NBC purchases HornyManatee.com

By on April 22, 2007

The skit, as scripted for the Dec. 4 installment of “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” was about absurdist college sports mascots that the host and his writers would like to see someday.

Among them were “the Boise State Conjoined Vikings,” who had been born locked at the horns, as well as something Mr. O’Brien called “the Webcam manatee” — said to be the mascot of “F.S.U.” — which was basically someone in a manatee costume rubbing himself or herself provocatively in front of a camera (to the tune of the 1991 hit “I Touch Myself”). Meanwhile a voyeur with a lascivious expression watched via computer.

Who knew that life would soon imitate art.

At the end of the skit, in a line Mr. O’Brien insists was ad-libbed, he mentioned that the voyeur (actually Mark Pender, a member of the show’s band) was watching www.hornymanatee.com. There was only one problem: as of the taping of that show, which concluded at 6:30 p.m., no such site existed. Which presented an immediate quandary for NBC: If a viewer were somehow to acquire the license to use that Internet domain name, then put something inappropriate on the site, the network could potentially be held liable for appearing to promote it.

“We didn’t want to take it out,” Mr. Ross said yesterday, “so we bought it.”

In explaining to the audience the next night what he and his writers had done, Mr. O’Brien marveled, “For $159, NBC, the network that brought you ‘Meet the Press,’ Milton Berle and the nation’s first commercial television station became the proud owner of www.hornymanatee.com.”

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