In the year ... 2000, or '01, or something like that, at the ripe age of 12 or 13, I finally had my own PC in my room to stay up at night with as long as I wanted. And with so many things to do and see on the internet, I needed a friend to spend time with. That friend became Conan O'Brien.
Okay, this got off to a weird start.
But it's true, The Cone-Bone and his Cone-Zone quickly transformed from one of my favorite television shows to pretty much the only television show I watched. I would stay up religiously until at least 1:35 every night, even when I had to wake up at 6:30. (This seems to have expanded into quite a bad habit, as I am now often going to bed around 4:35 and waking up at 6:30...) But the show was so clever, so irreverent, and so damn funny - it always gave me something to talk about with my friends, sleep-deprived as I was, every morning.
After high-school, my Conan watching generally followed a pattern of "Oh my gosh, I haven't seen Conan in a while, it's still so funny!" and watching it for a few weeks, then finding myself and friends otherwise occupied at that hour of night, and then back to watching it for a couple of months, and so on. When Conan came on the air during the writer's strike a couple of years ago with his "Strike Beard", it was like a small party. We were all awestruck at how silly, daring, and downright hilarious he was in his beard-phase. I may have watched every episode in that "era." Likewise were his specials entire house events: not only his various trips around the world, but the claymation episode and the Skeleton-puppet episode (with Larry King!) are masterpieces that will never be forgotten.
Nor will his plethora of incredibly creative recurring skits be forgotten. Possibly the first time I saw Conan he was "driving his desk" around in front of a greenscreen, and I found it so innovative and funny that I kept coming back for more. The annual 'State of the Show' address. Celebrity Survey, In the Year 2000, Pender's singing, Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage, Conan O' Brien Hates My Homeland, the Masturbating Bear - and of course Triumph. There's the Horny Manatee. There's his "battle" with Stephen Colbert. There's the time he looked like the prime minister of that country I can't remember right now. There's that time they put a greenscreen on his desk and gave him Katie Couric's legs. The shows writers are downright geniuses.
Sure, lots of sketches are recurring, and lots of jokes re-used and slightly modified throughout the course of a week. But this is an hour-long program produced five days a week for roughly 17 years. The consistent stream of quality is almost incomprehensible.
And Conan really is what makes it work. Sure, he seemed slightly uncomfortable in his first few years, but if you download his very first show, you can see the spark of ingenuity and weirdness going on. You know this should could go places. And boy, it did. As Conan's confidence grew, so did his ability to entertain by doing downright goofy things, or acknowledge when a joke was shitty. In outright breaking the fourth wall of his sketches (so to speak), they become that much funnier. Conan can make shitty jokes work. And he can make brilliant jokes legendary.
I always had a nervous feeling about Conan moving up to the Tonight Show. Yes, he absolutely deserved it. But I was concerned about him appealing to Leno's undoubtedly more conservative, mainstream, rather dumbed-down humor devouring audience. I hoped that he wouldn't have to dumb down his own show, or make it tamer in some way, or have to say good-bye to some of his staff. Astoudingly, the only man left behind was Joel Goddard, my favorite announcer of all time. But snagging Andy Richter instead was a pretty good trade.
Of course, old Leno had to stay on television, and man, did all of this become a shitstorm. I'm sure you've heard the logistics by now. I'll say this: Conan's Tonight Show now is legendary. His TOTAL disregard for the NBC executives these past two weeks has been both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The former because it's so obvious that Conan's clearly got it, man - he's never been sharper, his jokes have never been more irreverent, his guests are five balls high with fury (Robin Williams!). He has totally changed my opinion of NBC from "indifferent" to "they're heartless bastards" in the course of a week, and the fact that he's getting away with giving them such a bad name really gives me a sick sense of glee. (I can't wait to see how much of their money he spends tonight.) Heartbreaking because, obviously, we all have to say farewell to Conan tonight at 11:35.
Here's hoping he's back on another network this September. I don't care what network. I don't care what hour. I can't wait to see you back, buddy.
To NBC: You're a bunch of fucking pricks. Go fuck yourselves with Leno's big chin.
To Conan's crew: I wish you the best of luck in the future and I hope that you'll return to Conan's new show, whatever it may be. Your loyalty is unprecedented. That all of you moved from New York to L.A. in one swift move is just ... something I have never heard of before.