Conan’s “Employee of the Month” Gag: A Nod to His Late Night Forefathers?

Conan O’Brien’s quip Thursday night on “The Tonight Show” that he had just been named NBC’s “Employee of the Month” has a historic context. David Letterman told that same joke on his final episode of “Late Night” on NBC in 1993:

(The David Letterman clip — see 2:50 in)

Is it an obvious joke that everyone uses? Or, as I prefer to think of it, something that has been passed down from host to host?

A year earlier than that “Late Night with David Letterman” clip, “Tonight Show” legend Johnny Carson also used that same joke in his finale:

(Above, the Johnny Carson finale. Jump to 4:50 in order to see the “Employee of the Month” crack.)

A coincidence? Or O’Brien’s nod to late night history, as his “Tonight Show” reign comes to an end as well?

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