I don’t normally use this blog as a forum to talk about deeply personal matters (aside from my love of snacks), but I want to take a moment here to address the programming debacle at NBC. As I’m sure you’ve already heard NBC is trying to give Conan O’Brien the shaft, yet again, by moving Jay Leno’s “variety show” to 11:35 and bumping Conan and The Tonight Show to 12:05. Conan has decided to take the high road, and crafted a beautiful statement expressing his unwillingness to be part of a plan that would move The Tonight Show out of the timeslot it has held for almost 60 years. Conan cares about tradition, and he would rather go elsewhere than participate in this harebrained scheme that’s destined to destroy the legendary show he has dreamed of hosting his entire life. I, and everyone I know, support Conan to the fullest and will follow him wherever he ends up. Why? Because in a not-so-roundabout way he has helped shape our collective sense of humor for much of the past 20 years.
During Conan’s first few seasons (aka The Awkward Years) hosting Late Night, my high school buddies and I would tape every episode on VHS cassette. Then on the weekends we’d get together and watch the standout moments while drinking ungodly amounts of soda pop. A couple of us even used our favorite “In the Year 2000” bits as senior quotes in the yearbook. Mine of course was delivered by Andy: “In the year 2000, the artist formerly known as Prince will no longer be referred to by a symbol, but rather… an odor.” I still find it funny to this day.
When I went off to college at Ohio University, Conan’s ratings in our dorm must have been through the roof. If only NBC had a way to measure such things. I can’t count the number of times I heard my buddy Brian Woznicki cackling in the room next door around 12:45 am. I’m almost certain most of those outbursts had something to do with Conan’s opening sketch.
This brings me back to the idea that our own senses of humor have been molded in some way by Conan. For me and my closest friends, we grew up with Conan. His unique brand of humor was right there in front of us during a very important period in our lives. We were in college, on our own, honing the wildly creative side of our brains, and loving every minute of it.
From the beginning, Conan, Andy, and their brilliant staff of writers always pushed the envelope, night after night finding new ways to make us laugh. Did they ever let up? Did they ever settle for the same old same old? No. Just look at Conan’s first week hosting The Tonight Show. Sure there were a few wrinkles to iron out, but the laughs were there right off the bat, and no one can accuse these guys of being anything other than original. Compare Conan’s show to any other talk show and you’ll see what I mean. These guys try harder, and they care more.
You know, not everyone in the world attempts to be funny all the time (and that’s a good thing), but Conan does. And for clowns like Brian and I, and many of our friends, it’s kind of what we do too. We probably fail more than we succeed, and I’m sure we can be annoying, but at this point it’s just the way we are. Did Conan have something to do with this? Of course. He’s the funniest guy we know, even if we only know him through a television set. Hold strong Conan. We’ll be watching.