After Conan O’Brien jokingly criticized a local company’s T-shirt on his show, its owner went above and beyond to make sure the talk show host would approve of his next design.
During a recent episode of his self-titled talk show, “Conan,” the Brookline native sported a T-shirt with the Zakim Bridge on it from Sully’s Brand, a Boston sports apparel company based in Peabody. The company, which hasn’t been able to manufacture new shirts during the coronavirus pandemic, has been selling “mystery packages” of its existing T-shirts, and sent one to O’Brien in the hopes that he would wear it on his show.
Rather than give a simple thank-you, O’Brien complained in mock indignation that Sully’s had sent him a T-shirt featuring a landmark built “15 years after I left Boston.”
“This doesn’t at all remind me of my childhood,” O’Brien said. “I never saw this bridge growing up. You want to remind me of my childhood, make a shirt that shows my father knocking a hot dog out of my hand because Jim Rice dropped a fly ball.”
Rather than accept the backhanded compliment and move on, Sully’s founder Chris Wrenn jumped into action.
“I woke up at 7:30 that day, and by 9, I was on the phone with a Fenway Park caricature artist who had been on my radar that I had never worked with before, Mike Horvarth,” Wrenn said.
Within 24 hours, Horvath sent Wrenn a drawing that fit O’Brien’s joke to a tee: a young O’Brien, dismayed after his father has knocked a hot dog out of his hand, while Rice, the Hall of Fame left fielder, drops a fly ball in the background.
On last Tuesday’s show, O’Brien brought out the new shirt.
“God bless you, Sully’s,” O’Brien said. “Nothing says ‘My childhood in Boston’ more than this. Quick side note for legal reasons — I don’t want to be sued by my father — he never knocked a hot dog out of my hand. But it’s something he could have done.”
Wrenn said that he was amazed by the host’s support.
“We’ve been tagged and linked in all of their social media postings, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram,” Wrenn said. “If you go to the Team Coco Instagram, it links directly to our store, and they were commenting with links to our store.”
O’Brien isn’t the only celebrity who has rocked a Sully’s shirt recently. Ben Affleck was spotted by paparazzi wearing a Believe in Boston shirt from Sully’s after getting locked out of his home with girlfriend Ana de Armas.
Wrenn said that the support of O’Brien and Affleck — who first wore a Sully’s shirt in the 2010 movie “The Town” — was hugely significant. The company makes much of its revenue selling merchandise on game days outside Fenway Park and TD Garden, and has had to lay off or reduce hours for employees during the pandemic.
“They know that we’re a small business — right now it’s literally just me packing orders — but it was very unexpected,” Wrenn said. “They were very generous, and it was greatly appreciated.”