Editor's note: Sonja Gantt blogs each week for The Charlotte Observer's mommy site, MomsCharlotte.com.
Conan O'Brien takes over The Tonight Show in June. He stopped by the station recently to promote the show. Dave Wagner and I shot promos with him. Colleen Odegaard did an extensive interview. He met with clients and then spent a little time in the newsroom. I've told everyone who's asked (and there've been many) that yes...as far as I can tell in the two to three hours that he was in the station he really seems to be a nice guy.
His humor was no surprise. You expect him to be witty and he was. When he walked into the studio he quickly and easily made light of all the people (cell phone cameras in hand) who were there. During a newscast there are usually no more than five to six people in the studio. I think I counted about 25 that morning. Larry Sprinkle was hard at work and he and Conan had a great time talking about hair care products. Conan says he shops at home improvement stores for his but he's heard about the stuff Larry uses...it's smuggled into the country right?
Colleen says during their one-on-one chat he was incredibly charming, down to the earth and funny to the point she couldn't stop laughing. Be sure to catch her story on Friday, Feb. 20th during our 11 p.m. newscast.
My lasting impression of Conan is that he is gracious and knows how to handle his celebrity. When he greeted dozens of sales clients he not only said he wanted to have a chance to meet everyone but took pictures with all who asked. Now the cynics might say he needed to do that since those are the people who buy commercials on our station. But...I understand after I left he went into our newsroom and did the same thing, stopping at every edit bay and desk to say hello and take more pictures. Trust me, none of us in the newsroom can afford to buy ad time on his show.
I had the chance to interview a number of celebrities during my four years at WGN in Chicago and some of them were simply not nice, unpleasant and rude. I certainly understand that just because you're a great actor, singer, musician or athlete doesn't mean you are comfortable with crowds or that you don't get tired of doing so many media interviews. But all of us have parts of our jobs we didn't sign up for but we have to do anyway. Conan O'Brien really appears to "get" it. He didn't seem to take for granted that people were genuinely excited to meet him and that fans do play some role in his success. He was refreshing and I wish him all the best when the show debuts in June. I'll be watching and I hope you will too, right after our 11 p.m. newscast.