Two weeks ago I got to meet Conan O’Brien and wander around Warner Bros. Studio 15, where he tapes his show.
A little backstory first: Chrystie’s mom, Gloria, is a ghost hunter. She has been doing it for over 20 years, long before it was popularized by Ghost Adventures and other TV shows. Around Halloween Conan put an ad on AirBnB, offering a free one night stay in his studio to one lucky entrant who gave the best reason as to why they should be chosen. Gloria entered with her compelling reason being she wanted to do a ghost hunt in the studio. She didn’t win the free night’s stay, but she piqued the interest of one of Conan’s writers who thought a ghost hunt would be an interesting bit for the show. After months of trying to work something out, Gloria finally got the call on Wednesday that they’d like to shoot the bit Friday afternoon.
On short notice, she gathered a crew consisting of her two sons, son’s girlfriend, daughter, and future son-in-law (me). We drove down late Thursday night and found a motel near the Warner Bros. lot and got a few hours of sleep before heading over. We stopped at the gate where the security guards gave us guest passes and we made our way to Studio 15.
Conan’s assistants greeted us and helped unload our gear.
We were directed to the stage where we began setting up Gloria’s gear: cameras, audio recorders, motion detectors, radiation detectors, and her favorite, the plasma globe. As I wandered around taking photos of the stage, seating area and the rafters, I was surprised by how small the taping area is, through the magic of television it seems a lot bigger on the boob tube.
Also, there were a ton of lights and screens hanging from the rafters above the audience. We were told that the lights create so much heat on Conan that they blast the air conditioning full force to keep him cool, which usually means the audience is freezing.
Once everything was set up and ready to go, Conan arrived very casually in street clothes. He seemed a little rushed as he quickly greeted Gloria and they began filming.
I know I’m a nobody with little experience ghost hunting and likely no value to the bit, but I hoped that Conan would chat not only with Gloria, but also with her crew/family so I could have a few seconds of fame. Sadly for me, the bit was focused solely on Gloria, but it was still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch Conan work his magic from just a few feet away. We all had to keep from laughing at his barrage of jokes for fear that we’d be heard on camera.
Conan and Gloria went through all of her ghost tracking devices, and he was able to come up with something funny about all of them right off the cuff. However, he seemed overly fond of putting just about all of them near his crotch to see if they would detect anything.
As we watched we noticed a familiar face, Conan’s prop master, Bill Tull was walking around the studio. We wouldn’t have recognized him had it not been for Bill Tull’s Budget Holiday Tips. We greeted him and told him we loved his holiday tips. He thanked us and said he had a lot of fun doing it, and how weird it was for him now that people recognize him because of the bit.
Once Conan and Gloria finished up with devices, they proceeded to go on a ghost hunt through the studio, which was completely dark except for the emergency exit lights. I would have had trouble taking any decent pictures of the hunt with their motion and no light, and I didn’t want to be in the way, so I stayed behind. Chrystie grabbed one of the night vision cameras and followed Gloria, Conan and his crew to explore the basement of the studio. The rest of us, unsure of what to do with ourselves, and unsure if any areas were off limits began slowly exploring and found some interesting things. Among them, Conan’s giant head,
some very flattering art,
some cue cards used in a sketch the previous day that I briefly thought about taking, but wanted to try and have some class,
and I believe the desks at which the writers do their thing.
After wandering around for half an hour, we heard the group coming up from the basement. They continued their hunt up in the rafters as I watched from far down below.
After that, they wrapped up with a final shot outside, we were quickly introduced to Conan, took some pictures with him, shook his hand, and he took off.
In all it was about two and a half hours of taping for what I imagine will be a 5-minute bit on his show and likely many outtakes on teamcoco.com.
We went back inside to pack up, and take some final pictures on stage. Wanting to be respectful of Conan’s desk I didn’t dare sit in his chair, I instead stood in the general vicinity of the desk to have pictures taken, but when one the crew came over and asked if I’d like to sit at the desk, I gladly took him up on the offer. He removed the covers and we all took turns sitting at the maestro’s desk.
After we had our fill of pictures, and packed everything up we were treated to a private tour of the Warner Bros. lot in golf carts. Two guides drove us around the studios and the backlot rattling off the more popular shows and movies that had been shot there.
One of the more interesting buildings served as a city hall on one side, fire station on another and high school on another.
Of course nearly every building in the backlot is nothing more than a front, and some are just painted walls.
On our way back to our car the guides stopped at the Warner Bros. Museum where I was crushed to learn that they absolutely do not allow cameras of any sort. It was still great to walk through and see hundreds of props and costumes used in Warner Bros. movies. The entire second floor was dedicated to Harry Potter with whimsical docents who greeted us and encouraged us to try on the Sorting Hat – I got put in Gryffindor. If it is possible to be star-struck by props, I was…like a kid in a candy store, “Oh look, its the golden snitch, and theres the tri-wizard cup, and the portkey they used to get to the Quidditch World Cup, oooh and Death Eater costumes, and the Firebolt, and their wands, wheee.”
Once we had our fill of the museum, we hopped back on the golf carts and headed back to our cars. We thanked our guides, hopped in the car and began the long drove home.
See more photos from the trip here.
When and if the bit airs, I’ll post the link here.