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  • - I think the secret to my career is,

  • I don't know what I can't do.

  • These things happen to you,

  • and you think you've been dealt a terrible hand,

  • or you've had bad luck,

  • and when you just go with it,

  • you just start improvising,

  • suddenly you realize that you stumble upon

  • some of the best things that have ever happened to you.

  • Or success is a little like a white tuxedo,

  • it looks good, but you're very afraid of getting it dirty.

  • And it can inhibit you.

  • - He's an American TV show host, comedy writer,

  • and television producer.

  • He's best known for hosting several late night talk shows.

  • Since 2010, he's hosted Conan on the cable channel TBS.

  • He's Conan O'Brien,

  • and here's my take on his top 10 rules to success.

  • Rule number two is my personal favorite.

  • And make sure to stick around all the way until the end

  • for some special bonus clips.

  • And as always,

  • if he says something that really resonates with you,

  • make sure to leave it in the comments below

  • and put quotes around it,

  • so other people can be inspired as well.

  • - I think the secret to my career is,

  • I don't know what I can't do.

  • There are times when I should probably sit and think,

  • do I really want to jump out there with Phillip Seymore,

  • I mean with John C. Reilly,

  • and sing The Night Chicago Died?

  • Or do I really want to play the blues with Lil' Ed?

  • And you just do it.

  • You just do these things.

  • - [Charlie] And the audience wants you to do these things?

  • - Yeah, I think what's,

  • I don't know what it is,

  • but I think over the years

  • people have gotten comfortable with the notion

  • that I try things.

  • - [Charlie] It's almost put to (mumbles).

  • - And they're not worried about me.

  • Do you know what I mean?

  • I think that's the key.

  • People aren't worried about me getting hurt.

  • I'll give it 100%,

  • and then if it completely falls on its face,

  • I'll laugh about it and move on.

  • And I think there's a little bit of a sense,

  • after all these years, people say,

  • "All right, he tried it.

  • "Maybe it worked, maybe it didn't work,

  • "but he had a good time."

  • - And for you, you can come back the next night,

  • and the next night, and the next night?

  • - Yeah, I mean that's,

  • I don't know.

  • Over the years I've realized

  • that there are a lot of comedians

  • that are very worried about keeping their dignity intact,

  • and keeping their personal space,

  • and keep their sense of authority.

  • And for better or worse, and it might be worse,

  • I don't have that.

  • Do you know what I mean?

  • The people that I've always liked growing up,

  • and I'm not just talking about late night,

  • I'm talking about anybody in movie, in film.

  • The people I liked, Peter Sellers, they--

  • - [Charlie] Would let it all hang out?

  • - They just go.

  • If you look at a lot of those old classic Carson clips,

  • he's jumping into hot tubs with Don Rickles,

  • he's jumping through fake walls,

  • he's falling on his ass,

  • he's dressed as Floyd Turbo.

  • So sometimes I look back to that.

  • And I remembered,

  • "Well, Johnny just went for it."

  • So for better or worse, I'll try.

  • I'll get out there.

  • I'm very physical.

  • My wife is always horrified.

  • I'm always coming out of the shower

  • just covered in bruises.

  • And she'll say, "What was that?"

  • And I'll say, "Oh, I did a bit.

  • "We had Jeff Garlin on the show,

  • "and he and I rolled down a flight of steps.

  • "And I hit a fire hydrant."

  • What astounds me is how many young people come up to me

  • and say, "Conan, someday I'm going to be on your show."

  • - [Charlie] Me too.

  • - And I say, "What is it you do?"

  • They don't know.

  • That's the crazy thing.

  • Most people, it's the Paris Hilton phenomenon,

  • they just want to be famous.

  • And they've actually seen it work.

  • They've seen someone get incredibly famous

  • for just being famous.

  • So that's a little unsettling sometimes.

  • But mostly, what I've noticed,

  • or what I would say to people is,

  • "You've got to go to where they're making the thing

  • "that you like, and then work there in any capacity."

  • "If you have to get coffee for somebody,

  • "if you have to hold a cable,

  • "if you have to stand there and volunteer,

  • "go to where they're making the thing that you,

  • "that moves you, that gets you excited,

  • "and try and get close to it."

  • I mean, I remembered for years I was aware

  • that I'm not doing the thing that is going to be

  • my life's work, but I'm close.

  • I couldn't even tell you exactly what it was,

  • but I knew I was close.

  • Do you know what I mean?

  • I knew when I was a writer at Saturday Night Live,

  • "This isn't quite it, but I'm close."

  • I knew when I was a writer in the Simpsons,

  • "This is further way from it

  • than I was at Saturday Night Live."

  • I knew that I liked being around the live performing.

  • So I knew when I was close.

  • And that's what I tell them,

  • is just go there and don't have any ego about it.

  • There's so many channels now, so many stations.

