My Life as Preparation H Raymond on ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’
If your rump is irritated, he’s the guy to call. If there’s a burning sensation in your crack, he’s got your back (literally). He’s Preparation H Raymond, a big-eared, bucktoothed angel who traverses the globe handing out Preparation H to anyone in need of hemorrhoid relief.
From 2001 to 2009, Preparation H Raymond made regular appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. While so many of Conan’s Late Night characters involved murder, mayhem and masturbation, Preparation H Raymond was a Johnny Appleseed-like creation who delighted in helping others — if mostly with their itchy butts.
The man behind the ointment, big ears and buck teeth was Brian McCann, a longtime Conan writer and also the creator of Preparation H Raymond. Below he describes how the character was born from a misguided attempt by Preparation H to get some airtime (which they would very much live to regret), Conan’s lukewarm initial reaction to the bit and how he got so Method with The Sopranos’ Lorraine Bracco that he couldn’t talk to her as anyone but Preparation H Raymond.
Scratching That Initial Itch
Preparation H Raymond was created the same way so many of my Late Night bits were — by me just being an ass around the offices at 30 Rock. Preparation H had sent a large box of samples to the show because that’s what corporations do to try to get their stuff on the air. So I was running around the office one day handing out Preparation H to people while singing a song:
I heard you’re sore and there’s something swellin’,
Raymond’s here, Raymond’s here
Just put this cream where you shouldn’t be smellin,
Raymond’s here to help
I’d done a character that looked like Preparation H Raymond a week or so earlier in a skit called “The Be Yourself Gang.” It was a really funny skit written by Tommy Blacha and Brian Reich, where members of the audience were misfits. Then I came in at the end with big ears and buck teeth and said, “We can all be the Be Yourself Gang!” When I was passing out the Preparation H, I was doing the same voice, and someone said, “You should do this on the air, and you should do it as that guy from the Be Yourself Gang.”
Itching to Get on TV
Conan first saw the bit during rehearsal, and his initial reaction to Preparation H Raymond was tentative. It was one of those things where the rest of the people at rehearsal loved it, so he said, “It’s not my favorite, but let’s go with it.”
During the show, the audience loved it. If you’re handing out free anything to the audience, it’s comedy gold. It doesn’t matter what it is. I mean, this was tubes of hemorrhoid ointment, and it was like I was Oprah handing out cars.
Preparation H Raymond appeared again just a couple of weeks later, and it became one of the longer running bits after that. I always tried not to repeat any of the lines in the song, and the longer we went, the more we’d have to stretch for a good rhyme. I remember seeing Conan behind the desk wincing as my rhymes dipped into words like “leaky” and other, almost surgically-required conditions.
It was one of my favorite things because wardrobe was involved, makeup was involved, music was involved. It was like an “everybody bands together” kind of thing. Of course, the prop department was involved too because they always went out and bought a ton of Preparation H. Because after that first box they sent, the Preparation H people never sent anymore. I’m sure they were horrified by what we’d turned their little bribe into.
In fact, after a year or two of doing the character, we reached out to Preparation H and pitched them a whole remote where Preparation H Raymond would go to the Preparation H facility. They politely turned down the request. They wanted nothing to do with Preparation H Raymond.
An Itch That Just Wouldn’t Stop
We did Preparation H Raymond for a week of shows at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. I was throwing boxes of Preparation H out into the audience, and an audience member got hit in the face with one. They complained to a reporter, and the next day in the Toronto paper there was a fairly good-sized picture of me as Preparation H Raymond with the headline “Preparation H Raymond Rubs Everyone the Wrong Way.”
Another memorable one was when Lorraine Bracco was on the show. After I did my song, Conan called me down to sit next to Lorraine. Then we did whatever we did and Conan cut to commercial. She turned to me and was really nice, saying, “That was so funny.” But I kept in character and told her, “Well, same to you. If you want any Preparation H, let me know.” Her face got all serious and she said, “Oh, you’re not going to drop it?” In the voice, I responded, “Oh, I guess not,” and walked away.
The last time I did Preparation H Raymond was during the final week of shows at Late Night, before Conan went onto The Tonight Show. We said farewell to a lot of characters that week. We did Preparation H Raymond nearly 30 times. I never thought we could do anything more than once on Late Night, and I was always surprised when things would return and do even better the next time. I liked the one-and-done thing, but when you’ve got to do five shows a week for 50 weeks a year, the trained eye is on things that you can do over and over again — like handing out hemorrhoid cream to the audience.