NEW YORK — A new prime-time special on TBS takes Conan O'Brien out of the studio, into wacky and at times uncomfortable situations — and that's just how he likes it.
In "Conan To Go" which airs at 10 p.m. EST Thursday, O'Brien will be featured in some of his most popular, on-location "Conan" segments — including going to the American Girl store and sharing a Lyft ride with Kevin Hart and Ice Cube for a drive around LA.
"There's nothing written about them. It's just me going into situations and reacting honestly. I think that improv air comes through," said O'Brien in a recent interview.
They're also longer than most TV segments, some lasting approximately 10 minutes, which O'Brien says provides "room for awkwardness... I've always loved the comedy of the awkward pause or the awkward moment and you see people saying things to me that are kind of a compliment but also it has a double edge to it and you see me react like get momentarily sad."
Letting the cameras roll and situations unwind is key, the 51-year-old said.
"You really want to have the air in there, and I think that's what does make it different than the conventional, when you're doing an hour-long show and you've got to take care of all these guests and take care of things, if you look at the history of these shows they've become more and more compressed over time."
These segments, along with other clips from "Conan," are enormously popular online. The comic's internet presence has skyrocketed since starting up his TBS show. The videos on his YouTube channel recently surpassed 1 billion total views.
"I think what gave me a head start was all that craziness I went through 4, 5 years ago," said O'Brien (of his brief tenure as host of "The Tonight Show"). "That was so raw and real and kind of compelling that there was a real grassroots movement on the internet in our favor, and it spawned all this creativity and people talking about it and people creating all these sometimes really hilarious sketches and videos about it."
O'Brien says he's definitely internet friendly — and doesn't particularly care whether fans watch him on television or online.
"When people tell me they saw my show, I have no idea how they saw it. It's starting to not really matter to me. I almost don't assume, 'Oh, you sat down with a cup of tea and a scone and your kitten in your lap at 11 p.m. and you watched for an hour and you really enjoyed it and you wrote in your diary and you went to sleep.' I don't assume anybody's doing that. Unless it's my mom. My mom I know is not trolling the internet."
Alicia Rancilio covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar