This article is from the Conan O'Brien FAQ, by Joseph Gebis email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
On October 11, 1993, Conan did a segment based on the Ted Danson-in-
A document from the case describes the situation: "This action
arises out of a comedy skit performed on the October 11, 1993, episode
of the late-night show, 'Late Night with Conan O'Brien' (the 'Show'). In
that skit, O'Brien has a conversation with a larger-than-life picture of
the actor, Ted Danson. Danson is in blackface and there is a cutout
where Danson's mouth would be. A cast member speaks Danson's part while
his lips are visible talking through the cutout. O'Brien 'interviews'
Danson about his controversial Friars Club 'roast' of Whoopi Goldberg.
At one point in this interview, 'Danson,' claiming that his performance
was really funny, states: 'Marty Ingalls was peeing in his pants,
Freddie Roman was worshipping me, Red Buttons said it was brilliant,
Jack Carter was in tears.'"
Red Buttons felt that Conan implied he approved of Ted Danson's
antics, and sued Conan and NBC for $20 million.
The case was dismissed March 14, 1994.
A summation of the court's decision, transcribed by Al Bell, is
available at Damone's Web page (See section 1.21).
Octobers have again proven unlucky for the Synchro-vox bit. On
October 9th, 1995, "Late Night" did the bit featuring Pope John Paul II.
During the "interview" while the Pope was in the country, the sketch
portrayed the pontiff as more laid back than his public image, and, at
times, was extremely irreverent to what hard-line devotees would consider
appropriate representations of the head of the Catholic Church.
The Polish-American Guardian Society of Chicago, led by Leonard
Jarzab, has brought a suit against Chicago affiliate WMAQ-Ch. 5, charging
that "Late Night" portrayed the Polish Pope as a "buffoon," and that this
was the latest in a long line of such stereotypical characterizations by
NBC, creating a "hostile" atmosphere to Polish-Americans. Jarzab,
although he has not seen the entire sketch, has judged it "obscene." He
is sueing for unspecified damages.
Neither WMAQ or NBC corporate headquarters has made any official
statement on the matter. It has not gone to court yet, and no date is
set. The chances of the case winning, however, seem slight.
For an article on the case and up-to-the-minute information on its
status, you can access this section on Damone's web page. (See section 1.21)