One of the highlights of last night’s Conan premiere was when Conan O’Brien dropped the host shtick, picked up a guitar with his name emblazoned on the strap, and joined the house band to rock out with musical guest Jack White (whom he’s recorded an album with). Instead of coming across simply as a callback to the onstage musical stylings O’Brien indulged in during his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on TV Tour, it was one of the rare things about last night’s premiere that actually felt a little novel: After all, how often does the host of a late-night talk show play guitar with his own house band during his show’s premiere? As it turns out, though, Alan Thicke did just that in the inaugural episode of his short-lived 1980s talk show, and the only reason we remember is because O’Brien slammed him for it while appearing on a 2002 episode of Last Call With Carson Daly.
Said O’Brien then: “I remember when I was really interested in comedy and I was in high school, Alan Thicke had a talk show, and they had all these posters up everywhere like, ‘He’s coming, it’s gonna be better than Johnny Carson’ … and I watched his first show, and it was like, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, here he comes, Alan Thicke,’ and the doors opened, and he came running out, and the band’s rocking out, and he runs down to the band and he picks up a guitar and he starts rocking out with the band, and I was sitting there and I was 14 and I’m like, ‘You’re an ass.’ Click. I always knew that as a lesson, that [guitar playing] is my hobby, and I don’t like it when celebrities inflict their hobby [on the audience] … It’s one of those things that I’m very careful not to do.” Or maybe Dr. Seaver was simply 30 years ahead of his time?