Before Conan O'Brien's 28-year career in late-night TV comes to a close, Paul Rudd had to return to prank him one last time.
O'Brien, 58, will end his nightly TBS talk show on Thursday. To kick off his final week of shows, he invited "Saturday Night Live" alum Bill Hader on Monday to reflect on their time working on the long-running comedy sketch show (O'Brien was a writer from 1987 to 1991).
But their conversation was soon interrupted by a tuxedo-clad Rudd, who arrived under the guise of sharing an old clip from Hader's time on "SNL." When the video rolled, however, it was actually a bizarre snippet from the 1988 sci-fi flick "Mac and Me," a film dubbed by many news outlets at the time as an "ET" knockoff and one of the worst movies of all time. In the clip, a kid sitting in a wheelchair rolls down a hill before falling off a cliff and landing into the water, much to the shock of an onlooking alien.
"How many years has it been?" O'Brien laughed. "It's been like 25 years of you coming on the show, and you would always say 'I've got a clip,' and every time for years I was convinced I would see the real clip, because you're such a genuinely nice person. And you would say, 'No, this movie's really important to me.' … And then you pull that (expletive) every time."
Rudd told the host he "never really imagined" the bit would last more than two decades.
"I just remember thinking the first time (that) it's so artificial to come on and sell your wares and show a clip from your movie," Rudd said. "We've never talked about this really, but I thought, 'What if I show a clip from this movie I saw a long time ago that is just really strange?' "
"It's absolutely stunning," O'Brien said. "It's this crazy performance art that lasts forever."
The upcoming "Conan" finale was initially revealed last fall. Fans shouldn't worry about O'Brien disappearing, however. After "Conan" ends, the host will pivot from his current perch at TBS to a weekly variety series on HBO Max, which WarnerMedia has made a top priority. It will be "a departure" from his current talk-show format, the company says.
The November announcement capped speculation that had percolated since 2017, predating the new streaming service.
“In 1993, Johnny Carson gave me the best advice of my career: ‘As soon as possible, get to a streaming platform,’ " O'Brien joked in a statement last fall. "I’m thrilled that I get to continue doing whatever the hell it is I do on HBO Max, and I look forward to a free subscription."
O'Brien, a Harvard-educated former "Simpsons" writer, began his late-night career in the 1993 with "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." But his lifelong quest to fill "The Tonight Show" shoes of the legendary Johnny Carson proved short-lived, when NBC gave him the show, replacing Jay Leno, only to pull the rug out in January 2010. O'Brien left and landed at TBS, and is the longest-tenured late-night host.
In 2019, his show was reduced to a half-hour format, a precursor to its eventual demise, and in October he said his Los Angeles set had been burglarized. His travelogue series "Conan Without Borders" will continue as occasional specials on TBS and HBO Max.
Contributing: Gary Levin
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Conan': Paul Rudd pranks O'Brien, Bill Hader with 'Mac and Me' clip