This isn’t Cigar Fancy magazine. I don’t need to rehash the entire drama of the Late Night Wars of 2010 as a preamble to talking about last night’s Conan O’Brien live show at Radio City Music Hall. We all know how those Late Night Wars of 2010 turned out. We were there. But, I will take a brief moment to remind everyone how we all (or how we many) felt at the end of the Late Night Wars of 2010, after Conan O’Brien nobly ceded his still newly assumed role as host of the Tonight Show to egomaniacal denim-skinned greed monster, Jay Leno. If you will recall, the Internet stood in almost uniform support of the absurdist comedian talk show host, who seemed to have been rudely forced out of his dream job by a collection of money-hungry corporate automatons with their robot chicken heads cut off, scrambling to make the “best” out of a situation they had themselves made the worst. Whether or not their strategy made sense from a business perspective, it landed as an insult to and refutation of the millions of pale, shivering, white nerds who had found a kindred spirit in Conan O’Brien, despite the fact that his job had always been, ultimately, to sell advertising space on a major television network that has been owned for a quarter century by General Electric, who funnel that money into the global war machine. (BUT THAT IS FOR ANOTHER REVIEW.) I was right there with everyone. I watched Conan O’Brien every night in college, when I was at an age where watching Conan O’Brien every night seemed like a reasonable thing to do with one’s time. And I found the end results of the Late Night Wars 2010 to be a disheartening confirmation of this country’s/world’s enthusiastic embrace of aggressive mediocrity. Team Conan O’Brien! His Internet support was like the campaign to get Betty White to host Saturday Night Live, except with an actual purpose and understandable motivations and without a lick of irony.

And it is in light of this collective outpouring of excitement and support rallying around the gangly Conan O’Brien and throwing itself futilely but enthusiastically against the gray-faced wall of bland, corporate disinterest, that I hesitate to even discuss how disappointed I was by last night’s live show at Radio City Music Hall. But first, can we discuss this bathroom situation?

Last night was my first time at Radio City Music Hall. It’s gorgeous! Radio City Music Hall is literally breathtaking in the way that only massive manmade structures can be. Don’t get me wrong, the Grand Canyon is also gorgeous and breathtaking, but God made that, and we kind of expect that level of craftsmanship from Him at this point, you know? (Just kidding, He doesn’t exist.) But large, human spaces filled with history are something special, and if you aren’t in awe of them when you are inside of them (which is what she said) then you’re doing it wrong (which is also what she said). And it is with all of that beauty and collected human experience under one gilded, art deco roof that I ask the question: Radio City Music Hall Mens’ Room, can we not get some splash guards up in there? It’s 2010. We aren’t the broken shells of war-ravaged animals picked clean by the vultures of the Great Depression anymore. HOW ABOUT A MODICUM OF URINAL PRIVACY WHEN THE TICKETS COST $100. Now I know how this guy must have felt:

Where am I, a baseball game?

Even before it started, the whole point of the show was kind of brought into question. I mean, what is this, and why? I don’t mean that in the cynically dismissive sense, I mean that in the actual question sense. Why do people want to pay (a lot of) money to see Conan O’Brien live on stage? For the entirety of his public career, he has been known for quick, small-bore comedy routines, and interviewing celebrities. And he was great at it, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into this…whatever this is. He’s not Beyonce. In terms of crafting a live stage performance for a massive venue, he’s not even Kelly Rowland. Don’t get me wrong, I bought my ticket as soon as tickets were available for buying. I was sitting in that room waiting for the lights to go down just as much as anyone else. But you still have to wonder. I think, in the end, that last night’s event (and all of the events that Conan has put on around the country) have been a celebration of, and a weird acknowledgement of, our collective obsession with television. The fluttering, screamy excitement that borders on PANIC that people seem to experience whenever they are even in the same MASSIVE DOME-CEILINGED TENS-OF-THOUSANDS-OF-SEATS VENUE as someone who has been on TV is mind-crushing. It is the same Energy Crystal that has powered reality television, and the resulting collapse of finding satisfaction and value in one’s own life. Yay? Throw your hands in the air?

LOL?

I’m not trying to take anyone to Duh University. It’s a bit grandiose to read the entirety of America’s unhealthy obsession with celebrity, and the systemic negative influence of television into a one-off promotional tour for a between-jobs comedian who spent the last 17 years entertaining millions of people on a nightly basis with a surprisingly refreshing and off-brand sense of humor for a mainstream television show, even a mainstream television show that didn’t air until 1:30 in the morning on some syndicated networks. I’m just saying: it is kind of weird when you think about it! It is also weird to have the line between the collective privacy of a television audience and the communal public experience of a live show erased. This is Conan O’Brien’s audience? And I am a member of this group? As people filed to their seats, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dave Matthews and P.O.D. played on the loudspeakers, which was about as harsh of a judgement as could be passed on any audience. This is WHAT you want. This is WHO you are. Blame YOURSELF! (Incidentally, due to the size of the venue and poor eyesight, I spent most of the time, and I am guessing I was not alone, watching what was happening on stage on GIANT TELEVISIONS, but the meaning of that is for someone smarter to unpack and explain.)

