No matter how famous you are, getting a gig on a late-night talk show is still kind of a big deal. That’s because everyone knows it’s still one of the biggest promotional spots you can nab during a press tour for a new movie or show. Plus, your chat or sketch with the host can live on for weeks, months, or sometimes even years afterwards online, making it a coveted thing to land indeed.
That’s why it was also kind of a big deal when Silicon Valley star and one-time SNL host Kumail Nanjiani bailed on his Conan appearance Thursday night. And what’s more, he bailed with less than 30 minutes to go.
Apparently the actor was caught up on set during production of his series, and there was no way he was going to make it out to the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif. in time. That makes him the second-ever guest to bail on host Conan O’Brien; Liza Minelli was the first when she cancelled her appearance in 1996.
So what did O’Brien do? Well he’s a pro, for starters, so he wasn’t just going to cancel the show. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t essentially screwed, either. So he chose to straight-up acknowledge the absence and the fact that he really had no show for the audience that evening. And then he just let everyone bask in his and his crew’s authentic awesomeness for the remaining time, a gutsy but very successful play, if you ask us.
“So, let me recap: We are a show that has changed our format, and we’re now a show that has one guest per night,” O’Brien said on the broadcast. “Now, for the 25 years of our show when we were an hour, we would just take the second guest and move them up and they’d be the first guest, and no one would really be the wiser. But when you’re a show that’s based on just interviewing one guest, and that guest doesn’t show up, you’re really screwed.”
O’Brien then turned to his sidekick, Andy Richter, who helped fill in the first part of the hour with banter and lots of jabs at their no-show guest. He also called up a studio audience member named Francisco, and riffed about how he was probably the last guy trying to sell illegal pot in a state that’s legalized it. And then he dug even further into that “troublesome diva” Nanjiani, noting he was supposed to appear to plug his upcoming action comedy Stuber, and then rolling a clip from the new Lion King movie instead.
— Team Coco (@TeamCoco) July 12, 2019
Last but not least, O’Brien spent the last part of the hour grilling his personal assistant, Sona Movsesian, who previously appeared on other O’Brien projects like Conan Without Borders and his podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.
Jeff Ross told me to get into makeup 20 minutes before the show today…and nothing else. Then @AndyRichter threatened to ruin me right before I went on stage. Now I’m sipping champagne at my desk celebrating by myself. https://t.co/n4pHNgLusr
— Sona Movsesian (@sonamov) July 12, 2019
“When you called my name I was like, ‘Oh shit, they’re really out of stuff to do,’” Movsesian laughed from the stage.
Out of things to do or not, the resulting episode really was an entertaining hour—one that probably received more attention than the regularly scheduled episode would have gotten. That’s what a master host—one who has been doing this for two-and-a-half decades—can do when put on the spot.
. @ConanOBrien is my comedy hero. Him and @AndyRichter are the reason I started comedy. So this clip is something I would love if it was about anybody other than me. But it’s about me, so I’m truly mortified. https://t.co/JXxtyUxkUG
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) July 12, 2019
We bow down to thee, O’Brien, and for the record so does Nanjiani, who tweeted his regrets afterwards. After the roasting he took on the episode, we have a feeling that will never, ever bail on a scheduled appearance like this again.