How Conan O’Brien Won Comic-Con

San Diego was brimming with the core target audience of late night talk shows last week. 18 to 30 year olds who are looking for entertainment value and willing to spend money to get what they want. Comic-Con is a pharos for the men and women who venerate entertainment of all sorts. It was only a matter of time before one of our modern day late night hosts willingly gave the fans what they were asking for.

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PHOTO BY ASHLEE MADDY – Conan O’Brien looks over notes between segments.

Conan O’Brien announced earlier this year that he would be taking his show on the road, as he did in Texas the previous year, to San Diego. This notion was brilliant, as the convention would be filled with casts, writers and directors promoting their films and television shows. The Hunger Games final entry, “The Mockingjay: Part II” and the latest installment in the X-Men franchise, along with the Batman vs. Superman release were highly visible productions all over town, adorning the cover of magazines and the side of trollies and cabs. Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead adorned the side of buildings and bus stops, as zombies were about the convention floor, scaring guests and giving fans photo opportunities.

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PHOTO BY ASHLEE MADDY – Conan and the cast of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II pose for a photo during commercial break.

What Conan did made sense. He traveled a couple of hours away from his regular locale to one of the most pleasant cities on earth, to 1,600 fans per night the convenience of a smaller version of what those who had waited in line for 12 hours at Hall H – Comic-Con’s largest panel -had seen. He also brought his A game when it came to his comedy. His monologue perfectly paralleled the week, allowing the audience at home to ascertain and get an impression of what those lucky enough to get attendance badges were able to see. He covered the gauntlet with his banter, satirizing everyone from fans of anime to Star Wars, without ridicule.

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PHOTO BY ASHLEE MADDY – An awkward hug between Liam Hemsworth and Andy Richter is one of the best things you’ll ever see.

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PHOTO BY ASHLEE MADDY – Conan O’Brien, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson take time for a few dance moves during the break.

As if attendees weren’t fortuitous enough to get into the historic Spreckles Theater, where Conan’s show was recorded, Conan and the toy company, Funko gave each individual in attendance a free, exclusive Conan toy. They varied each night, from a Batman Conan to a zombie Conan, along with others, but it was SWAG that people were happy to receive. Throughout the city, Conan would stop and talk to fans, taking photos and telling jokes. Politicians couldn’t have done it better. Conan won over the entire convention, from celebrities to each genre of fandom.

We were fortunate enough to meet Conan a couple of times on Thursday. Even after the show, he came into the audience and hugged my wife and me. It was genuine appreciation for the fans he certainly had gained from the week of shows. He had created, through his week of “Conan-Con” shows, a way to give back to the audience. That’s something that is unusual in any media market, or at least on this level.

Besides the cast members of the highlighted shows, guests dropped by each night, unannounced. The unofficial mayor of San Diego Comic-Con, Seth Green, had a light saber duel, Chris Parnell dropped by to sign his fictitious book, saying that it was the least expensive booth to rent at the convention and Wolverine auditions took place, with everyone from Nick Offerman to SDCC favorite, Patton Oswalt.

In all honesty, there was no one who could have done it better than Conan. His approach was palpable and natural and the fans at SDCC would be the first to know if it was anything but. The only way to improve on Conan’s 2015 visit to San Diego’s 46th year of Comic-Con would be if he made it a yearly event for his show.

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