Yeah, I know a lot of people are on Team CoCo now–they love Conan O’Brien. I think it’s a justice issue more than anything. I watched his show every night from 1998 to 2004. Yeah, man, I was in on the old school. But no, I wasn’t an original watcher, and no, I didn’t support him on The Tonight Show, so there you go. I’m not a true fan, now am I?
I had watched it a little before then, but that’s when I watched it every single night, and if I wasn’t going to be in front of the TV at 12:35 am I taped it. Thursdays, those were his best nights. The staring contests, those were my favorite repeating bits I think. When I gave up television in 2000 (I know this is when it was, because I gave up TV at the same time I gave up sweet, sweet cigarettes), I allowed myself to turn on the television only for his show. I could watch if someone else turned it on, but I couldn’t do it myself. My friend who died this time last year, how I miss you, man, my friend Skeptic used to say, “I know the TV’s on, because Seer’s feet are three feet off the floor.” I don’t have a TV because I love it too much, not because I’m a crystal cruncher who’s too good for TV. I watch 700 Club and informercials from beginning to end. I have a problem.
What was it about the show? It was a fun balance of ridiculousness, surrealism, intelligence and idiocy. It didn’t take itself seriously. There was so much immaturity and irreverence. And at the same time, there would be strange drops of information now and again that made me connect with Conan and Andy and feel like they were people I could be friends with. Many people on television or in comedy, even if they’re really funny to me, don’t seem like people I would want to kick it with. They don’t seem amiable, or personable, or as if they enjoy what they’re doing. Some are very good at what they do, and some seem to have a need to expose themselves, or be adored, or to reveal truth to people. But not all of them seem be having a good time. Conan and Andy did. Conan invited the other people who were on stage and in the crew to be a part of the show regularly. Whether it’s true or not, he seemed to be good peeps.
And the show was a quality show. It made me laugh. I would laugh out loud at something every show, and at least once a week I would laugh so hard my stomach would hurt. That’s hard to find in a television show. It was a real escape from my circumstances, which is what I crave in all my entertainment.
He wasn’t that strong an interviewer, but none of the late night hosts are. Not since Dick Cavett–a man I never had the pleasure of watching live, and discovered for myself only recently. Shows today have too short of segments for real interviews, and hosts don’t ask deep or probing questions. Instead, it’s promotion for projects, and that’s fine. I don’t think most audiences want real interviews. Conan rarely seemed to be taking advantage of his guests, and I’ve seen other hosts do that repeatedly. He didn’t seem to be a predator or a douchebag. I think some people dig that, because they think that it gets to the meat of the matter, but I’d press you to watch the difference between Cavett and Howard Stern. There’s nothing wrong with polite and gentle confrontation. Being an asshole doesn’t mean that you’re getting better information. Act like a dick toward me and I’ll get defensive, even if we’re talking about the weather; doesn’t mean I’m hiding something. It just means I don’t like you or your behavior. Some people tell me they like Charlie Rose, and I think he gets good guests and asks some good questions, but I think he interrupts them far too often when they’re getting to the good stuff. Let them talk, man. Bill Moyers isn’t bad either, but I have the same quibble. The only interviewer (and she’s not purely an interviewer) who I’ve seen write questions while in action is Rachel Maddow. She’s the only one I’ve seen who seems to be changing direction midstream. Terry Gross is good, but she doesn’t think the same way I do, so she isn’t going to follow the same lines people are laying down that I would follow.
Anyways. I was talking on Conan. He was different. He was on late, so he could do what he wanted. (David Letterman was weirder when he had that show, too, to be sure.) He was “meta” before people were using that word, and self-referential. No, he wasn’t the only person who’s ever done that. It still felt fresh, though.
I haven’t watched his new show on the TBS. I’ve watched a couple of bits. He’s older now, and seems a bit jaded by everything that’s happened to him. On the one hand, he seems free again, but on the other, wiser. Sadder. You can’t go home again. You can’t forget. People on comment boards and in blogs and things want him to be 35 again and want it to be 1998, but he isn’t and it isn’t and things have changed. I don’t know if this is the show he should be doing, but I don’t know anything. I don’t know his life. I just remember ten years ago watching a randy Superman pull Clark Kent by the tie into a cardboard phone booth and watching it rock back and forth repeatedly. That is burned in my brain forever. That’s what I think about when I think about being in love with Late Night with Conan O’Brien. That and watching him cry the night Andy left. That’s what it was: it was sincerely, wholeheartedly, insanely fun.
I miss that.
Someone thinks this is the best of Late Night. I think this is all from the ten-year special.
Conan thinks this is the best thing he’s done on Late Night. From 2/20/2009.
Stackenblocken: the hit German game show!
The Walker, Texas Ranger Lever. Not my favorite, but no one has the boy/bookshelf without remixing, at least that I can find.
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog versus the Star Wars geeks at the premier of Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. It’s one of the funniest things ever and also painfully embarrassing.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.
Conan gets a sandwich named after him at the Stage Deli. From 2001. Yes, there are waiters who take their jobs this seriously in New York.
Conan and Andy selling ice cream. (The last few words from Andy made me love him so much that day...).
Placating an angry Yanni fan in 1/1998.
Andy’s little sister comes to visit in 1998 to celebrate Conan’s 35th birthday! Amy Poehler would come by every nine months or so as this character.
This is from the Tonight Show! His 1992 Taurus versus the 2010 Ford Taurus.