Tonight, Conan O’Brien will tape his last episode as host of the Late Show before taking over for Jay Leno at the Tonight Show in Los Angeles. All week long, he’s been airing classic segments from the 16 seasons he’s been on the air, and star-filled tributes and send-offs. On Wednesday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped by the set and gave him a key to the Port Authority bathroom. It has been a spirited but somewhat elegiac week on the show, as Conan has repeatedly taken an axe to the set to give a handful of audience members a physical souvenir, and Conan wistfully remembers just how long he’s been at this. Which is fine for him to do. It’s normal when one is standing at the precipice of an enormous crossroads to reflect, maybe even mourn a little bit, before stepping forward.

But that’s for him to do. Why are we following suit? Why is everyone acting like Conan O’Brien died?

Last night, Twitter was blowing the F up with people twittering how much they were going to miss Conan O’Brien. Lindsay has been staying up this week watching all the episodes as if her DVR was broken, or as if it was a show about kittens on Roombas. While I understand that it’s the end of an era, it’s only sort of the end of an era. The man is still going to be on television every single night doing a comedic monologue, absurdist interludes, and interviewing celebrities. On the same network even! It’s like people getting sad that Good Morning, Miami moved from Tuesdays at 8PM to Wednesdays at 8:30PM. The important thing is that we all love Good Morning, Miami, you guys. And it’s not going anywhere, really.

Obviously, there is some concern that somehow being the host of the Tonight Show changes a man. People think that Conan will dumb down his show to appeal to a broader, Leno-washed audience. But what is that concern based on? He’s got the same great team of writers, and he is the same inherently funny and talented host. And there have only been four hosts of the Tonight Show in the show’s history (five if you count Jack Lescoulie, but no one counts Jack Lescouie), so it’s not like there’s some kind of obvious pattern to point to. And in general audiences take what is given to them. Jay Leno does better in the ratings than David Letterman, true, because we live in a world of dull-minded megalames, but David Letterman is still hugely successful. There is clearly room for something other than middlebrow mediocre hucksterism at 11:30 PM on the Big Three networks.

If anything, shouldn’t we be happy that Jay Leno is “leaving” (I know Jay Leno is not leaving. He is that guy at the party, someone should turn the music off and start cleaning up) and that Conan’s absurdist brand of ACTUALLY FUNNY comedy will be brought to a larger audience? Shouldn’t we be happy that Conan has never been more ALIVE?

Comments (26)
  1. RobinRubbermaid  |   Posted on Feb 20th, 2009 +6

    But there does seem to be something about that slot, almost like the hosts are required to maintain a certain level of middlebrow decorum (hence the Masturbating Bear farewell). There’s no way Conan’s not getting watered down. It’s just sad.

  2. Viva La Conan

  3. lean  |   Posted on Feb 20th, 2009 +2

    Yah, no more skits about his ’93 Ford Taurus, THAT’S FOR SURE.

  4. Samantha  |   Posted on Feb 20th, 2009 +2

    I’m a little confused. What is Conan doing until June when Jay Leno airs his last show? Is he taking 6 months off?

    • Closer to 3 months, but yeah. I’m sure there’s prep work that has to be done. And Conan’s been working hard, he deserves a break.

  5. are you aware that there is an online petition to keep leno on as host of the tonight show? I can’t believe that over 2000 people hate humor so much.

  6. I hear what you’re saying, and that’s the very reason I paid a visit to the writers to see how they felt about this week. The mood is definitely weird, and most definitely not sad. Except for the few people not making the trip to Los Angeles.

  7. he’s been dumbing down aspects of his show for at least the past year or so in preparation. it depends if Conan wants to find a new audience or try to keep Jay Leno’s retirement home audience, thats going to determine what kind of show it’ll be.

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  10. I wanna know who’s the asshole who thought it’d be a good idea to give Jay Leno another show. Wasn’t part of the reason he wanted to leave was to retire? I guess it doesn’t matter if you’re offered billions of dollars to stay.

  11. I think that for me personally, the sadness over Conan’s “Late Night” run ending has everything to do with the fact that he’s packing up the show and taking it to the West Coast. I’m far from being a New York comedy snob, but a big part of the reason the show worked so well was because it was a New York show, it had a bit of a New York attitude, and it accurately reflected the “essence” of comedy in the city. It was occasionally brash, but always humble and self-effacing. The humor was smart without needing an advanced degree to “get.” Its writers lived here and took the subway and worked in the local comedy clubs and ate the same shitty street food at 4am that we eat. Because of this, New York was infused into the show in just about every way, it was part of the its soul, and that’s something that I don’t think can be replicated in a Southern California setting.

    In short, I think LA Conan will be different than NY Conan, and that’s the main source of disenchantment for me and for many others, I think. I hope I’m wrong.

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    • asdf  |   Posted on Feb 22nd, 2009 -1

      Fo sho! All of Conan’s cast went to asssscat at the ucb. They probably still go, but in the la ucb. Im a new yorker. I cant go to la to see myu favorite comics. La already took amy poler away from nyc asssscat. Now my dream that i always knew would never happened but still dream will never come true. Conan at ucb! Well Im off to college this year anyways and I aint goin to no cuny so. NYC comedy, RIP. Not really, but, you know…

  12. Also, I worried that the chimp is going to eat Conan’s face off.

  13. Liam  |   Posted on Feb 20th, 2009 +3

    This whole thing is sort of like your mom and your dad getting divorced, and then your mom decides to start dating some unfunny lame-ass who laughed his way through all his unfunny SNL sketches, and you know you will still get to see your dad, but somehow it’s just not the same as it was when you were growing up.

    also I don’t know one single human being who thinks Jay Leno is funny. Not one. And I’m including old people.

  14. jeremyc  |   Posted on Feb 20th, 2009 +3

    its a good excuse to get the white stripes on the show again (TONIGHT)

  15. jason  |   Posted on Feb 21st, 2009 +2

    I am upset that Conan will be interviewing the latest castoff of American Idol every night and having Taylor Swift as the musical guest.That is what is going to happen……Conan is dead.

    • vespajason  |   Posted on Feb 26th, 2009 +1

      I get what you’re saying here, and I’m no philistine, I swear, but Taylor Swift’s album is really good. You could have said Carrie Underwood.

  16. conan, don’t ever change.


  17. I think this article totally neglects the censorship that will affect Conan’s move to an earlier time slot. While Conan obviously didn’t die (no one was really pretending that), Late Night with Conan O’Brien certainly did. His absurd humor will no doubt be filtered far more heavily into something that NBC deems acceptable for that important time slot.

  18. Most of what you write, Gabe, seems extremely indignant/self-righteous, but usually highly uninformed. Your style of writing is very effective, but the perspectives you choose to take render it hopelessly shitty to read.

  19. Gideon  |   Posted on Feb 22nd, 2009 +1

    “We’re going on to this next gig and sometimes I read that it’s time for Conan to grow up because he’s going to 11:30,” said the 45-year-old O’Brien. “I assure you, that’s just not going to happen.”

  20. maverick  |   Posted on May 30th, 2009 -1

    conan is boring. ferguson is hilarious.

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