When sophomore Lindsey Button found an email from late-night host Conan O’Brien’s “Team Coco” in her inbox late one night, no one was more surprised than she was.
The request was even more astonishing.
Team Coco asked for a portrait of O’Brien Button had done in high school art class more than a year ago, to be shown at the Time Warner Center in New York City, the skyscraper home of CNN studios and on “Conan,” the flame-haired talk show host’s nightly show.
“I remember the first time I actually watched Conan,” Button said. “I was 12 years old, and I stayed up late one night with my sister. We saw him do his string dance, and we were like, ‘This guy is hilarious!’ We’re both huge fans.”
When a portrait project on a figure in popular culture came up in her high school art class, Button knew exactly who to do. She made the portrait of O’Brien out of construction paper, drawing it first and then cutting different shapes to form his well-known pasty features. She got an “A” on the project and put it to the back of her mind.
Her work stayed there until O’Brien exited “The Tonight Show” only months after being promoted to the NBC cornerstone program. After his departure, support from his fans poured into every outlet available. Since Button had painted her portrait only a few months before, she was one of the first fans to respond.
“The first time I sent a picture of the piece in to Team Coco was when ‘I’m with Coco’ started. They started up a Flickr page before he even had his website and started asking people to send in their art,” Button said. “I thought, ‘Well hey, I have this picture.’”
Button’s portrait was one of the first entries in an online collection that grew to nearly 1,000 pieces. Of these, Button’s portrait was chosen as one of 50 to hang in the Time Warner Center as part of the “COCO MoCA: The Museum of Conan Art” show. Her piece was shown along with more than 50 others when a week of New York City-based episodes of O’Brien’s talk show began to air.
O’Brien viewed the COCO MoCA gallery while visiting New York City, and glimpses of Button’s piece showed up in videos on CNN as well as on his TBS program.
Button isn’t an art major, but as an English major, she’s considered other ways she might work with O’Brien.
“ I love comedy, and I have a huge respect for comedy,” she said. “I’ve thought about interning for him, and there was a time when I wanted to do television writing, but now I’m not sure how much I’d wanna do that.”
Even if she’s not penning his latest jokes –she’s more interested in writing novels– Button remains a big fan of O’ Brien and his show, saying the newest incarnation is the best yet.
“There’s no talk-show host that inspires the kind of creativity that Conan does,” she said.
For Button, this creativity has taken a whole new meaning.