‘Conan Without Borders’

The West Side Story takes a look at Conan’s travelling special, “Conan Without Borders”, in the context of his recent departure from late night.

Thayer Abu-Hijleh, Entertainment Editor

Eleven years ago on Nov. 9, the first episode of Conan O’Brien’s late night show aired on TBS. The months leading up to Conan’s debut on TBS were nerve-wracking for him to say the least. Around a year prior to his first episode, Conan had been let go by NBC as the host of the Tonight Show, in what came to be known as the 2010 Tonight Show Conflict. However, on June 24th of this year, Conan ended his talk show on TBS, concluding a 28 year career of late night TV. Although his TBS talk show ended, it isn’t the only show he produces for them. Conan also films a special travelling show called “Conan Without Borders”, which he entirely plans on continuing. In this series, Conan travels to a foreign country, talks to the people, eats the food, jokes around, experiences the culture, and lets us tag along with him for all of it.

So far Conan has shot 13 episodes in 13 different countries. These countries, in order of when Conan traveled to them, are Armenia, Qatar, Australia, Germany, Ghana, Greenland, Japan, Cuba, Haiti, Israel and the West Bank, Italy, South Korea, and Mexico. Each of these episodes takes a completely unique approach to displaying the culture and people of the country it is about. For example, his main impetus for the Greenland episode was former President Trump’s lofty claim that the United States would purchase Greenland. Conan took up the role of arbiter and traveled to the barren island nation to negotiate price with its leaders. When the country’s acquisition proved unsuccessful, Conan turned to the local citizens to learn more about their culture and ways of life.  Not everything about each episode is completely unique though. There are a few commonalities between episodes, the biggest one being Conan’s desire to drink and promote the local alcohol, sometimes even recording impromptu commercials for the products. In Cuba it was the rum juice boxes, in Ireland it was Guinness (obviously), and in Haiti it was the local beer, “Prestige”. Prestige liked Conan’s improvised advertisement so much that they decided to sponsor it. 

Although “Conan Without Borders” is centered around travel and foreign cultures, these aspects of Conan’s television productions are not exclusive to this show. Conan has shot remotes for his previous late night shows in places all over the country and the world, including Germany, France, and several others. But in all of Conan’s productions in other countries, he manages to showcase the culture in a fun and manageable way.  

There’s much speculation about where Conan will travel next for “Conan Without Borders”. Conan has disproportionately filmed episodes in European countries, and none in South America, so many believe that his next location will be either Argentina, Brazil, or a different South American country. However, with his departure from Late Night, it’s still unclear how the production has been affected. Knowing Conan, he will most likely continue to be the warm, quirky, amicable comedian we’ve known and loved for over 28 years.