Reggie Watts opened, and he was great. It is exciting for him to be on this tour and for a whole new audience to be exposed to him. I hope that something really great comes out of this for him, although it seems like something great is always coming out of everything for Reggie Watts, so. The point is: Reggie Watts: very solid. Very opening.

After a brief intermission (already?!), it was time for the actual show, which opened with a short video of Conan O’Brien in a long beard and a fat suit, lying in a pile of half-eaten pizzas and empty beer bottles, waiting for a call from “Showbusiness.” Fair enough. Although, the montage that followed, in which he solemnly bounced on a trampoline, and selected numerous bottles of wine from a well-stocked wine-rack, and checked his mailbox at the end of a long, private driveway, really only served as a reminder that he was a multi-millionaire with a BEAUTIFUL house. And some of us find ourselves lying in a pile of half-eaten pizzas and empty beer bottles EVEN WHEN WE STILL HAVE A JOB. And that is the crux of it. You see, Conan O’Brien having been “fired” from his job is the reason his live show exists in the first place. It is the reason that people are so feverishly excited to see him. (Well, that and the fact that they are so feverishly excited to see anyone who is on TV. They gave a pretty intense welcome to Late Night band member La Bamba, too.) It is the elephant in the room, and it needed to be addressed. BUT IT WASN’T THE ROOM ITSELF. After the video, Conan spent, I don’t know, six hours, give or take, making monologue jokes about being jobless and having a thin resume and evil TV executives, to the point of exhaustion. He topped off this section with a slideshow in which he outlined the “Eight Steps of Grief” that accompany the loss of a late night talk show, which included a long-winded rant about how mad he is that he doesn’t have a TV show, while Kim Kardashian and the Ace of Cakes do. Well, OK, I guess, except guess what: NONE OF US HAVE FUCKING TV SHOWS YOU WHINY MOTHERFUCKER. And Ace of Cakes may be barf-inducingly smirky but he is also VERY TALENTED AT MAKING CAKES. We are on your side, Conan, insofar as you are an incredibly talented comedian and performer who got a (sort of) raw deal, but your raw deal is still better than ALL OF OUR DEALS COMBINED, so maybe at a certain point, enough with the self-absorbed crying and more with the relatable jokes.

During his final broadcast as host of the Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien made a genuinely moving speech in which he admitted his sadness over what had transpired, but how he also acknowledged the fact that his dreams had come true in ways that few people could ever imagine, and he urged his viewers, especially his young viewers, to eschew cynicism, and to confront the world with a heart full of hope and optimism. That message was almost completely destroyed by the time he played a pre-recorded video in which he portrayed an evil, bald television executive. I don’t care about television executives, but I do care about having an enjoyable time, and holding on to goodwill for as long as I can, and unfortunately this was about the time that I permanently stopped being able to do either of those things. The fact of the matter is that for the world outside of that amphitheater, and even for much of the world INSIDE that amphitheater, life goes on. Conan has certainly earned his bitter moment of retaliatory sniping, it just isn’t that enjoyable to watch. That’s why there aren’t TV shows about bitter middle-aged men. Because it’s uncomfortable. Actually, if Conan had taken to the stage and delivered an hour and a half long straight-faced rant about the things that made him angry during his ordeal, that would have been kind of interesting and enjoyable. But couched in road-weathered monologue jokes and the cloak of self-righteousness, the spirit of the show was leaden and grouchy and mean. In other words, it was the exact opposite of what we have come to expect from our beloved Conan O’Brien.

The show had its moments, for sure, obviously, of course, come on. The pre-taped Triumph video was probably the funniest part of the night, which makes sense, since pre-taped Triumph segments were the funniest part of Late Night, as well. And Conan’s use of the “The Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle” to show the always amazing clips of Walker, Texas Ranger clips was both delightful, and an opportunity for him to trot out some CELEBRITY GUESTS! (Last night featured: Bill Hader, Jon Krasinski, and Paul Rudd.) He ended, smartly, and correctly, with the most famous moment:

Yes. Smart. Correct.

There was also a performance from Vampire Weekend and a dance-off with Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. Fair enough. I guess that is where the $100 ticket charge comes in. Although, and maybe this is just the JADED NEW YORK CITY BIGSHOT coming out, but there was something inherently unimpressive about wrangling two people who tape TV shows just a few avenues away, no matter how great those TV shows are, and a band, no matter how big the band has gotten, from New Jersey. I don’t know. I want fireworks! I want excitement! I expect Conan O’Brien to have mimosas with these dudes (speaking of which: lotta dudes! DUDES ONLY, in fact. Was Tina Fey busy? How about Amy Poehler? How about Maya Rudolph, I will even accept Maya Rudolph!) when he comes to town, if they aren’t already too busy playing racquet ball. WITH EACH OTHER.

