Conan O’Brien’s assistant for the last six years, Sona Movsesian, is of Armenian descent and he decided to surprise her with a trip to Armenia and compile the footage to air on a special episode of his TBS show. “Conan in Armenia” aired on November 17. After the trip took place, Conan tweeted, “Brought my assistant Sona home to Armenia. It was this or give her a raise.” This was the first time late night talk show host did an episode in Armenia.
Before they went on their trip, O’Brien went over to her relative’s house to announce that he was taking Sona. He asked what they wanted as gifts from their homeland. They requested five things: cognac, dried apricots, a painting, a rug, and a groom for Sona (grandmother’s wish). They succeeded in bringing back four of those things, although the painting was hilariously tacky (giant chesty woman floating in a body of water) and they did unsuccessfully try a matchmaker for grandma’s plea. When they went shopping for the rug, you can really see how Conan and Sona relentlessly tease each other.
Conan charmed the locals when they were out and about on the streets and at marketplaces, riffing like he does on every remote. He learned a few phrases before the trip that he used during that always received a response of laughter. The English interpretations of two of the phrases are “I eat your liver” and “I die on your body.”
A highlight from the trip was when Conan was asked to be a gangster in an Armenian soap opera. His hair and eyebrows were darkened to look like a native of the region and the results were priceless. O’Brien nailed his one line.
Another memorable moment was when O’Brien dressed in a traditional Armenian outfit at the Garni temple and danced with ten women performing there. After he learned their moves, he taught them this swinging arm exaggerated dance from the 1930s that he dubbed the razzmatazz. The women picked up on his moves and then pronounced the name of the dance with the same swagger that Conan used.
The episode got emotional when Conan and Sona went to the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex. Sona broke into tears when relaying the story about her grandparents’ experience during that time. Her grandfather recorded his story on a cassette that her family recently listened to.
Conan told Sona that he was moved by the joy of the Armenians he experienced on the trip, particularly the children. When he asked her if she would ever come back, she replied, “I’d love to with friends and family, I’d love to come back.” Then she grudgingly said to her boss, “You can come, too.”