In the Paley Library on the Fourth Floor
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The Paley Center for Media in New York
25 West 52 Street, New York
25 Years of Conan Commercial Bumpers
In broadcasting, a “bumper” is a brief interval leading from a TV program into or out of a commercial break. It typically features a still or moving image and identifies the program and network.
In 1993, graphic artist Kevin Frank began creating bumpers for Late Night with Conan O’Brien, taking the form to a new level. Incorporating a wide range of pop culture imagery, visual jokes, or homages to art history, the bumpers became a signature element of Conan’s brand.
“When the show first started, fellow artist Doug Zider and I took a very basic approach to making bumpers,” says Frank. “The writers provided movie stills or other well-known photos that we manipulated in Photoshop, replacing actors’ heads with Conan’s. Over time, the process evolved into using more complex and diverse imagery that spoke directly to our viewing audience.
“It was a dream job for me, as I always loved watching Johnny Carson and David Letterman, and their shows’ bumpers were my inspiration.
“I also had the privilege of working with gifted NBC graphic artists Marty Geller and Mike Collins, who created a number of Late Night bumpers that are included in the Paley Center’s presentation.
“After relocating to LA for The Tonight Show, I worked with veteran photographer Paul Drinkwater. Paul and I went out regularly to shoot iconic LA scenes that I then used for the new show.”
Conan on TBS came next, with Frank producing over 300 bumpers. In early 2019, the show was reduced to a half-hour format, and with new budget constraints the bumpers landed on the cutting-room floor. “It was an amazing run,” says Frank. “I couldn’t have asked for a better creative experience as an artist and a late-night TV fan.”
Over the years, Frank has created more than 700 bumpers for Conan—from Late Night with Conan O’Brien to the Tonight Show and Conan on TBS.
Bumper to Bumper: 25 Years with Conan includes a selection of Frank’s personal favorites.