Conan O'Brien

Conan O’Brien airs tonight on TBS

Jaclyn Giovis Nov 8, 2010

Get ready for CoCo.

Comedian Conan O’Brien is back on the tube this Monday night with his new late-night show, airing at 11 p.m. ET on TBS. The first guests on “Conan” will be actors Seth Rogen and Lea Michele. Musical guest Jack White will perform.

There’s also a mystery guest, who won the spot by racking up the most votes on an online poll. A show schedule, posted early Monday on the program’s Web site, says “You clicked and we listened! Who will be the poll winner: The Pope? The Sultan Of Brunei? Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Gerhard Ertl? WATCH AND FIND OUT!”

The former “Tonight Show” host will go head-to-head with Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central. Some industry observers say that could prove to be a tough battle.

O’Brien has been off the air since he exited the “Tonight Show” in January, when NBC canceled host Jay Leno’s primetime comedy show because it drew lackluster ratings.

NBC settled with Conan and crew for an estimated $40 million, leaving him a free agent to launch a competing show after Sept. 1.

O’Brien surprised fans and industry insiders in April with his decision to join TBS in the smaller cable market.

“It’s true that I think Conan takes a symbolic step down by going to TBS,” Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, told Marketplace reporter Amy Scott in an April interview. “But it really may be more of a step into the future.”

With money coming in from advertising and subscriber fees, cable networks are a small but growing threat to broadcast television, Thompson and others say.

To amp up viewership for the new show — which will be produced on Stage 15 at the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank — O’Brien turned to his loyal online audience.

He aired “the fastest talk show ever” on his Web site last Monday.

In just under five minutes, O’Brien gave a monologue, introduced actor guest Jim Parsons of the Big Bang Theory, introduced band Steel Train, and tossed to sidekick Andy Richter, who twice paid homage to sponsor Diet Coke.

The show ended with a dancing taco.

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