Despite lack of celebrity wattage, O'Brien shines at after-show party

Despite lack of celebrity wattage, O’Brien shines at after-show party

TARA BRAUTIGAM
Canadian Press

Thursday, February 12, 2004
TORONTO (CP) – His trademark tsunami coif may have been a bit askew, and the celebrity list may have been scant, but through it all Conan O’Brien was the centre of attention at a swanky cocktail party Wednesday night.

At an exclusive after-show gathering in downtown Toronto, bottles of Molson Canadian were pushed aside for glasses of merlot while O’Brien hammed it up with 200 of his closest Canuck friends.

But before O’Brien could crack a few jokes, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty seized a rare opportunity to be a comedian.

He congratulated everyone who worked to entice O’Brien to visit Toronto and made reference to the money needed to lure the NBC-TV comic.

“I flinched a little bit and I said, ‘Really, five-hundred grand?”‘ McGuinty said.

“Think we can get Leno?”

Relishing the laughter, McGuinty continued, noting the similarities between himself and the red-haired comic.

“He has Irish roots as do I. He’s very tall. I’m fairly tall,” he said.

“And we both get laughs on late night TV. Sadly, Conan, mine come on the nightly news.”

A true professional, O’Brien took it all in stride. Halfway through his weeklong stay here, despite looking a little exhausted, he poked fun at the rampant media attention he’s received so far.

“I know what it’s like to be J-Lo and Ben for a week,” he said, referring to the hype that surrounded former celebrity couple Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck.

Even McGuinty was not left unscathed.

“I think whoever came up with the idea to battle the devastation of the tourism industry by having my show come up to Toronto for a week is an idiot, frankly,” he said.

“Very glad to be here . . . Real brain trust you have working here.”

In a fleeting moment of seriousness, O’Brien commented on Canada’s reputation as a spawning ground for Hollywood and music stars.

“If you’re going to travel a late-night show to any country in the world and tap the local talent, my advice is go to Canada,” he said, referring to this week’s guests Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, the Barenaked Ladies and Nickelback.

“That’s not a good lineup for Canadian shows. That’s a good lineup anywhere in the world.”

But beyond all the drinks, laughter and applause, there was an astonishing lack of celebrity wattage at an event intended to increase Toronto’s star status.

The only visible Canadian celebrity among the crowd was Miriam McDonald, who stars as Emma on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

“Apparently (O’Brien) watches Degrassi, so I was like ‘Oh my God,”‘ said an enthused McDonald, 16.

The young actor was thrilled O’Brien would go out of his way to come to Canada, saying his presence was welcomed during an otherwise gloomy winter season.

“We got bad weather in the winter, but what can you do?”

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