As I'm writing this entry, filming of the newest and final episode of NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien is concurrently going on and may even have already wrapped up by this time. It'll be the last Late Night show ever to be hosted by the freckled, Irish, red-haired funny man, whose been a fixture of NBC's post 12:35am late night circuit since 1993 taking over for David Letterman who migrated over to CBS, and marks his ascension to an earlier time slot at 11:35pm where he'll remain as part of NBC's late night family as the new host of the historic Tonight Show replacing current host and big-chinned, unfunny windbag Jay Leno.
Now I've been a regular late night viewer for at least the last decade, tuning into the smorgasbord that TV has to offer the likes of Leno, Letterman, Kimmel and Craig(both Kilborn and now Ferguson), regularly switching back & forth between them on a nightly basis. Let's just say I'm a night person who doesn't get much sleep, 'kay?
Anyway, my favorite of all these late night programs, as you might have guessed, and the one that I think was consistently the best, has been Late Night with Conan O'Brien. I think Conan is genuinely the funniest of the hosts, and his show had by far the best writing with their offbeat brand of silly, "derivative and arbitrary" humor that has been innovating late night comedy for the last 16 years. Arbitrary? Yes, but funny as hell! What else would you call a cactus chef playing "We Didn't Start the Fire" on a flute or Fidel Castro rabbit DJ, or hilariously unpopular characters such as rejected X-Men Shoe-verine, the Fed-Ex pope, coked-up Werewolf, or the just plain disturbing Pubes.
I'm sure it'll be a great final show with more than a few surprises, perhaps appearances by popular mainstays of the show like insult comic dog extraordinaire Triumph, Pimpbot 5000, and Conan's former Late Night sidekick partner in comedy Andy Richter. But I can't help but feel really sad and dejected by the whole thing.
I remember being quite disappointed upon first hearing the news that Conan would be leaving to take over the Tonight Show, not that I didn't think he would be good for that show but moreso because he would be leaving something great behind. I know it's been Conan's aspirations for an earlier time slot and more exposure, which for that I'm happy for him, but his unique kind of zany off-the-wall comedy and New York persona worked so well in the NY-based Late Night, bringing that type of comedy to an LA setting and maintaining the same level of quality to keep it fresh, sharp and original is going to be challenging. I mean, with a more mainstream audience and an earlier family-friendly time slot, we can all say goodbye to endearing Late Night staples like the Masturbating Bear, Camel-Toe Annie, Money Shot Abe Lincoln or the Sexual Harrassing Skeleton. Sure you'll be getting a wider late night viewing audience that isn't half-asleep now, Conan, but AT WHAT COST?!!!
A very sad occasion indeed. It's the end of one era of late night comedy, and the beginning of a new. I just hope that it'll be Conan changing the Tonight Show for the better, rather than the Tonight Show changing him. I have faith in you Conan, that you'll turn that vapid, soulless, phony LA show from a wasteland of unfunny television into something worthwwhile and entertaining. I'll be watching.
In the meantime, I urge you all to go check out all things Late Night with Conan at the official NBC site
where you can see recent full episodes and a lot of classic clips from over the years.
Conan will be hosting the Tonight Show for the first time in June, while former SNLer Jimmy Fallon takes over Conan's old Late Night show next month. Question mark.......much?