A few weeks back I had a bit of a writer’s conundrum:
While scratching my head for post ideas, I came across a subject that I thought I could write passionately and with a great deal of knowledge. And when you’re forcing yourself into writing 500 words on Maroon 5, that’s generally a good thing.
The problem is, I didn’t want to write it.
The aforementioned column was going to be, for lack of a better, less dark term, a eulogy for Conan O’Brien as a Late Night host.
Conan has always been a hero of mine. In a classic case of me over-thinking a silly subject, I was once asked to select two people to have dinner with. It took me a week. I knew Conan was one of them within five minutes of being asked*.
I’ve been watching Conan since his third season when I was eleven years old**. Before that, I had been exposed to his work on The Simpsons where he was credited for writing two of my favorite episodes ever, ‘Monorail’ and ‘Homer Goes To College’***.
His Late Night show, particularly earlier on, was nothing short of incredible.
Four nights a week, without any real guidelines, Conan presented his audience with some of the most hilarious, off the wall, and completely a head of its time comedy.
The deficiencies he had in his monologue were constantly made up by what are still some of the funniest sketches I’ve ever seen: Help With Your Heart, Dudez A Plenti ,Apple Picking with Mr. T , Andy singing “I’ll Make Love To You” , Conan’s trip to Houston , Conan Playing Old Time Baseball , and alternate channel Stachenblachen just to name a few (and these are literally coming off the top of my head).
The Leno debacle ended up affecting me probably more than it should. I met the news with a mixture of anger and sadness, as to me it was everything that was wrong with comedic television: The innovative host who was shooting wax-Tom Cruise out of a cannon was being replaced by the one comic in the world who still makes Monica Lewinski jokes.
He left NBC with a series of stop-what-you’re-doing type of shows; In the proccess restoring his confidence, and gaining an edge I’d never seen.
Which is why the news about the TBS show was so exciting. I had assumed he’d return with a bite, coming back in what Bill Simmons refers to as ‘F-U Mode’: A desire to prove the people that doubted him were fools, and to show everyone why he’s a once in a generation kind of talent.
But that’s not how he came back. He returned with what came off as complacency. He was the host of a low-budget talk show, and that’s how he acted. As if what he did just didn’t quite matter to the degree that it once did.
The show started off fine, but since December it had been getting worse and worse and worse as the show seemed to get lazier and lazier.
That’s a problem for Conan, because he’s not the most skilled comic. He’s also not wired like David Letterman, who can just kinda show up, be David Letterman and be funny. He relies on a great deal of effort, mixed with his**** writing skills and charm. And when that’s not there, the show becomes a bit of a bore.
And this is where my original article would point out that I kinda got it. Conan, Andy and his writing staff are unquestionably older. They have families now, and I’m sure priorities have accordingly changed.
As a fan I understand the reasons for the change, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t dissapointed.
But then, and I don’t know why, things changed. ‘Conan’ is kinda back.
His last few weeks have been a refreshing change. We’ve been met with some pretty hilarious moments:Conan at Comic Con , Mrs. Buttersworth: The Movie, Conan’s Car Pool , Super Dave Osborne Stand Up and his looks into Captain America (which has kind of surfaced as his TBS equivalent of the Walker Level) combined with mimicking ET host Billy Bush’s “Looks gooooood!” all stand out as exceptional comedy pieces. It’s the return of the effort from the man that many of us adore so greatly.
Maybe not stop what you’re doing stuff, but certainly very funny stuff in a style that you won’t see anywhere else.
And again; I don’t know what sparked the revival, but it’s been a welcomed.
And hopefully its this Conan, the one so many of us adore, who is here to stay.
Editor’s Note: This was written months ago on a different site. Since then it has become clear that extremely poor performance may’ve put some fuel into Conan’s fire.
*Charles Barkley was the other.
** With almost zero exceptions, literally every night in the summer and with some frequency during the school year. I’ve always had a passion for staying up late and eating Elio’s.
*** It’s believed that he had a great influence on many other episodes seasons 3-5, but due to certain writers guild regulations he’s still not able to speak freely about them.
**** And his writers’