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Conan O'Brien on '60 Minutes': a TBS tune-up

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Similarly, Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with John Stewart” and “Colbert Report” with Stephen Colbert have tiny ratings, yet their “buzz factor,” fueled by video clips shared on the Web, is off the charts. “Conan’s move to TBS completely seals the deal that the leading edge of late-night comedy is no longer in an age of grossing big audiences,“ Thompson says.

O'Brien is embracing the same Web tools, launching a wildly popular Twitter account in February.

O’Brien’s impact on television comedy has been huge, says K.P. Anderson, a stand-up comedian and executive producer of E! Entertainment Television's "The Soup." “Conan changed the boundaries of the game,” he says. His absurdist attitude has influenced everyone, including the various late-night hosts on the broadcast networks.

Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Fallon and all those guys, they take a page from Conan who came in and said, ‘what the [heck], what’s the worst they can do, fire me?’ ” O’Brien’s early late night ratings were low, he notes, and took years to build. Comedians such as Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert “have a different template, but they all built on the kind of brashness that Conan brought in.”

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