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  • June 14, 2020
  • June 13, 2021
  • June 12, 2022

Dartmouth 2011 Honorary Degree Recipient: Conan O'Brien (Doctor of Arts)

CONAN O'BRIEN, you delight us with a brand of comedic genius all of your own. At once irreverent and sharply perceptive of our times, you strike the chord of a new generation, the generation we salute here today.

Like all great humor, yours illuminates something fundamental about the human condition. We laugh with you but also at ourselves.

Your earliest attempts at humor were in the Massachusetts home where you grew up in a bustling family of Irish Catholics or, as you called it, a captive audience.

At Harvard, you studied history and literature, yet found time for rigorous research in the sciences—like setting fire to Twinkies to see if they would burn.

You were president of the Lampoon not once but twice. The Crimson called you the pre-eminent jokester of the Class of '85.

Yet for all the merriment, you worked hard, and still do. As Winston Churchill put it, a joke is a serious thing. It takes persistence, trial and error, and a strong sense of one's self. Your first night as a talk show host was nothing short of a flop in the eyes of many critics. But you were not put off. Night after night, you stuck at it and perfected your craft.

Today, Americans watch Letterman and Leno. But they don't watch O'Brien. They watch Conan. And that speaks to the unique, personal bond you have forged with the "people of Earth," as you once called your audience. No matter how hard you try to lose them by switching times and channels, they keep on watching.

Conan, you make us think harder about, and feel better about, ourselves and the rest of the world. For that and the laughter you give us, we welcome you into our Dartmouth family and award you the honorary degree Doctor of Arts

Last Updated: 3/17/16