Conan O’Brien Was Asked To Monitor John Candy’s Diet When He Visited Harvard, It Did Not Go Well

One of the absolute best things about going to a large college is the number of musicians, actors, authors, politicians and various other movers and shakers that visit. Whether giving a speech, putting on a performance or dropping by for some kind of alumni event, there’s typically a steady stream of famous faces, and more often than not, a fortunate student gets to take those celebrities around. That was the case when John Candy came to Harvard in 1984, and that lucky student turned out to be Conan O’Brien. The undergraduate was asked to drive the funnyman around and was given a list of foods he could eat. It did not go well.

Conan O’Brien stopped by The Howard Stern Show earlier this week to reflect on a variety of different topics. During the conversation, the subject of John Candy came up. O’Brien was apparently a huge fan having watched his sketches on SCTV and petitioned for the school to bring him. When he did, O’Brien was put in charge of taking him around Cambridge. Candy was apparently “everything (Conan) wanted him to be” and also hungry. And not for any of the approved foods on his list.

We ended up hanging out, and what I remember most clearly is he was everything I wanted him to be. He was John Candy. He was over the top, funny all the time, called me kid… I had been given a list. He was supposed to be on a diet: the Pritikin Diet. We drive and he says, ‘Kid, let’s take a walk.’ I said, ‘Okay, Mr. Candy.’ He said, ‘John! Don’t call me Mr. Candy. I’m John.’ I’m walking along next to him and we’re roaming around Cambridge, and the first thing he does is he sees a pastry shop and he goes, ‘Let’s go, kid!’ And we go into the pastry shop and he goes, ‘I’ll have one of those, one of those, one of those, one of those.’ He starts stacking all of these different eclairs into a box…. He sees me looking at him and nudges me goes, ‘Don’t worry, kid. They’re Pritikin eclairs. (And then he laughed in an over the top way)

For those of you who are out of the loop on fad diets in the late 70s and early 80s, the Pritikin Diet was based on a best selling book by Nathan Pritikin (opens in new tab). It advised people to eat foods that were low in fat and high in fiber and to mostly avoid alcohol, red meat and processed foods. A mountain of eclairs certainly would not have qualified but John Candy was going to do what John Candy was going to do. 

The entire day was really memorable for O’Brien. It’s not often you meet your heroes, and they live up to everything you hope. It turns out, however, that it was also memorable for Candy. The story of that day at Harvard, which Conan has told a few times, made its way back to the late comedian’s family, and they remembered some photographs they found. Candy had apparently taken two pictures of O’Brien that day at Harvard. You can check one of them out below…

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In conclusion, the comedian is the absolute best. So many of the best John Candy movies are still beloved today including the funny, emotional and beautiful Planes, Trains And Automobiles, as well as the classic Uncle Buck, the latter of which apparently saw him playing a version of himself. He’s also well-remembered for key supporting roles in favorites like Home Alone, Blues Brothers and Vacation. Ryan Reynolds is currently making a documentary with Colin Hanks about the beloved funnyman, and the entire world is excited, including Candy’s children. Go ahead and eat an eclair in his honor today. It'll work with whatever diet you're on.

Mack Rawden
Editor In Chief

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.