Junior advertising major Greg Keating has already completed two New Year’s resolutions: reaching out to his biological father and catching the attention of comedy legend Conan O’Brien.
It was easy, since he alleges they’re the same person.
The Verona, N.J., native, who said he has had suspicions since the third grade about his relation to O’Brien, described in detail his similarities to the late-night talk show host in a video posted to YouTube on Jan. 8 called “Conan? Dad?”
“People start to tell me all the time that I look like Conan O’Brien,” Keating said. “You start to wonder, ‘Is there something more to it?’ You get a gut feeling.”
In the video, Keating said his mother worked as a producer on “NBC News at Sunrise” in 30 Rockefeller Plaza, three floors above the “Late Night” studio where O’Brien was starting his stint as host. Keating claimed she was fired in 1993 after becoming pregnant.
Keating, a WHIP Radio broadcaster, said he discovered this information through his own “detective work.” In an interview with Boston Magazine, Keating said he found his mother’s old NBC files and pay stubs in an upstairs cabinet.
“She doesn’t want to talk about it though,” Keating said. “That’s kind of making it hard, at least for right now. She’s been quiet by choice. She doesn’t want to get involved.”
Keating decided to personally reach out to O’Brien through comedy, something he said he is familiar with and has an interest in. He wrote and shot the video with the help of high school friends Ryan Denora, Dan Moczula and Chris Nolan.
“We’ve always been a creative team ever since we were little kids,” Keating said. “Since we’ve gone off to school, we’ve been writing more. We’ve been trying to get something big and then build off it.”
Keating said he didn’t expect just how popular that video appeal to O’Brien would become. Within a few days, several news and gossip sites like People and Perez Hilton picked up the video.
“It was on Gawker.com and then three to five minutes after that it was on BroBible.com. After that, I couldn’t keep up,” Keating said. “I was getting interview requests within that half hour. I couldn’t leave my computer. I had to pee a lot. It was crazy.”
Keating said he also didn’t anticipate the reaction he received from viewers.
“I thought people were going to hate it,” Keating said. “I thought they were going to say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t really look like him.’ But it got a lot of positive feedback, and I’m happy about that.”
Keating was even given the chance to write and perform his own monologue Conan-style on Fox 29. The tongue-in-cheek performance took jabs at O’Brien with the consistent punch line of a broken home and absence of a father’s love.
As grateful as Keating was for the opportunity, 15 seconds of fame were not part of the original goal he had while filming.
“I was trying to streamline right to [O’Brien],” Keating said. “I was trying to get [the video] right to him. But other people saw it – and then they shared it.”
The attention drew a tweet from O’Brien himself on Jan. 14 that read, “A kid from New Jersey is falsely claiming to be my illegitimate son. For the record, I have three children: Neve, Beckett and @RonanFarrow.”
“I thought it was funny,” Keating said. “He always makes New Jersey jokes. Actually, to be honest, I was expecting more. But the tweet was really cool.”
Despite other news publications scrambling to find the truth, MyVeronaNJ.com credits itself for breaking the “delightfully silly story” about its hometown hero and wrote “many news outlets and news viewers didn’t understand that the whole thing was a glorious spoof and not a genuine claim.”
While no one from O’Brien’s show has contacted Keating so far, and the comedian has yet to mention anything on the show, Keating said he isn’t giving up.
“I’ve lived without my dad this long. I think I can go longer,” he said with a laugh. “A lot of people think I want money, a lot of people think I’m crazy. But I’m not crazy. I don’t need money – I mean, yeah, I need money, but not from him. I’m not trying to take anything from him. I’m just trying to reach out. I’d love to meet him. That’s the whole idea.”
Whether regarded as satire, scandal or some combination of the two, Keating’s resemblance to O’Brien has only shed light on his natural abilities as an entertainer and fueled his desire to succeed on his own terms.
“I think it just makes me hungry for more,” Keating said. “I want to produce more stuff and get more stuff out there and really see where it could take me. My goal started out with just getting to [O’Brien], but it could go beyond that.”
Jessica Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.