For his first-ever “Tonight Show,” host Conan O’Brien knew he had to open with something big.
And what O’Brien and his team came up with literally spanned the entire country.
The June 1 “Tonight Show” opened on O’Brien still in New York — and slowly realizing that he needed to travel a few thousand miles west in time for the premiere.
Cut to scenes of O’Brien, decked in a suit, running across America. The cold open included O’Brien on the dusty roads of Amish Country; being chased through Wrigley Field; puffing past the St. Louis Arch; jogging under the snow-capped Rockies; making his way through Vegas; and finally hitting L.A. and Universal City.
Field producer Jason Chillemi put it all together, taking advantage of O’Brien’s visits with affiliates throughout the country.
While visiting various towns, O’Brien would take a moment to shoot those jogging scenes. The suit he wore throughout was always on hand, just in case.
O’Brien continued to shoot the cold open all the way up until just a week or two before the launch. The same day he took the stage in New York as part of NBC’s upfront week comedy-themed event for advertisers, the host was taping the clip’s Gotham scenes.
Critics approved of the final product, with the L.A. Times’ Mary McNamara calling the opening a “funny, ambitious and surprisingly majestic sketch.”