Conan O’Brien took time out this evening on Conan to remember longtime NBC late-night executive Rick Ludwin, who died Sunday in Los Angeles at age 71.
Ludwin was famously known around the network for championing Seinfeld when it was a struggling comedy. He also worked in late-night at the network from the Johnny Carson through the Jimmy Fallon eras of The Tonight Show.
On tonight’s episode of his TBS late-night show, O’Brien said Ludwin was always supportive when the comedian was with NBC — from the time he worked on Late Night with Conan O’Brien to his brief stint as Tonight host.
“In 1993, when I took over the late-night show — it was a long time ago — but I had a very rocky start,” O’Brien recalled. “Pretty much everyone at the network thought that I should be canceled, but one executive disagreed and that was Rick Ludwin. Rick actually came to many of our early shows and watched what we were doing.”
O’Brien said Ludwin was “brutally honest,” but fair.
“He also saw that there was a lot of value to what we were trying to do. He was a generous laugher when we had something good. Rick argued passionately for me with the network and he helped keep me on the air for those first two years,” O’Brien explained.
The comedian added that Ludwin continued to support him when he made the transition from Late Night to Tonight.
“Sixteen years later, during the Tonight Show fiasco, Rick stuck by me again, even though he was putting his own job at risk,” O’Brien said. “After I ended up here at TBS, Rick was a regular visitor and he remained a loyal friend to our show.”
At the end of his remarks, O’Brien asked the studio audience to give his friend a round of applause.
Ludwin joined NBC in 1980 and remained with the network until retiring in 2011.
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