The show ended with a performance of “I Will Survive,” with new lyrics about SURVIVING THE LOSS OF YOUR TV SHOW, just in case after two hours of harping on it, people were still confused as to who Conan O’Brien was and why he was so self-absorbed. What could have been a celebratory evening of laughter and funtimes turned into the world’s most elaborate pity party. Yes, Conan came out for an encore and performed “The Weight,” by The Band, but even here the opportunity was lost, since by now it felt as if Conan was the one taking a load off, and putting it right on us, before running into the crowd for some high fives and hugs. You did it? You turned a moment of triumph into a moment of wallowing entitlement.

All in all, the evening just left me feeling kind of sad. If Conan O’Brien received a devastating blow last winter by NBC firing him and then scrubbing the entirety of his work from Hulu and forcing him into (multi-million-dollar) hiding, then this just felt like a self-inflicted kill shot. I will still be watching in the fall when he returns to television with a late night show on TBS Very Funny, and because his goodbye speech was SO genuine and SO touching, I will try to do so without cynicism in my heart. But something tells me that at least in some small way, at least for me*, the Conan O’Brien that we loved, the one who got us into that glorious masterpiece of human achievement that is Radio City Music Hall in the first place, that Conan O’Brien may be gone forever.

Oh well.

*Because ultimately, this is about me. Just like last night was about Conan. I guess celebrities really ARE like us!
Comments (94)
  1. Well, I was going to go to this in DC next week, but maybe I’ll sell my tickets for lots of money and lie around with half-eaten pizzas and empty beer bottles instead (which, let’s face it, is my typical Tuesday night anyway). Thanks for the review, Gabester.

  2. Is this cross-posted at CIGARGUM?

  3. I was there last night too, and the rational, analytical part of me agrees with Gabe’s review. The excitable nerd fangirl part of me is still screaming about VAMPIRE WEEKEND AND JON STEWART AND STEPHEN COLBERT AND BILL HADER AND JOHN KRASINSKI AND PAUL RUDD!!! I feel so conflicted, you guys!

  4. The problem with Conan started when he got his gig on the Tonight Show. The appeal (for me anyway) in Conan was the he was the (literal) red-headed step child of late night. He had a shoestring budget and his show could’ve be filmed in someone’s basement. The promotion to the Tonight show took that self-depreciating aspect and made it mainstream. This is akin to when your favorite local band has a song picked up as the opening theme for Gossip Girl, it’s great that they are making money now, but the charm that came along with seeing them drive around town in a rusted out Chevy Nova is gone forever.

  5. haters go’n hate

  6. I see the show on Friday (yay Boston! Who will our special guests be? A lobster? Bill Buckner? Mayor Menino? SO MANY CELEBRITIES!). I think Conan knows well enough that he did not get a raw deal (a well-done deal?) and that he is just playing wounded Conan to amuse us Team Conanites who bet on the horse that lost. We can get together and commiserate and laugh and be surprised and play along and then move on to the new show which may or may not be as good as some other shows. Sounds good to me.

    • I almost wrote “the horse that let the ball through his legs” because mixed sports metaphors + bringin’ it all back around + ? = FTW, but I always pick being coherent over being funny, which is why I lose. Plus, everyone knows that Jay Leno is the Buckner of this scenerio, but a Buckner that still somehow won the series, which is why this whole thing is still so #$%!!!

    • I was hoping we Coloradans would get some interesting guests – like a silver miner, or a plague of bark beetles… – but no dice. I also thought for a minute after the show that Consey wasn’t completely self-absorbed, and was just pandering to the crowd that wanted him to be bitter and cynical (which is also the crowd that was there for the pre-show Red Hot Chili Peppers/Dave Matthews/P.O.D. mix tape). I can’t decide which unappealing version of Conan I want my memory of that show to be: truly cantankerous, or a completely obtuse sell out. Either way, a significant part of my favorite TV fantasy friend town is now a sink hole so deep, it’s hard to conceptualize.

      Also, I still like Conan better than any other late night host, and will be watching on Very Funny.

    • Boston’s special guests:

      A Bruin(they have time on their hands right now(take THAT, Bruins!))
      John Cena
      The Make Way for Ducklings sculptures

    • please inform me if jason varitek shows up as a guest. because he is awesome.

  7. I pretty much agree. As soon I saw that they want, at minimum, $40 from me to see a show which I’d essentially been watching for free most of my life, I was out. I have never felt “bad” for Conan. I do feel “bad” for the writers and producers and cameramen and wardrobers and etc who lost their jobs and did not receive $30 million and prob don’t live in multi-million dollar homes and probably had to actually worry about feeding their families. I use “bad” because I don’t feel bad at all really and why should I? So hopefully some of those people are benefiting from the ticket sales or w/e.

