All you need to know about Conan O'Brien's place in the late-night galaxy of hosts is that his band leader is a member of the E Street Band and that he chose The White Stripes as his "Late Show's" final musical guests.
Well, maybe that's not all you need to know . ... One of his final declarations as host of the "The Late Show With Conan O'Brien," before he moves on to that earlier gig as host of "The Tonight Show" out in L.A., was that he wasn't going to take the suggestions of many people who have said that for his new job, he needs to grow up. Don't worry, not gonna happen.
Phew. O'Brien's goofiness skews young and fresh alongside David Letterman's flair for the ironic and Jay Leno's polished stand-up. Wouldn't want it any other way.
For the last show early, early Saturday morning, Will Ferrell was the "surprise" guest in his President Bush mode (he's doing a one-man show as Bush in New York) and then ripped off his suit to do what he's done on the show in the past, what Will Ferrell loves to do, show too much skin, in this case as Leprechaun Stripper. That's about the level Conan's show works, teetering on that thin line between cerebral and insane, but leaning toward the latter.
weeklong goodbye for "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" as the show
departs New York has been a real hoot, with surprise guests and
film-clip reminiscences of 16 years in the late, late 12:35 a.m. time
slot following "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
O'Brien is uprooting for Hollywood and taking the Max Weinberg band with him, heading to one of the most sought-after positions in late night television: "The Tonight Show," the scene of Leno's head-to-head success against David Letterman.
It kind of stinks that O'Brien has been thrown the wrench of still having to follow Leno, the newly anointed prime-time savior for ratings-poor NBC.
Three months from now, after a break to decide what comes with him from NYC and what new and wacky stunts to bring to California, O'Brien will be back on the air, after your local 11 p.m. newscast, after Leno at 10, while competing head-to-head with Letterman. That can't be good for attracting top guests.
But unlike NBC, we've come to praise Conan, not to bury him.
It's hard not to like the self-deprecating goofball. I like him because he's so high-energy, often unpredictable and he engages his guests with playfulness and decency - unless there's a really good laugh to be had.
There have been priceless moments this week as the show winds down its New York run: Stephen Colbert stealing "the invisible string" used by O'Brien in his string dance - a routine where he pretends to tug at his long legs and hips with an invisible string - and Colbert then showing up on stage during O'Brien's monologue for a dance-off. Nathan Lane, accompanied by Marc Shaiman ("Hairspray") and singing Shaiman-penned lyrics to "You Did it Your Way." John Mayer's filmed send-off song: "L.A. Will Eat You Alive." O'Brien wielding an ax and sledgehammer and finally using a mini-vehicle to pull apart his studio set and give pieces of it to the audience. (When he tore up La Bamba's music stand and cracked the stage floor, he looked genuinely concerned, as did his producer.)
And if you've never seen O'Brien's trip to Finland to meet his look-alike, , in 2006, well, the folks there were just wild about Conan.
In his final humble thank yous, O'Brien mentioned Lorne Michaels as the man who had made his career and his predecessors in late night, Leno and Letterman.
After Letterman jumped ship for CBS, O'Brien walked into Letterman's spot as a mostly unknown comedy writer for "The Simpsons" and "SNL." The gangly O'Brien, with his big-wave red hair, came in as a critical whipping boy and has had the last laugh, with 16 years as a host and now the "Late Night" NBC throne that was once Johnny Carson's.
So bye-bye funny guy and best of luck on the Left Coast.
I just hope you leave the masturbating bear to run wild with Abe Vigoda in New York.