Conan O'Brien Revives That Old Rumour About Richard Gere and Gerbils

"There was talk of gerbils"

BY Alex HudsonPublished Aug 9, 2023

A universal elder millennial experience is growing up with the urban legend involving Richard Gere and the niche sexual practice of gerbilling. Now, the story is back, and it's all thanks to Conan O'Brien.

Back in the spring, O'Brien told a story on his podcast Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend about the time Mickey Rooney appeared on his late-night show in 1993. During that appearance, Rooney was trying to remember Gere's name, and he said, "There was talk of gerbils," sending O'Brien and sidekick Andy Richter into hysterics.

Since O'Brien told that story in the spring, "There was talk of gerbils" has turned into something of a catchphrase for his podcast. It's become something that fans say to Conan in public as a way to identify themselves as listeners, and the host is now reflecting on his role in re-popularizing this old rumour.

On the August 7 episode of Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend (with guest Matthew Rhys), co-host Sona Movsesian asked Conan, "How do you feel about resuscitating a 30-year-old rumour about a beloved actor? He's pretty beloved, and obviously never coming on this podcast."

Conan denied responsibility for bringing the urban legend back, but Movsesian argued, "People googled that rumour after they listened to that segment and they're like, 'What?! Richard Gere did what?!'"

Conan acknowledged that younger listeners might not know about the story, and podcast audio engineer Eduardo said that he had never heard it before. (Case in point — of the six people logged into Exclaim!'s Slack as of this writing, three previously knew the story, and three didn't.)

"There's a whole generation of people now who know that rumour because of you specifically," Movsesian said. "You're ruining Richard Gere's career and reputation."

Conan took pains to say that the urban legend was "the stupidest untrue rumour in the history of show business" — but the damage has already been done, since now everyone at the Exclaim! office knows about it.

Watch Conan and his co-hosts discuss Gere and the gerbil below.

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