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After the Silicon Valley star was forced to cancel his appearance on TBS’ Conan just minutes before the broadcast last Thursday, which forced O’Brien to improvise a show that went viral on social media, Nanjiani made an appearance on the podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend to explain the ultimately hilarious debacle.
On Thursday’s episode of Conan, which under its new format only has one guest a night, O’Brien scrambled to fashion a show, ad-libbing a monologue, interviewing his longtime assistant Sona Movsesian and playing clips and providing a plug for Lion King in an act of revenge given that the Disney tentpole was up against Nanjiani’s buddy comedy Stuber at the box office.
Finally getting his interview with Nanjiani, O’Brien began the podcast by reiterating the cancellation could not be helped and was totally out of character for Nanjiani. “You are famously, a very nice guy, you are extremely hard working, you are punctual. This is not your MO at all. This was something that was out of your control,” he said before giving Nanjiani a chance to explain exactly what happened.
“Yes it was completely out of my control! I was shooting Silicon Valley, and they said they would have me out at a certain time. The details are: There was a scene we were shooting I was going to be just in the last bit of the scene. They said we’ll shoot your bit of your scene and then you’d get out. As soon as we rehearsed, they said, ‘even though you are only in the last page, you’re not going to be able to leave because of the way it is set up.’ And, they were right.”
He added: “There was no way they could really get me out.”
Nanjiani then explained that he called his team and tried to find a replacement guest amongst his friends. “Soon as I found that out, I called my people and they said ‘You have to get there.’ I said well then talk to Silicon Valley and it just wasn’t going to happen. I actually texted friends to get as a replacement and Martin Starr agreed to do it because he was not in that scene. But by that time you guys had decided [to do what you did].”
O’Brien then ran through the mad “scramble” at his end that eventually led to the improvised show. “We were scrambling. And what happened was. They come and they say Kumail’s not here. [Producer Jeff Ross] said, ‘I think it’s drugs,’ and we all nodded as that’s Kumail’s MO, he’s probably wasted,” O’Brien joked.
“No, we were immediately thinking what do we do. Instead of just finding someone else, let’s just have fun with the fact that we only have one guest on the show and that guest didn’t come. I’ll talk to [Sona Movsesian] my trusty assistant and so we ended up doing that. And so, it just became a little bit of a happening, and people really liked the show,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien and Nanjiani then discussed the impact the no-show had, with the episode going viral and with the Stuber star experiencing a mild, and humorous, backlash from Conan fans. “It was everywhere,” said Nanjiani adding that he was mortified by the reaction and that his no-show was trending. “The headlines [on] The Hollywood Reporter was like, ‘Conan forced to improvise because Kumail Nanjiani bails on him last minute.’ All these people on Twitter were like ‘I’m unfollowing, how dare you do that to Conan.'”
Hoping to end the backlash, and jokingly explain the passion he inspires in his fans, O’Brien again reiterated that the cancellation couldn’t be helped. “I want to help get the word out. We are friends. I’m a little like Beyoncé and I have a Bey-hive.”
Congratulating O’Brien on the wide success of the improvised show, Nanjiani added: “It was such a great show. The best Conan I ever did is the one I didn’t do.”
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