For a moment in the Holy Land, he was Conan “Roll-Brien.”
O’Brien’s visit will be included in a television special, “Conan Without Borders: Israel” on TBS Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 9 p.m.
Hani Imam, owner of Alabama — The Heart of Dixie, told Alabama NewsCenter he was surprised to see O’Brien outside his shop.
“It was sort of a slow day, and I looked at the store across the street and saw this guy who looked like Conan,” Imam said. “I came outside, and it was him, so I waved.”
When O’Brien saw the “Heart of Dixie” sign and all the Alabama football stuff for sale at Imam’s store, he went there and spent about 15 minutes with Imam.
“He was so funny. He asked me what my wife said when I told her I wanted to open a football store. I told him she said, ‘If you’ll make money, go for it,’” Imam said. “He went to Harvard, so he was giving me a hard time about going to Alabama. I told him Harvard did not have a good football team, but we do at Alabama and we keep on winning.”
Imam said there were many people with O’Brien who filled his small shop, asking him questions and telling him he could not take pictures.
“He came into the store and couldn’t believe it. He kept looking at all the Roll Tide stuff,” Imam said. “He was happy and excited. He’s very smart and quick with a joke. We kept talking back and forth. He would give me a hard time about Alabama, and I would about Harvard.
“I asked him for a joke and he said, ‘You know, Arnold (Schwarzenegger) was inspired by President Bush, who proved you can be in a successful position in this country even if English is your second language.’ I laughed so hard.”
Imam loved O’Brien being at his store. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1989 and opened his store in 1995. He’s become a popular stop for Americans who hear about him from their friends.
“Did Conan surprise me? No, not really,” Imam said. “I liked his questions: ‘Where did you live? Why didn’t you go to Harvard?’ It was a lot of fun.”
While being interviewed for this story by a reporter from Alabama, Imam was eager to change the subject.
“Are we gonna talk football or all Conan?” he asked.
What does Imam think of the team this year?
“It’s gonna be a good season,” he said. “Every day the Alabama crowd is trickling in the store. Today we had people from Huntsville and Birmingham. I am so ready for Alabama football. I was very happy the first game. It was a test. Tough team, but we beat them without a home field advantage. When you beat Florida State you have muscle.”
What would Imam want to say to Alabama coach Nick Saban?
“Oh my goodness. I would say, ‘You are doing a great job. It’s an honor to live during your legacy,’” he said. “’You’re a great man to control the kids and make winners out of them, and show them how to be a good student.’ He’s a great man. We love him. All Alabama fans love him.”
And to O’Brien?
“Conan, please send me my photos and the video,” Imam said.
Imam ended the interview the only way that seemed appropriate.