Conan O’Brien on Ros na Rún review: Comedian finds his niche as a disappointed Irish-American balloon-seller

Television: TG4 has delivered a nice cameo moment in an otherwise wild show

Conan O'Brien on Ros na Rún: his Irish only really falls down when he says 'balloon'. Photograph: TG4

RTÉ was at its toe-curling worst during an appearance on the Late Late Show by Irish-American comedian Conan O’Brien last January, during which he was invited to laugh at Irish pronunciations. “I wonder why that language went away,” he exclaimed when invited to wrap his vocal cords around Bláthnaid, Caoilfhionn and others. He seemed well-intentioned – but why was the national broadcaster making a punchline out of Irish names?

In the course of that interview, O’Brien explained he was in Ireland to shoot an episode of his HBO Max travel show, Conan O’Brien Must Go. The instalment is largely what you’d expect of an Irish-American in the old country: he has a baffled encounter with a black pudding and sings Danny Boy. But he also has a cameo on Irish-language soap opera Ros Na Rún (TG4, Tuesday, 8.30pm), where he is credited as “Fear na mBalún”.

He arrives a few minutes into the half-hour instalment, becoming the latest celebrity to appear on the Connemara-set series, following Stephen Fry and Nathan Carter. It’s a broad performance – he’s supposed to be delivering balloons for a fundraiser that evening, but nobody has told grumpy barman Tadhg Ó Direáin (Macdara Ó Fatharta), who refuses to pay for the items.

US comedy giant Conan O’Brien declares Ireland ‘quite the ride... for a ginger’Opens in new window ]

Conan O’Brien ar dhráma teilifíse TG4 Ros na RúnOpens in new window ]

O’Brien seems vaguely aware of what he is saying – his delivery of “airgead” is passable, while his US twang only really comes through when he says “balloon”.


If you didn’t recognise the former talkshow host, you might wonder where TG4 had sourced an Irish-speaker with an American accent. However, he does not disgrace himself in his exchange with Tadhg. Should the comedy dry up, he has found his niche as a disappointed Irish-American who has gone into the party treat business.

Conan O'Brien gets language lessons on the Ros na Rún set. Photograph: TG4

“I don’t know which had more hot air, the balloons or the ginger man,” notes the barman after his exit. In fact, O’Brien is relatively understated and appears to have left his Boston Irish blarney, such as it is, back at the hotel.

He does not feature again in the instalment, which brims with the bonkers plot lines that are a Ros Na Rún signature. One story concerns a woman spiking a man’s coffee with fentanyl and then suggesting they have a romp in his van (he passes out mid-tumble); in another, an older gent is accused of sleeping around.

It’s wild, and the heightened air is a perfect fit for O’Brien’s cameo (he worked with linguistics coach Kevin Hussey to ensure he got his lines down). Anyone tuning in especially to see him might be underwhelmed – he comes and goes in a blink. Still, it’s a nice moment – and well done to TG4 for making it happen.