  • - [Charlie] That's exactly what I tell them.

  • And just get in the arena is the idea.

  • I mean, if you get it,

  • 80% or 90% of it is getting in the arena.

  • - Get in there and do it.

  • And eventually, the Brownian movement of molecules,

  • eventually you getting in there

  • and putting yourself out there.

  • If you have something to offer,

  • someone's going to see it at some point,

  • and you're off and running.

  • So many people come up to me and say,

  • "Now that you've made it,

  • "don't you just want to stick it to some of those people?"

  • And I think no.

  • Because they weren't wrong,

  • we had our problems in the beginning.

  • This had to be a long process,

  • that's just the way it had to be.

  • And I prefer it this way.

  • I was raised Irish Catholic.

  • I had a sense of wanting to earn it.

  • And there was nothing that was more difficult

  • than being proclaimed Letterman's successor,

  • and having everybody have this uneasy sense of,

  • "Who is he?

  • "Should he have this?" - "And what has he ever done?"

  • - "And what has he ever done?

  • "And why does he get to do this?"

  • And maybe this whole process was just necessary.

  • This was my way of earning it.

  • And I think a lot of the confidence I have on the air now

  • is because I went through a very difficult period,

  • and there's nobody out there who can say,

  • "Gee, he had it easy."

  • I mean, I'm famous for having to overcome

  • a lot of obstacles in front of people on the air.

  • And so I'm comfortable with the way it all worked out.

  • - When did you decide you could professionally silly?

  • Did you get a glimmer of that at Harvard,

  • that you were taking Cairo? - Yeah, well the Lampoon

  • was a big influence because I was,

  • you don't learn to be funny,

  • you don't learn to be silly.

  • A lot of what you are or who you are,

  • in some respects is decided, I think, early in life.

  • You get the basic ingredients.

  • To me, when I was a kid,

  • and I think we all do this in one way or another,

  • I ran through the list, "What do I have?

  • "What do I have?

  • "What are my skills that will help me?"

  • A, not get picked on or beaten up.

  • And that's in my own family.

  • And B, that maybe get the attention of that girl I like.

  • Those are the things that are operating on you

  • in this very elemental level.

  • Those are the things that you're thinking about

  • when you're young, and you're a kid.

  • "Am I good athlete?"

  • No, I was a terrible athlete.

  • "Was I incredibly good looking, and all the girls liked me?"

  • No.

  • I had this laundry list of things I would go through,

  • and then I had this one thing,

  • which was I could make people laugh.

  • And so what happens, I think,

  • you find the thing you're good at,

  • and in my case it was so glaring.

  • It's not like there were a million other things.

  • There was this one thing.

  • And if I had been a pretty good baseball player,

  • I wouldn't be here today.

  • So I kept hyper-developing.

  • You could say I was hyper-developing a defense mechanism.

  • And if you look at a lot of artists out there,

  • that's probably what a lot of them are doing.

  • My father, who is here, and is a brilliant guy,

  • once said to me, "I get it now.

  • "You're making your living off of something

  • "that should probably be treated."

  • (Conan and audience laughs)

  • And he's right.

  • And then a tear.

  • But a wealthy tear.

  • Not important.

  • Don't pursue wealth.

  • (audience laughs)

  • But that is something

  • that I think many of us do, in one respect or another,

  • is we double down on the thing that we have,

  • that we have to offer.

  • - You don't consider yourself in the late night war,

  • so to speak,

  • because you're on at 12:30 rather than 11:00 or 11:30?

  • - I don't feel that,

  • sometimes I'll bump into someone on the street,

  • and they'll say, "Hey, good luck in your war against Dave."

  • And I'll think, "I have no problem."

  • I'm on after Dave.

  • He's doing a good show.

  • And I wish him well.

  • And I'm not in competition with him.

  • Sometimes I'll see cartoons in the newspaper

  • of I'm wearing boxing gloves,

  • and Dave's wearing boxing gloves,

  • and I think, "I'm not--"

  • - [Charlie] You're not in the same place."

  • - "I'm not boxing anybody."

  • But no, I don't really feel like I'm,

  • I don't feel like I'm in competition with anyone else.

  • I most of all feel like I'm in competition with myself

  • to do the best show I can do.

  • The last three and a half months has been all improvisation.

  • The groundswell of internet support

  • from a lot of young people that are in this room

  • completely took my network by surprise,

  • they don't know what hit them.

  • I think there's a lot of people in broadcast television

  • that are very dismissive,

  • or have been very dismissive about the internet,

  • and they're all so afraid of it.

  • And they tend to deride what they don't understand.

  • So when this explosion happened on the internet,

  • when they announced that,

  • "Well, okay, maybe we're going to slide Conan

  • "over to accommodate this other gentleman

  • "who's having difficulties in another time period."

  • And I won't get into specifics, you'll have to look it up.