Conan O'Brien had to improvise during Thursday's episode of Conan when scheduled guest Kumail Nanjiani canceled his appearance at the last minute.
"I'm not sure what kind of program we have tonight," O'Brien told his audience during the show. "We have a little bit of an unusual situation going on with our show and that is that tonight we're supposed to be having Kumail Nanjiani on the show."
The host then explained that while the talk show's announcer Andy Richter announced that Nanjiani would be on the show, "he was fucking lying."
O'Brien shared that he received a call 30 minutes before the taping that Nanjiani had a scheduling conflict and could not leave the set of Silicon Valley to appear on the talk show. "We found that out half an hour ago while I was having my nap," he said. "I was having my pre-show nap. Andy was having his bath in heavy cream, and they came in and they said, 'Kumail can't get here.'"
O'Brien added that he's been working as a host for 25 years and only had one other person cancel an appearance at the last minute. "Maybe 15, 20 minutes before the show started, we got a call from our guest, and it was Liza Minnelli, and she said she couldn't make it. Liza Minnelli canceled, and she's known, you know, she's a great artist, but she's known for sometimes flaking out," said O'Brien of the performer's cancellation in 1996. He then joked that Nanjiani and Minnelli were now in the same category of "troublesome diva."
The host told his audience that the new format of the show only allows them to have one guest a night, so they were "really screwed." He promised to "deliver a fine show" for the audience, but he admitted that they would be playing everything by ear.
While the show originally planned to play a clip from Nanjiani's new film Stuber, they decided to instead show a clip from a competing upcoming release: The Lion King, which O'Brien called, "a struggling little movie that I think needs our help."
"We're gonna try to give it a boost and we just think that that's fair," O'Brien continued of the star-studded Disney film that hits theaters July 19. "That's karma."
Nanjiani reacted to O'Brien's comments on Twitter by sharing a clip from the monologue. "@ConanOBrien is my comedy hero. Him and @AndyRichter are the reason I started comedy," he tweeted. "So this clip is something I would love if it was about anybody other than me. But it’s about me, so I’m truly mortified."
O'Brien continued the episode by interviewing his assistant Sona Movsesian. Conan fans are likely familiar with the assistant, who has appeared on multiple episodes of the show and was featured in one of O'Brien's travel specials in which they visited Armenia. Additionally, Movsesian also appears on his podcast Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend.
Movsesian kicked off the segment by sharing that she did not know she was going to be interviewed, but was instead told to simply have her makeup done. "That's kind of like how my job is just regularly," she said. "No one tells me anything."
O'Brien asked his assistant when she learned that she would be the guest for the episode. "I think right when I was walking in. When you called my name, I was like, 'Oh shit, they really ran out of stuff to do,'" she said.
She later opened up about what it's like to work for O'Brien. "Would you say fun? Or would you say dysfunctional?" she asked O'Brien about the 10 years that they've worked together. "I've been working for over 10 years, so obviously I like it. But there are times when I want to poison your food or where I really think about ways to kill you slowly."
In an effort to have someone offer their home to Movsesian at a low price, she said that "Los Angeles is a ticking time bomb" due to the earthquakes. "Any minute we can be in the ocean, so people should get out of here and sell me their house," she said in a deadpan tone.
Nanjiani did end up briefly appearing in the episode. The actor sent over a prerecorded clip to apologize for his absence on the show.
The clip opened with Nanjiani's Silicon Valley co-star Thomas Middleditch explaining that it was his fault that Nanjiani couldn't make it to the show. "It's my fault. I don't know my lines," he said.
The camera then panned to Nanjiani, who whispered, "He doesn't know his lines."
"Kumail didn't seem too unhappy," O'Brien noted about the clip. "There's not a lot of remorse there."
Following Nanjiani's apology video, Movsesian introduced another clip from The Lion King to the audience.