Fair to say it’s been a hot minute or two since Conan O’Brien was plucked from virtual obscurity and placed into the unenviably large boots of David Letterman‘s Late Night timeslot on NBC. And in that time old mate has interviewed more than anyone’s fair share of personalities, luminaries, it people, and various folk-about-town. Most have been fine. Some were above-average. But as it turns out, only one was so gut-wrenchingly cooked that it stuck in O’Brien’s mind hard enough to be considered the worst guest ever.
Conan recently appeared on Dax Shepard‘s Armchair Expert podcast (not to be confused with Pierre Bernard‘s Recliner of Rage) and specifically named notorious Bad Lieutenant director Abel Ferrara as the single worst, most trainwreck guest of his entire tenure as a TV talk show host.
Ferrara appeared as a guest on an episode of Late Night in 1996 – Conan’s fourth year at the helm – and according to O’Brien was such an incredible pain in the ass that it was a struggle just to get him into the building, let alone onto the set.
Abel Ferrara got booked on our show and he’s a wild eccentric … and he fled, during the show, before his segment. He ran away, got into the elevator, and was out on the street when [my segment producer] gave chase. He caught him, led him back, made him — pushing him — got him backstage. He came on camera against his will. And then, he came out and I think started yelling at me.
Sure enough, footage of the interview is on YouTube, and the entire segment veers wildly off the rails almost instantly.
Despite enduring that, Conan also asserted the interview “was entertaining, in the way that if you ate 15 cloves of garlic, you wouldn’t say it was a great experience. But you would remember it. It was what we call ‘compellevision.’“
Frankly, I’d tune the hell in to watch a man eat 15 cloves of garlic on a late night talk show, so even when he’s riffing Conan’s still on the money.Image: Getty Images / Frederick M. Brown