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Conan O'Brien wrestles Marine in Kuwait

16 May 2003 | Cpl. Jeff Hawk

Conan O'Brien's unruly red mop may not meet military regulations, but the comedian's unruly behavior met with howls and cheers from Marines he visited here May 16.

Two minutes after entering a cammie-netted arena, the feisty "Late Night" host stripped off his shirt and engaged in a push-up competition with a Marine he plucked from the audience of roughly 2,500. The towering carrot-top kept up with the Marine push-up for push-up but found himself on the losing end of a wrestling match after he unexpectedly lunged for his worthy rival.

The crowd loved the shenanigans; O'Brien expressed his appreciation for the Marines and sailors serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Everyone is honored and thrilled by how well you're all doing over here," said O'Brien.

Arriving by U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter, O'Brien had the opportunity to survey the U.S. forces' massive military encampments and equipment yards. "To see the size and the scope of what [U.S. forces] are capable of is awe-inspiring," said O'Brien.

The living conditions endured by Marines and sailors in Kuwait is "still better than what you can get for a thousand bucks in Manhattan," he joked.

O'Brien planned to visit U.S. troops months ago, but when the war commenced, visitation by celebrities ended. Opportunity knocked again and O'Brien answered, taping two "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" shows Wednesday so that he could make the visit.

The oversized leprechaun brought his razor-sharp wit with him. "Are you guys from Providence?" he yelled to a group of Marines holding a sign that read "Providence." The recognition generated a burst of howls from the Marines, which O'Brien quickly quelled by saying "I'm sorry to hear that."

"He didn't hold back; he's really funny," said Lance Cpl. Travis Conner, 23, a construction engineer with Bridge Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, from Mobile, Ala.

"He's hilarious," agreed Navy Lt. Noelle Colletta, an operating room nurse with Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, Calif.

O'Brien and his "insulting dog" puppet posed with Colletta and every other Marine and sailor attending the event. He also signed shirts, boonie covers, American flags and even a poster image of Saddam Huessien.

The visit to Camp Matilda topped off O'Brien's whirlwind Kuwaiti tour, which included stops at several other camps. O'Brien plans to use some of the footage from his trip on upcoming "Late Night" segments.


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