    Anyway, my point was that if this whole thing has not been about money but honor and integrity and doing the right thing then why is it all about money now?

    • It’s been widely reported that all the money from the tour was going directly to the writers/crew.

      http://marquee.blogs.cnn.com/2010/03/12/conan-obriens-tour-employs-former-tonight-show-crew/

      • That is great, no sarcasmo.

        But doesn’t it still feel a bit disingenuous? I realize this all boils down to the whole cult of celebrity thing and that is a thing that I do not want to debate. Anyway, they are asking A LOT of money to attend this tour. Granted, in the beginning no one benefiting from the tour had a job but now they do (and was there ever really a doubt about this?). So what makes this group so much more deserving than others? Why do we give them hundreds of dollars to help them bridge the gap? I guess after a while, no matter how talented someone is, it get old hearing them complain about getting a raw deal when they and everyone else knows they’ll be just fine in the end. There are so many other people just as talented and just as deserving that are getting rawer deals so when you ask for $40 to basically just listen to your complaints I am going to have to say no thanks.

  8. Regarding the urinals, maybe they thought you might as well get pissed on before you got pissed off.

  9. Gabe I know he isn’t Johnny Carson or whoever was on late night radio when you were in your seventies, but come on.

    I was there, and I remember thinking that some people would take issue with Conan’s obvious masturbatory use of his clout/internet support for guest stars, expensive inflatable bats, and sympathy, but who cares, because it was TBS very funny. And you are wrong, Conan is a humble man, no matter how jarringly polarized his stage show was against the networks or Ludacris. It’s humor! Stop over-analyzing and just enjoy his mostly satirical self-deprecation of himself, a wealthy AND genuine American personality, as he tours this great nation in a very expensive bus. USA! USA! USA!

  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCQ7VLoY7bQ

    As much as I hate Leno, I was kinda disappointed when O’brien took over the Tonight Show. O’brien’s charm was always in the “let’s see what I can get away with” subversive type of mentality. And just like Letterman influenced comedians of his generation, O’brien’s cultural contributions are pretty apparent in American culture. Not to take anything away from him, he is still revolutionary, but much like the Simpsons, his own influence over pop culture has made himself somewhat irrelevant. How are you to lampoon the machine that you are a part of without coming off as hypocritical.
    His Tonight Show never lived up to the awesomeness of his Late Night, which was getting pretty repetitive IMO. NBC screwed him over and the loss of his show was not in any way his fault, but he knew there was a chance of failure when he took over.

    Well downvotes awaaaaaaay!!!!!!

  11. Wow… I had a feeling that this was how Conan’s tour would come off, but just figured that if I never read a review or saw clips I would be shielded from the sad reality…. thanks a lot Videogabe.

  12. I saw it in SF and loved it, and everyone I talked to loved it as well. Obviously that’s what this show is going to be about, considering that was the entire impetus for the national tour in the first place. If you didn’t know that, you shouldn’t have gone. That’s kind of like going to see Marmaduke and complaining about all the talking dogs. For those who knew what to expect and have always wanted to see Conan in person (those of us not in NYC or LA), it was an absolute blast. It was a pretty unique show performed by a guy who to a lot of people is an idol (me), and may never do such a show again. Chill out.

    Reggie Watts was awesome though, I agree.

    • I also saw the SF show! Loved every minute of it. I think the smaller intimate venue also made the ticket prices more palatable. But I’m sure timing also has a lot to do with it. We saw the show relatively early on, back in April when he was still off the tv. So I understand how those seeing it toward the end of his tour may find the whole “I lost my show” thing repetitive and stale.

      Also at the risk of offending anyone, (or none at all since timing is my weak point) but was I the only one who wanted more Conan singing?

  13. sliced bread, meet this review.

  14. I mean, I saw him in Austin, so the LIGHTCAMERAFIREWORKS aspect of his show there was not NEARLY what was thrown out in NYC. I would have PEED MY PANTS WITH JOY had Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert graced my physical presence. That might be proving your entire point with societies obsession with celebrity and television… but…. JON STEWART! Colbert!
    And also, you know, people asked me if he made tons and tons of NBC jokes or talked about that situation, and… I mean he did, clearly. He sort of has to, at this point, it’s part of his identity now, but I just didn’t think there was a lot of it. He made jokes about Texas (ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE) and other stuff… I don’t know, I just didn’t think he complained THAT much about it. Maybe New York brought that all back to him?
    Also, I gotta say, the segment where he’s complaining that he doesn’t have a TV show and Kim Kardashian/Ace of Cakes guys do? I understand that nobody in the audience has a TV show… that *I* don’t have my own TV show and that my life is far less interesting or exciting, but that’s because I’m not CONSTANTLY hilarious and brilliant like Conan is. It IS a tragedy that he doesn’t have a show and Kim Kardashian does. What does she DO anyway?
    No, I think that’s an acceptable thing for Conan to be angry about. I’m gonna let him have that one.

