Conan O’Brien and the Evolution of “Coco”

by | January 22, 2010 at 11:25 AM | TV News

How exactly did the “Coco” phenomenon begin?

The ‘I’m With COCO’ campaign has become a hit on the web, with supporters of Conan O’Brien using Facebook and Twitter to protest NBC giving the ‘Tonight Show‘ back to Jay Leno.

Street protests have also been staged in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, where Conan fans have stormed NBC affiliates nationwide, spray painting their hair red, wearing Conan masks and holding up “I’m With Coco” signs to show their solidarity with the host.

TheWrap has traced the origin of the “Coco” meme back to a ‘Tonight Show’ episode from 2009. During a “Twitter Tracker” segment, the loud announcer called Conan his “bro,” visibly annoying the host.

“Don’t call me Bro!” said a lighthearted Conan. “And don’t call me Coco!”

“Bro’s a No No for CoCo?” responded the announcer.

During that same episode, Tom Hanks later used the pseudonym again. “We were the second crowd on the ‘Coco Christopher’ show,” he joked, using Conan’s middle name. “No Coco Christopher,” responded the host. “I don’t want that to be my handle out here.”

The image that accompanies the “I’m With Coco” campaign features a red-haired Conan O’Brien standing proudly in front of an American flag. Artist Mike Mitchell, who created the image, is still surprised by the reaction his project drew but hopes that his rendition of the host helps the embattled late-night comedian.

“If I didn’t make a single buck off this I’d be okay,” he said to the Village Voice. “I hope that in the end it helps Conan get what he wants.”

O’Brien’s last ‘Tonight Show’ appearance is tonight, where one of his guest will be – fittingly – Tom Hanks.

Jay Leno returns as host of ‘The Tonight Show’ on March 1st.