The Conan I love is the one who is irreverent, loose, and unpredictable. At his best, he presides over inspired anarchy. What I disliked most about his move from late night to THE TONIGHT SHOW was that it felt more conventional. To broaden his appeal he toned down the lunacy (until the end of course, when he just didn’t give a shit). I always assumed that was a mandate from the network.
And so I was hoping when he relocated to basic cable that he’d throw off the shackles and really go for it. And maybe he still will. It was just his first night. Also, I assume the amped up nervous energy will dissipate once he settles in and realizes he’s on the same network that reruns sitcoms literally twenty hours a day. He’s on the ACCORDING TO JIM station.
Like I said, the opening film showing his journey from NBC to TBS was funny. Loved the interview with Don Draper. And the opening monologue made me laugh a lot. A few NBC shots but not belabored. This was my favorite:
But the weird thing is this: I put myself and my staff through a lot because I refused to go on at midnight. So I get this job at eleven. Then, yesterday, Daylight Savings Time ended --- so right now it’s basically midnight. In fact, it’s 12:05. I’m an idiot!
I laughed out loud (which is one time more than I think I ever did during a Jay Leno monologue).
The schmooze-at-the-desk-with-Andy segment also had its moments. The “Ex-Talk Show Host” mask was a riot. And you can never go wrong with a Ricky Gervais bit.
But then came the guests. Here’s where the show crashed and burned. Conan is clearly uncomfortable in the role of straight man/interviewer. He goes from being a gifted comedian to a census taker at the end of a twelve hour shift. And his first two guests didn’t help. Seth Rogen (sporting his new Mark Feuerstein look) was painful. He shared the hilarious story of proposing to his wife while she was topless. And he managed to get in the word “titties”, too! Nicely turned, Mr. Rogen. Then he promoted a movie that doesn’t come out for two months.
Up next was Lea Michele from GLEE, yammering about her father not thinking she could sing at age eight. At that point Conan himself looked like he wanted to change the channel to see what Colbert was doing.
Things improved in the two-minute musical segment with Jack White, mostly because Conan participated. The fact that he can play an instrument and sort of carry a tune makes him unique among talk show hosts. Anything Coco can do to distinguish himself is a plus. Instead of robotically feeding Lea Michele questions it would have been fun if Conan had tried to sing with her. With Seth Rogen, I don’t know what you do.
Practically all of the laughs this first night came from Conan’s career turmoil. Very funny, yes. But it’s time to move on. You’ve got a good job. Jeff Zucker is out of work. Jay is losing to Dave. On to the next great masturbating bear.
So stop downing 5 Hour Energy Drinks as if they were shots of tequila, let Seth Rogen hawk his crap on LOPEZ TONIGHT, and be that crazy goofy guy I first met in the SIMPSONS writing room that I thought was so enormously talented and disturbed.