I remember having an old tv in my room staying up late on school nights silently watching tv with my brother. We would watch the same things: Everybody Hates Chris, River Monsters, and CONAN. I don’t think this “bonding experience” lasted very long though because I eventually discovered Youtube and got all my school night procrastination there.
Conan O’Brien has just finished his third iteration of a late night talk show at TBS and is moving over to HBO sometime next year so I thought I’d share my thoughts on a person who deserves way more than a shitty blog. I will be strictly talking about his talk show stuff. Conan was my introduction to late-night television and that surprises a lot of people because both Jay Leno and, more importantly, David Letterman were still on at this point. I started watching Conan right around the time the whole late-night scandal happened. For those that don’t know, I will sum it up as quickly as I can in the next paragraph. Basically, Conan got fucked hard back in 2009 but is now easily the best late-night host. If you don’t care and just want to read me sucking Conan’s dick, you can skip the next paragraph.
In 2004, Jay Leno promised Conan his hosting spot on The Tonight Show, the biggest and most coveted late-night show (at the time). Jay Leno had been doing it for a long time and was ready to pass the torch. Conan was hosting Late Night (the show that follows The Tonight Show) at the time and was happy to be taking over for Jay Leno. In 2009 When the time came for Conan to start, the obvious backlash came due to a change in host appearances (something I can relate to after working at TFM) and so the first week or so of shows did not get good ratings. Just to be clear, these weren’t bad ratings, they were like “host change ratings”. The ratings got better as months went on but NBC (the network where all of these shows were on) never saw the ratings in a good light. Jay Leno, by the way, didn’t stop hosting. NBC liked him so much that they gave him his own show (The Jay Leno Show) earlier on in the night basically doing the same thing (monologues, interviews, guests). That show sucked because it was a late-night show that was followed by the news (usually late-night shows follow other late-night shows so you maintain the same comedic rhythm). So NBC decided to put Jay Leno back on a later time slot (remember NBC loves Jay Leno) and MOVE The Tonight Show back as well. Keep in mind, The Tonight Show has been a staple in American TV for over 60 years! It isn’t something you get to fuck with like playdoh. Yes, the hosts change but that’s only because people fucking get old and die. Moving The Tonight Show to 12:05 am means it’s not The TONIGHT Show, it’s The TOMORROW Show. So Conan said no to moving The Tonight Show and that meant he was going to get kicked out of hosting. “Well now who’s going to host The Tonight Show?” said everyone in 2009. Here’s where it gets stupid. NBC said “how bout Jay Leno? You know, the guy who just passed the torch of The Tonight Show and then tried to push it and Conan O’Brien into a black hole? Yea let’s get that guy back”. And that’s what happened. Conan hosted The Tonight Show for 7 months before he got pushed out by the man who gave it to him almost out of spite. This meant that Conan and, more importantly, the hundred or so employees he had were out of a job all because Jay Leno didn’t want his face off of TV. About 7 months later, he was given his own self-titled show: Conan on TBS which was where I mainly watched him. Then, all of the whites girls’ favorites, Jimmy Fallon, took over The Tonight Show and has had it since. That was hopefully pretty concise there’s a lot more to it than that but basically: Fuck Jay Leno.
Conan O’Brien has been a personal comedic role model of mine ever since I saw him on TV back in 2010. The main reason being, he is authentic. He isn’t like Ellen, who needs everything to be about the host. He isn’t like Jimmy Kimmel, who just sticks to the script and isn’t able to play along when a guest tries to take the joke further. And he isn’t like Jimmy Fallon, who thinks everything out of a guest’s mouth is a joke and laughs like a hyena when the guest moves their hand slightly. Conan is a master of knowing when to speak, when not to speak, and when to commit to what is happening live on television. He is the best talk show interviewer mostly because he doesn’t make it about himself and he lets the guest do and say whatever they want. This is very apparent with his interviews with Bill Burr which surprisingly got Bill Burr into the mainstream public for being a ranty “tell it like it is I don’t care what you think comedian”.
Another great guest is Norm Mcdonald. Norm at this time was and is already a comedy pioneer but just the way Norm would come on Conan and he never knew what Norm was going to say. Norm is also famous for saving interviews like when the guest Conan is talking to isn’t that good so Norm will chime in and save the day.
He was also one of the first late-night hosts to embrace Youtube or “clips”. Guest interviews on Youtube are where I’m sure we all watch these shows nowadays. No one is actually staying up to watch network television if the best bits of the show are going to be available for free the next day on Youtube. Conan embraced Youtube back in 2010 and that’s where I really watched most of his stuff. He will have videos (or remotes as they are more specifically called) where he will just walk around the office and talk to his staff about who they should fire or who is stealing office supplies and it’s the simplest yet funniest thing because everybody throws someone else under the bus.
He also would upload videos (I say “he” as if Conan was the one uploading these videos while it probably was an IT guy) of him doing remotes with celebrities like this one with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart sharing a Lyft that pair perfectly with audience appeal and his personality.
My main point is Conan knows what to do at all times. You can throw him into any situation and he will thrive. He knows when to say something that the audience is thinking and he knows when the joke should be on him and that’s why I relate to him. When I watch Conan It reminds me of being at the lunch table in high school where my whole goal was to make people laugh. I didn’t care what I had to say or what social role I had to play, I just wanted that rush of endorphins to make my sad suicidal life just a bit livable. I never stuck to one table. I had a good 3-4 that I would rotate through on purpose. When I was at one table, I was the one roasting people. When I was at another I was being roasted. I would be at a table where I played the peanut gallery and the only things out of my mouth were snarky little comments that were only heard by 3-4 people around me which made them even funnier. Conan taught me that comedy is subjective. There are different ways to make people laugh and I think Conan has been the only late-night host to cover the most.