Paul Rudd walked so Rick Astley could roll.
Long before Rickrolling — that is, tricking people into watching a video of Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up — became the internet’s favorite eyerollingly repetitious joke, national treasure Rudd was cementing his legacy as one of Conan O’Brien’s greatest guests.
As O’Brien’s TBS talk show inches toward its final episode on June 24, Rudd popped back for one last surprise visit, taking one more opportunity to roll out perhaps the most enduring and endearing running gag of the host’s nearly three-decade career — and that’s really saying something on a show that saw a masturbating bear win over viewers’ hearts.
For the final gag — Ruddroll? — Rudd emerged mid-interview to interrupt guest Bill Hader, who was regaling O'Brien with a story about a botched SNL sketch co-starring Rudd. After some bickering about what really happened in the sketch, Rudd reveals that he has footage to prove he was right… and, of course, reveals a clip from the 1988 movie featuring a wheelchair-bound boy rocketing off a cliff. Just like he always does.
Rudd's gag is, against all odds, funny every single time. You see it coming a mile away. It's the sort of so-funny-because-it's-not-funny trolling that it hits regardless of how many times you've seen it.
"Every time, for years, I was convinced that I would see the real clip because you are genuinely a nice person," O'Brien says. "And you would say, 'this movie is really important to me' and 'I put my own money into this, and I really care about this,' and then you'd pull that shit every time."
The gag goes all the way back to 2004, when Rudd appeared on Late Night claiming to have a clip from the Friends series finale, making yesterday's final Ruddroll all the more timely given we're talking about the Friends reunion ad nauseam.
Rudd has repeated the gag every time he's appeared for nearly 20 years, whether promoting his Marvel movies, Anchorman or his Netflix movie Living With Yourself… each time, he gets O'Brien to let his guard down, then strikes. Sometimes it's in the middle of another scene. Sometimes it's repeated throughout the interview. No matter what form it takes, it sends tears streaming down the host's face.
Interestingly, Rudd's first Mac & Me gag predates the first Rickroll by a solid two years. And while there's no evidence that the Rickroll was directly inspired by Rudd's shenanigans, this video points to a connection between the two that's undeniable.
Conan's last episode airs June 24 on TBS.
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