It’s just been brought to my attention that, while they were Harvard undergraduates, Jeff Zucker ’86 called the cops on Conan O’Brien ’85. (I never saw previous reports about this.) According to articles in both the Harvard Crimson and Yale Daily News, Zucker, then president of the university’s Harvard Crimson daily newspaper, dispatched the police to the Harvard Lampoon office after O’Brien, who was president of the campus humor magazine, organized a prank on his college rival — stealing an entire print run of the Crimson before it could be distributed. “He only forgave me when I gave him The Tonight Show,” Zucker told a Yale gathering back in 2005. The Harvard Crimson described the incident this way in a 2004 article about Conan landing The Tonight Show courtesy of Zucker: “O’Brien cut his teeth in comedy as president of The Harvard Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine. In fact, O’Brien first met Zucker, his current boss, one day when O’Brien and the Lampoon editors stole all the copies of that morning’s Crimson. Zucker, then Crimson President, called the police and met O’Brien face to face while he was being arrested.” In 2001, Conan told The New Yorker this about the incident: “College pranks are supposed to be clever, but our rivalry with the Crimson had degenerated into us stealing something, Jeff calling the police, and the police making us haul it back,” said O’Brien. (Other Lampoon pranks on Zucker included “a fake phone-sex ad with Zucker’s dorm-room phone number. Zucker did not find any of this particularly hilarious.”) So what’s to glean from this Harvard history lesson? Yes, Jeff Zucker was a thin-skinned prick who didn’t understand comedy or know how to handle creatives even back then.
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