    • I would say peeing your pants with joy over the likes of Stewart and Colbert is nothing like peeing your pants over the likes of a talentless celebrodumb. They’re two of the greatest comedy-doers on television, so it’s legitimately exciting to see them burst into an auditorium, especially if one is wearing a matador suit, cause you know this is gonna be good. You are obsessed the right way, briadru4.

    • I was at the Austin show too! And yeah, I felt like most of jokes were both Texas-centric or self-deprecating. He didn’t bash NBC/Leno near as much as I thought he would, so it didn’t feel to me like the “woe is me-a-thon” that Gabe describes.

      But our show was SO much better* because WE got Martin Sexton instead of Stewart/Colbert/Rudd.

      *sarcasm

      • Yeah, exactly. I was like, “UM. Who is this man and why is he getting in front of La Bamba!”

        And Andy coming out like the Trololololo guy? <3

  15. I didn’t get a bitter vibe at all from his show (I saw him in Dallas). It was fun and hilarious and poignant. It didn’t go on and on as long as this review states, IMO. He is having fun with a f—ed up situation.

  16. NO SPOILERS! I’m going tonight, can’t read this until afterwards.

  17. Uhhh… the show is called the “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny On Television Tour.” Gabe, did you think he wasn’t going to talk about being legally prohibited from being funny on television? Because that is the name of the tour! #GabingGabeWithHisOwnGabery

  18. I saw the Chicago show. I liked it. My “Conan get over yourself” complaint wasn’t the self-pity, it was the BAND. He should keep the pretend rock star act confined to basement sessions of Guitar Hero. It’s not that he wasn’t good, but it was a little too self-satisfied.

    • Agreed. I enjoyed the show (with local guests Brian Erlacher and John C. Rielly!) but thought it could have used more comedy and fewer songs. I didn’t mind most of his allusions to NBC – I particularly liked his impression of “the rapper Ludacris” – but I thought the TV exec bit went too far and fell flat. Reggie Watts was a nice surprise, D. Cole not so much. But it sounds like the Chicago crowd was different too. I didn’t notice any POD or DMB fans – just upwardly mobile, attractive hipster types. It was worth $40. I might be disappointed if I paid $100, even with VW, Stewart, and Colbert.

    • Ditto. I was there the second night and was disappointed that the biggest Chicago celeb he could muster was Tim Meadows. Reggie Watts was indeed the unexpected highlight of the show.

  19. i think gabe meme about being an old man is made less by his love for conan (love?)
    i should relax though…nap time!

  20. “The pre-taped Triumph video was probably the funniest part of the night, which makes sense, since pre-taped Triumph segments were the funniest part of Late Night, as well.”

    I can see why you didn’t enjoy the show if you thought Triumph was the best part of Late Night.

  21. I saw the San Francisco show, and I agree with much of the sentiment in this review, but it didn’t entirely ruin the show for me. I think Conan did come off as whiny and self-absorbed, but he was also reliably pretty funny. And his band was fantastic as usual. They were actually my favorite part, probably.

    I think the whole “i lost my show, wah, but i’m rising above it, but also, wah” bit got pretty stale, but on the other hand, it’s what the audience seemed to want. Everyone loved the last few episodes of his tv show, when he spent most of the time ripping into NBC and Leno. Everyone felt just about as beat up by them as he did, so the night was probably supposed to be about emotional release for all of us (relax, it’s just tv, but also, wah). I don’t think Conan struck the right balance in achieving that, but I think that was the goal.

  22. vermits  |   Posted on Jun 2nd, 2010 0

    I did something actually constructive with my time at Radio City and saw the AIDS benifit done by Feist and Buffalo Tom when, despite the naysayers, we cured Aids and broke musical barriers and did you get one of those mxed drink cups that light up (?) and then my wife met the guy from Threesome who wanted us to know that he now was on HBO with Gabriel Byrne and we were all, “more like Gay-briel”…

    Not you Gabe. It’s hard not to look when there’s no splash guard.

  23. you guys are talking as though you didn’t know this tour was brought to us by AMERICAN EXPRESS.

    that said, i also saw him in austin, and i think some of briad’s comments are right on. and while i also agree with some of your complaints, gabe, i didn’t let them ruin my experience of seeing conan o’brien, my very funny friend from the television box, on the only comedy tour of his career. how can you go to something like that and not let yourself enjoy yourself?

  24. Amazing review, Gabe.

  25. I caught him in L.A., and while after the fact the whole idea of the show seemed a little odd, that didn’t change the fact that I had a great time during. Thanks, Coco.

  26. Thanks for another article reminding me how hipsters don’t TOTALLY LOVE everything that other people seem to TOTALLY LOVE (and also how sometimes they capitalize certains words or phrases for IRONIC EMPHASIS when simple italics would do.)

    Look. I was there last night, and while I thought the woe-is-me jokes were well trod, Conan has gone mainstream. This is the result. There is a bit of pandering, to be sure, but as someone above mentioned, it’s the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour. That is the entire conceit.

