Conan O'Brien: Goodbye everybody.


2006-02-12 Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho <antti-juhani@kaijanaho.info>

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