Late Night with Conan O’Brien

It’s hard to believe that Conan O’Brien has been on for ten years! That means that his show debuted three months after my wife and I were married. In other words, that’s a long time!

I won’t pretend that I was thrilled with him as a replacement for David Letterman when he first came on. I thought he was nowhere near the caliber of Letterman. In case you were too young to or didn’t otherwise watch Letterman back then, his show was incredible! The show he hosts now is but a shadow of what it once was and Conan’s show only approximates it—though it does surpass Dave’s in some respects. If you didn’t watch it then, it’s very difficult to explain but the show was well-crafted and zany. Imagine Pea Boy romping through the audience throwing handfuls of frozen peas or a camera strapped to a monkey as it roamed briskly through the audience. The Top Ten lists were even edgier back then.

Conan, though, is great. He’s a real fine host … for me to poop on. This article about his show summarizes all of the really good things that he’s brought to the table. This interview, on the other hand, displays the clever wackiness that he exudes:

ELLE: Ever get turned on in inconvenient places?
CO: Often during the show. That’s what the desk is there for.
ELLE: Fascinating. So is that how the desk became a standard part of talk shows?
CO: Yes. If you go back and look at the earliest Tonight Shows with Steve Allen—he became aroused so much that they put a desk out there. Then they just kept the tradition.

Some of his material, though, is pretty sophomoric: the Masturbating Bear, What If They Mated, Satellite TV Guide, etc. It’s innocent in its puerility, though, and that makes it somewhat endearing. Whereas Letterman used to be cynical and sarcastic, Conan is self-deprecating and rapid-fire. Conan’s comic pedigree is far more extensive than Dave’s and his comment that he intentionally dumbs down the material is heartening—since it indicates that he could do something more witty and substantial. I look forward to that day!

In the meantime, I’ll settle for the spit-take-inducing, groan-producing, and hilarity-ensuing style of Conan O’Brien. Combined with the acerbic comedy of Robert Smigel, he’s easily the consistently funniest show on television right now.

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