    And yet it was more than that. As he said in the show, it’s a communal experience. It’s about being in the same room with one person and many fans who share similar sensibilities, similar tastes and senses of humor. And there is always something intriguing about the Sad Crying Clown, regardless of whether it’s more serious in tone (a la his 60 Minutes interview) or more like a caricature (this tour).

    While it’s true most of us (all of us?) can’t emotionally connect with having been on national television for 17 years and then losing our jobs only to make a bajillion dollars and going on a national tour, I think most of us can connect with simply losing our jobs. That is the pathos Conan is tapping into — the rest of it that you claim makes it a disconnect I would argue makes it comedy.

    (As a side note related only to the fact that I think you’re being contradictory: how can you sit straight-faced and say that there are no good television shows about bitter, middle-aged men? Mad Men alone as won Emmys on top of Emmys for doing exactly that.)

    While we can’t

  27. The campaign to get Betty White to host Saturday Night Live was unique compared to the widespread support of Conan in the latenight wars in another way, Gabe…one of them got Betty White on SNL, and the other got you…watched while you pee, and left with a lot of questions apparently.

  28. I guess my hopes for a positive “Marmaduke” review come Monday are pretty much shot, huh?

  29. Leno 2.0 is still doing no better than “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” had, he’s actually lagging behind, and Letterman’s numbers have been up since Jay returned. So I don’t know how this was a good money decision considering they never let Conan gain any ground and made him follow the unwatchable Jay Leno Show. Check out the graph here.

    http://tvbythenumbers.com/2010/05/27/leno-falls-below-conans-tonight-show-ratings-trend-beats-letterman/52607

  30. i guess i’m pretty glad i didn’t drop the dollars on this, i did really want to support conan, especially around the time these tickets went on sale, but damn it was expensive.
    i really hope he can do something good in the fall, i too will definitely be watching. TBS very hopeful.

  31. I feel like a dick for saying this, but I don’t really think Reggie Watts is funny. I like that he’s super weird and is achieving some success, but I’ve watched his videos and I saw him when he performed at my college and he still just doesn’t do it for me.
    Like, fuck shit stack? I get that he’s making fun of rappers and stuff and using hip hop to do so, but all the jokes feel really obvious. Am I missing something?

    • I’m with you on this. Interesting/amusing like many other things I watch on the internet, but I’m not impressed.

      I wasn’t going to ever say anything, but I figured I’d let you know you’re not alone.

  32. Hey Gabe, guess what?

    tl;dr

    LOL! JK!

  33. I have no idea why the New York crowd got shitty opening music. At the Austin show, we were treated to Phoenix, Spoon, Vampire Weekend, My Morning Jacket, and The White Stripes. I guess New Yorkers have terrible taste? That is what I am guessing.

  34. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  35. I’m not going to defend the show except by saying it was clearly designed for Maximum Fan Excitement, more than it was designed for Comedy Science Lab. Personally, I would have preferred the latter, but I understand why Conan stuck with the former.

    Gabe, I completely understand your rationale for being confused and disappointed but I think the argument you use, and repeat pretty much throughout the entire piece, about how none of this resonates with you because, really, Conan is a rich person, is tremendously lame. You are essentially saying what people said when Conan lost The Tonight Show: “Why are you sad that you very publicly lost the job you’ve been dreaming of having your entire life—and the job you’ve been literally preparing for every night for the last five years since you signed that contract—because, after all, you have a lot of money! Therefore, you have zero problems and zero right to experience normal human emotions like hurt, disappointment, anger, or bitterness.”

    Yes, Conan’s life isn’t like yours. You are clearly Joe The Internet Plumber, and have never known the taste of life’s finer things, like a shared summer house, organic ketchup, or a Sony Discman™. We get it—you are essentially Robin Hood, but not fat and middle-aged.

    But why does Conan’s wealth totally invalidate his feelings? Just because his problems are of a different scale than yours, are they not really problems? You seem like someone who is out of touch with Conan’s life, complaining about him being out of touch with your life.

    Most importantly, though, he’s joking. His Evil Executive, stages of grief, etc. are goof-arounds about a situation that totally sucked. And, as one of the other commenters suggested, they’re also knowing “victim hot-buttons” that he was well aware would get his fanbase all worked up because they also feel invested in all of this, for some reason. (That reason could be some personal investment they have in a person who has made them laugh a lot over the years or it could be, as you and Marshall McLuhan suggested, a crippling addiction to television.)

    In closing, sorry to hear you had so much difficulty with the urinals at Radio City Music Hall.

    signed,
    a Sudanese orphan covered in third-degree burns.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Organic ketchup is SO gross.

  36. Got it, Gabe. But, as you suggested, it would have been super weird for him to *not* address that stuff in the show, too. Basically, he had three choices:

    1 – Don’t address the fact that you can’t be on television, or the fact that you are doing this show because you’re out of work, and allow that inflatable elephant to sit in the room.

