Conan O'Brien's Hilarious and Inspiring Dartmouth Commencement Address

August 16, 2023

Conan O'Brien's Hilarious and Inspiring Dartmouth Commencement Address

In a memorable commencement address at Dartmouth College, Conan O'Brien, the beloved talk show host, delivered a speech filled with humor, self-deprecation, and valuable life lessons. While acknowledging the irony of being chosen as a speaker over a decorated war hero and President of the United States, O'Brien engaged the graduates, faculty, and parents with his unique brand of wit and storytelling.

Unfairness and Achievements

O'Brien started by highlighting the unfairness of life, jokingly suggesting that the hardworking graduates earned their diplomas while he received one for interviewing the fourth lead in Twilight. He playfully poked fun at the rich and powerful receiving the tent if it rained during the ceremony. Through these humorous anecdotes, he set the stage for his speech, which was centered around sharing stories from his own life and accomplishments.

Acknowledging Dartmouth and President Kim

Expressing gratitude for being invited to speak at Dartmouth, O'Brien humorously explored the background of the college and its President, Dr. Kim. He playfully referred to President Kim with a range of nicknames and highlighted his impressive credentials, sparking laughter from the audience. O'Brien cleverly connected with the graduates by sharing that he, too, once sat in their seats, albeit on a mischievous late-night escapade.

Celebrating Dartmouth's Quirks:

O'Brien lightheartedly teased Dartmouth about its school motto, "Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness," suggesting alternative, more comical mottos. He poked fun at Dartmouth's green color choice, citing an amusing reason behind its selection. He playfully listed famous fictional characters who hailed from Dartmouth, humorously comparing them to real-life figures. O'Brien's humorous take on Dartmouth's quirks demonstrated his ability to connect with the audience through laughter.

Conan Doctrine and Practical Advice:

Embracing the opportunity to make a lasting impact, O'Brien introduced his groundbreaking policy, "The Conan Doctrine," which included upgrading all degrees and changing the winter carnival to Winter Carnivale in Rio, among other humorous suggestions. Transitioning to practical advice, O'Brien offered real-life tips to navigate post-graduation challenges. He lightened the mood by sharing relatable anecdotes about adult acne, ironing shirts, and surviving on Ramen Noodles.

But the point is this: It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.  It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right, your perceived failure can be a catalyst for profound re-invention.” - Conan O'Brien

Addressing Parents:

O'Brien dedicated a portion of his speech to the parents, providing humorous insights into their experience. He shared amusing observations about parents' reconnection with their children after years of separation and cautioned those whose children majored in Fine Arts or Philosophy about the reality of the job market. His humorous take on parents' expectations brought laughter and lightness to the audience.

“You will spend more money framing your child’s diploma than they will earn in the next six months.  It’s tough out there, so be patient.  The only people hiring right now are Panera Bread and Mexican drug cartels.” - Conan O'Brien

Lessons from Personal Disappointment:

In a poignant twist, O'Brien shifted the tone to reflect on his own experience of disappointment and reinvention. He candidly shared the difficulties he faced after leaving a long-standing career and how he embraced uncertainty by trying new things, which ultimately led to personal growth. O'Brien emphasized that failure should not be feared but advised the graduates to do their best to avoid it.

Conan O'Brien's Dartmouth commencement address was a memorable blend of humor and inspiring insights. His ability to captivate the audience with humorous anecdotes, playful teasing, and relatable advice left a lasting impression. Through his speech, O'Brien reminded the graduates to embrace life's challenges, learn from disappointment, and take risks in pursuit of personal and professional growth.

“Well, now I’m here to tell you that, though you should not fear failure, you should do your very best to avoid it.   Nietzsche famously said “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  But what he failed to stress is that IT ALMOST KILLS YOU.  Disappointment stings and, for driven, successful people like yourselves it is disorienting.  What Nietzsche should have said is  “Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you watch a lot of Cartoon Network and drink mid-price Chardonnay at 11 in the morning.“- Conan O'Brien

About Conan O’Brien

Conan O'Brien, originally from Brookline, Massachusetts, embarked on his comedic journey as the president of The Harvard Lampoon on two occasions. His career progressed as he delved into writing and producing for renowned television shows like "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons." In 1993, NBC selected him to assume the role of host for "Late Night," catapulting him into the late-night talk show realm. With an impressive array of accolades, Conan has secured four Emmy Awards, six Writers Guild Awards, and even the People's Choice Award for "Favorite Television Host." Notably, he has not only hosted two Emmy Awards but also presided over the MTV Movie Awards and performed at the White House Correspondents' Dinner for two presidents. 

The 2010 documentary "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" chronicled his live comedy tour, which in turn sparked another successful multi-city stand-up tour in 2018. In 2015, Conan achieved the distinction of being the longest-serving current late-night talk show host in the United States, marking 25 years on air in 2018. While his show, "CONAN," recently concluded after a decade on TBS, his Emmy-winning "Conan Without Borders" series has ventured into 13 countries. 

Moreover, his podcast, "Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend," has garnered over 230 million downloads since its launch in 2018. Demonstrating his versatility, Conan has expanded his reach through various ventures, including his production company Conaco, the Emmy-winning digital brand Team Coco, branded content creation, podcasting, mobile gaming, pay TV, and engaging live comedy tours. (