Oh, Coco, say it ain’t so!

23 01 2010


Conan’s last Tonight Show

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

DISCLAIMER: I’m relating the personal angle I have on the Conan issue. I’m not taking sides on the Jay-Conan debate insofar as which host is better, which time slot is better, whether it’s better to have big hair or a big chin, whether these men are overcompensating for something, etc. I happen to be a fan of both men’s shows, but I choose to focus on Conan here. My opinions do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, their families, my family, subsidiaries, Vampire Diaries or tributaries herein or hereafter.

Last Tuesday, I wore all orange as a sort of thematically appropriate outfit (by accident, really). On Friday, I wore black.. All this weekend, I might just put that orange scarf back on as a tip of the hat to Conan O’Brien, who just finished his last show as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

The finale was touching. It started off with a monologue doing a few hits and jabs at NBC and pending unemployment, plus another one of those “draining NBC’s coffers” sketches. There was a mashup video pulling together footage of Conan running across the country with some favorite bits during the last 7 months. Tom Hanks came out with scotch for the host. Neil Young gave a touching performance of “Long May You Run.” And then Conan made a speech that almost brought tears to his eyes, and mine: “If you work really hard and you’re kind, I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.” He said cynicism is one of his least-favorite attributes and thanked the network for how they treated him. It was a very touching tribute. And then Will Ferrell was Ronnie Von Sant as he performed Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” with guest players including Beck, Ben Harper and a cowbell. Magical!

It’s surprising to me how much a stupid show like this can get me riled up, and how sad I feel now that it’s over. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard not to live vicariously through him. Especially since over the years I’ve occasionally dreamed about saying “See ya! Wouldn’t want to be ya!” to traditional jobs and even going into a comedy or writing profession of my own. It’s for that reason I’m employed in a position where at least some creative latitude and individuality is encouraged. I feel connected in some way, like I have  a stake in his success.

Or perhaps it’s because what we witnessed tonight was the unraveling of one man’s lifelong dream, played out on our television screens. With the economy as it is, lots of folks surely can relate. Or, perhaps we’ve all fallen short of our own expectations on a less-public scale in our lives and we’re now both exploring our own sense of loss and hoping to watch Conan to see if he’s got any clues on how to handle such a situation.

Or, perhaps it’s because that was a darn good show and it would be a dang shame if this man can’t find a way to get back on air.

Maybe all of these.

I was so happy when I found out that Conan was going to host the Tonight Show, although I also felt bad for Jay Leno. I waited five years to see it, and it finally happened. When that video came up and we watched Conan run, run, run from one corner of the country to the other, my heart just leapt. And now I think if I watched the same video, I would cry. I feel like I know the guy. I’ve been sitting in my pajamas, watching that guy, for 13 years going on 14. I was an eighth grader when I first started staying up late and catching glimpses of the kind of goofy Harvard-educated comic with the pompadour. Watching Conan in my formative years literally guided my career. Hearing that he wrote for the Harvard Lampoon inspired me to be a writer as well. His quirky brand of wacky humor and intellectual substance was very intriguing to me. When he got married, I was heartbroken. Other girls were thumbing through Seventeen and Tiger Beat, and I was watching Conan O’Brien. I’m pretty ridiculous, I know.

Evidence of my quasi-obsession can be found in the Angelfire homepage/Conan fan site I created for myself in the mid-1990s, The Orange Baron’s Domain. With all the style and flair of HTML 1.0, it was both my first Internet presence as well as an expression of my own absurdity. The garish orange background is gone by now but let me assure you, that was something to behold when it was fully put-together. (And you can also find my old Mock Trial questions which are tacked on there kind of oddly. That was a spare-time hobby during my junior and senior years.)

In college, I made a point to talk to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog when Presidential Debate Road Show ’04 made a stop at Arizona State University on October 13, 2004. If only the Masturbating Bear had been part of the entourage.

Nowadays, I no longer want to marry Mr. O’Brien and I have a more realistic perspective on things, *LOL* giggle giggle. But I still enjoy the show. So when I see late-night strife happening to Conan, I’m a little hurt. But that’s Show Business, as they say. I’m still a fan of Jay Leno and I’ll support his efforts, too. It’s not going to be easy for the Big-Chinned One to retake his old time slot.

I really hope that online video doesn’t completely do in this TV star. The world would be a less-interesting place without comedians like Conan doing what they do. He’s smart enough and has built up enough cred from this experience that he’ll do well wherever he goes or whatever he does. It’s an exciting but scary time in the media. We’ll see what happens when he’s allowed to talk publicly again. For now, a few months of silence and pompadour-free airwaves await us.

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One response

23 01 2010
Katie

Well put, Nicole! Really — I couldn’t have expressed it better. I think a lot of people can relate to Conan unlike other celebs, and I hope he inspires all us “young people” out there.

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