    2 – Address it with “a genuine, heartfelt lecture about his experience and frustrations throughout this episode,” as was your preference. I think if you read that quote of yours back you can see how totally weird that would have been in this large theater show with a live band. That would have gotten awkwardly maudlin very fast. This was not the Jerry Lewis telethon.

    3 – Address it right at the top, and mostly in his monologue, using jokes you may or may not have found funny or may or may not have been able to enjoy because you have a personal problem with him using his recent weird situation as the subject for light humor and a touch of bitter comedic revenge.

    Forgive me for getting really picky here, but after that initial big push, there were about 75 minutes of material that had nothing to do with his “situation.” And I do think “I Will Survive” (a song i find really cringe-inducing but i do not call the song shots) was intended as an upbeat closer, and an effort to shake off any of the anger and bitterness that he might have expressed earlier, and let his fans know he’s happy and strong. But, if you were already not onboard, I can see how you would see this as an unwelcome return to the show’s earlier themes.

    Most importantly, did people laugh at my joke about Papaya Dog being the perfect way for your mouth to tell your stomach to go fuck itself? That is sincerely all I care about.

    Consider this beef squashed.

    • (Beef squashed is from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Depression-Era Guests, right?)

    • Who wants to place their bets now that Gabe “engineers” maximum downvotes on this guy’s comment so that he gets the Worst Comment of the week status?

      PSYCHE! Just kidding, no one gives a care about that nonsense, friends

    • Todd you rock! I wasn’t at the show but I did go to the Tulsa show… I LOVED it! Its pretty obvious that the only people who take the joke and him talking about the situation are the people who are not true Conan fans! If you are then that means you know his comedy style, you know his personality, and you’ve watched and read everything you can about him and the situation. Meaning that he’s not asking nor does he want your sympathy! He knows how good he’s got it and he’s doing the tour to pay his staff, show some love to the fans that have supported him, and keep his name and face out there until November… He has said that this tour has changed him and his comedy and I love and respect Conan so much… I can’t wait to see what he’s gonna plan for TBS! Ignore these haters on here and come join the IWC facebook page and the IRC chat! Then you’ll know who really matters!

      BTW I read the joke about the Papaya Dog last night on the I’m with Coco page and I laughed so hard! Nice job Todd!

  37. Not with you on this one Gabe. And I usually am!

    Maybe intellectually I’m on board, but it’s Wednesday at the end of the work day and I’m not wearing my thinking cap or drinking my thinking scotch.

    Long story short, I saw this show in Toronto, and the theme I took away from the show wasn’t that “I’m bitter, this sucks, look at me tell you how much this sucks” but rather “This is an awesome opportunity to do stuff that we’ve never done before.”

    And that really resonated with me! Here they were, all the folks we’d loved for so long, really giving it a go and having a fun time after taking a pretty awkward tour through bland-ville with the Tonight Show. I mean, La Bamba can sing! Conan can solo the fuck out of his guitar! That horn-dude can horn!

    I left feeling really entertained, and entirely endeared towards Conan as a performer who, while obviously relying on the whole situation for material, ultimately seized the opportunity to have a good time with a group of people who were craving just that.

  38. splash guard? CALM DOWN LARRY DAVID

  39. Really? Making jokes about losing his job and evil television executives completely destroyed Conan’s message to live without cynicism. Because the old Conan, the one that may apparently be gone for good, made a good deal of these jokes every night up until the end of his Tonight Show. Cutting away to “NBC executives” and then showing a slack jawed yokel, “getting back” at NBC by wasting all their money on caviar smeared Picassos, all that was fine but a cackling Conan in a bald cap is completely cynical? Doesn’t work.

    It might not be funny for you, ok. But it’s well tread material. It’s not a different Conan. This is self deprecating Conan. Coming out on stage, singing a bluesy song about how he grew up in a mansion eating sushi in the 70′s when no one ate sushi in the 70′s, and then playing the angry, almost bratty “everyone has their own show but me!” role is part of the fun.

    Maybe it seems like he should be moving on, and that’s ok too. But the show I went to (Ohio) was, for the most part, not about him losing his show. The intro, the monologue, I Will Survive were more or less the only parts focused on it. Hopefully by the time the TBS show comes on it will be out of his system. This is his first public forum to complain, so a bit of that is fine. Either way, a comedian playing the pitiful part for the sake of laughs doesn’t make it a pity party. Those last shows, when he was already mocking NBC, he would take his nightly break to say he was fine, and would be fine, and that people should donate to Haiti.

  40. When I was a little kid, I was leaving the supermarket with my dad and my younger sister. We went through the automatic doors, and my sister, who was a toddler at the time, let out an excited squeal, and my dad played along. I retorted, in the jaded voice of a nine year old, that it wasn’t so cool, because it was just a motorized door with a motion sensor. My dad got really angry at me and asked why I had to ruin everything for everyone.

