An Oral History of Mick Ferguson’s Bulletproof Legs from ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’

An Oral History of Mick Ferguson’s Bulletproof Legs from ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’

There are lots of reasons to get cosmetic surgery. Some people opt for a smaller nose or bigger calves, but in the case of Mick Ferguson, all he wanted was bulletproof legs. Whatever peril befell Ferguson before feeling the need to get bulletproof legs remains a mystery, but what is known is that in 1998, Mick Ferguson was so proud of his enhancement that he burst onto the set of Late Night with Conan O’Brien in tiny gym shorts to dance a can-can and gleefully sing about his upgrade:

Oh I’ve got bulletproof legs 
I’ve got bulletproof legs 
Oh you can’t hurt me 
‘Cuz I have bulletproof legs!

Suddenly, Ferguson noticed an ominous, leather-clad figure at the other end of the stage. To his credit, he kept right on singing in the face of such danger.

They cost me a fortune but you don’t— 

BANG! The mysterious man took out a revolver and blasted Ferguson in the chest. Blood exploded from Ferguson’s body, and he fell to the ground, seemingly dead.

But despite a complete lack of bulletproof-ery in his torso, Ferguson somehow survived and returned to Late Night several more times. And on every occasion, the same man blew him away with a shot to the heart.

The sketch starred Brian McCann as Mick Fergusion and Brian Stack as the mysterious stranger, two highly prolific Conan writers who worked with O’Brien during all three of his late-night shows. I reached out to both of them to learn more about the unkillable Mick Ferguson and how the only thing he couldn’t survive was when NBC took aim at him.

Brian McCann, writer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien: The way “Bulletproof Legs” came about was similar to many other bits — just me goofing around in the office. I showed up to work in shorts one day, so I was showing off my gams. I was just messing around and started singing that song off the top of my head. Stack was sitting in the office as I was singing it, and he pretended to shoot me in the chest. Then someone said, “Let’s put that on the show!” 

Brian Stack, writer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien: I remember things slightly differently. I thought it was kind of a fun accident where I was sitting next to McCann, waiting for a writer’s meeting and I mimed a gun and pretended to shoot him in the leg. Then he started singing that his legs were bulletproof, so I brought the gun up to his heart, shot him, and he fell off the chair, dead. It was really funny, and I think we did it the very next day.

McCann: The first one worked really well, but I was never one to think we could do anything more than once. But this was short, quick and repeatable. You could do it again by having the same set-up, where Stack is at the end of the stage, but then I argue with Conan about it: “Why is that guy here again?” Conan would go, “Oh, don’t worry about him. We talked to him, it’s going to be okay. We want to hear the whole song this time.” We did it five times. Each time I got out another lyric, but never to completion. You never knew where I was going with it.

Stack: I so enjoyed being the shooter in that. I’m so the opposite of a badass that it was fun to put on a leather jacket and be an Irish gangster for a second.

McCann: I’m a big fan of stage blood, and our special effects guy, John Greenfield, would always work with me. I’d ask him to make as much blood as possible. I had a trigger in my left hand, and I always set it off. In one of them, I asked him to double up the blood, and Max Weinberg got really upset because, when I set it off, some of it had gotten onto Max — you could see him with blood on his face during the bumper.

Stack: One time we got a note from the network saying that there was way too much blood. Even after he was dead, the blood kept pumping out of him. It was incredibly violent.

McCann: They got a bit crazier as they went on. In the last one we did, I had a baboon heart. We were going to do it one more time, and during rehearsal, Jeff Ross, the executive producer, said, “It’s cut.”

Later on, I got a fuller explanation from head writer Mike Sweeney. He said that we couldn’t do it anymore because the network thought the sketch was promoting violence against homosexuals. They assumed, I guess because the way I was doing it, that my character was homosexual. Now, there had been some high-profile attack on a homosexual guy that had been in the news at the time, and I guess they linked it to that. But I remember being shocked by their reasoning and that they somehow connected it to that.

Stack: Oh my god, really? The network thought that? I never heard that before! Mick always struck me as completely asexual. 

Honestly, there are jokes I look back on now from those days that I do think were genuinely homophobic, like jokes about Siegfried & Roy and things like that. I would never write those jokes today, and I look back at them with genuine regret. But in that case, there was no kind of sexuality to Mick Ferguson at all. If anything, it seems more offensive for them to assume he was gay. That was just Brian McCann being his wonderful, goofy self.

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