    Point is, after reading this review, Gabe, I am my dad, and you are me. Lighten up.

  41. I went when he was in LA and it was super fun! I’m willing to just let him do his thing until TBS, which will mark the point in which this bitterness is all out of his system. Also, I think my satisfaction/joy from that evening stems directly from Jack MacBrayer’s shining, cameo-making face. His teeth are like the sun.

  42. Conan needs the catharsis of this show. Get all the mean feelings, triumph jokes, frustration, and masturbating bears out of his system. I feel like he did his time in the late night oblivion and then got screwed over when it was his time to take over his dream show.

    That being said, let’s all hope he can let go, move on, and be funny once again after this tour, which it looks like is two weeks more.

  43. Super late to the party-gum.

    Anyway this article made my soul wanted to do this (no offense, Gabe, I usually love your stuff).

    Then I remembered a great man said this: During this fight, I’ve seen a lot of changing, in the way you feel about me, and in the way I feel about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that’s better than twenty million. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!

    Long story short, after way too much soul-searching, I’m okay with this differing opinion.

  44. I get the impression this show was mostly put together immediately folllowing the Late Night Wars of 2010 and so the wounds were still very fresh and there was this need for carthasis on both the part of Conan and his writers as well as the fans. It probably felt very relevant and necessary 3-4 months ago. But now we’ve all seen the 60Minutes interview and we all know he’s got a new show on TBS and we all know he got paid an obscene amount of money to leave The Tonight Show so we’re all ready to move on but he’s still touring with the material from 3-4 months ago. That being said, I’d love to be able to go to Radio City Music Hall and see Conan and Reggie Watts and Bill Hader and Paul Rudd and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert even if I got a little splash back at the urinals… but I live in a backwater Florida town far from the glitz and glamor of the big city. I guess what I’m trying to say is…WE SHOULD ALL BE SO LUCKY AS YOU GABE!

    Also, first time commenting here. I heart Videogum and all you Monsters this much (my arms are stretched apart really wide. You’ll just have to take my word for it). Please excuse me if my contributions continue to be this lame. That is all. Thank you.

  45. Gabe, I agree with much of what you say. Paying 3X what you did I may have felt even moreso.
    $300/per @ StubHub for 3 decent orchestra tickets- just to watch them go down in price as the date approached. And without my glasses I also watched the big TV rather than the stage.

    Did I get ripped off?
    Hell yeah, but that’s not really Conan’s fault. I’m the moron who gave into StubHub’s price structure.

    Did I expect to see Springsteen, Beyonce or the Rolling Stones?
    No.

    I knew the show would be a slapped together tour version of the Conan crew with friends. I went because in my heart I wanted to be there. I think many of us wanted to be there simply to support the man we’ve watched and loved ever since that very first “You’ll never be as good as Letterman!” sketch that started it all.

    I love and respect Conan for his wit, humor and for the way he handled the whole Tonight Show debacle. He’s a class act. I admit feeling a bit slighted when, inches from him as he walked up the aisle to shake hands and hug people, he looked at my outstretched hand and passed it by to stand on my chair and open his arms wide toward the crowd to absorb yet another dose of mass adulation. Yeah, I agree he should definitely drop the “I will survive” song. It’s misplaced & doesn’t flatter him.

    Conan himself stated that all he hoped for was that those in attendance would be able to say to themselves, “that was sort of worth it”. It’s not the kind of show you go to twice, but for what it was- even at $300 a ticket- I have to say I’m glad I was there

  46. Ok, I’m posting this after not reading one of the comments. If this is a repeat or completely out of line, I hardly apologize. Gabe, I do not at all agree with this. You got so obsessed in this review over the fact that you thought people were screaming over “people on television” you completely missed the point. You totally dismissed a dance-off between Chuck Noblet and Conan O’fucking’Brien. Ok maybe I’m from North Carolina and don’t see that everyday (but, honestly, do you?) but that is pretty fucking awesome. Also, Gawker posted the video of said dance off between Jon Stewart, Colbert, and Conan and I would have paid many more America Bux to see it. It isn’t just “omg people frum tha t.v. is on a stage!” It is people I grew up with. Writers I grew up watching in the dorms at college. I guess I am shocked at your jaded attitude towards the whole thing. I guess you saw Conan on his last tour? What did you expect? It was his damn late night show on a live stage with music and friends. I would have paid twice what you did if he only came remotely near my town. Not a fan of this elitist attitude towards the whole thing.

  47. “That’s why there aren’t TV shows about bitter middle-aged men. Because it’s uncomfortable”

    Uh, you mean there aren’t any shows like this one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7_MaQRiCsk

    ?

  48. Greg Ferguson is the maan. He’s too funny to be moved up earlier.

    http://squidoo.com/chuck-dvd
    http://www.squidoo.com/upcoming-video-game-releases

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