2
Jun
2009
Review: The Tonight Show with Conan Obrien
The Tonight Show with Conan Obrien
Jordan
Since 2004 I have been waiting for Conan to ascend from Late Night to his rightful place atop the throne of after hours entertainment: The Tonight Show. Last night I finally got my wish. Conan stepped up to the plate, and true to form, he didn't disappoint.

The show opened with a humorous, if expected, montage of Conan charging from New York, across America to his new home in Los Angeles, to the tune of the surprisingly apt "Surrender" by Cheap Trick. Conan assured us from the very first moment that he would not "give himself away" just because he was on an hour earlier. No, Conan is going to be as wild and wacky as ever, and middle America can just learn to deal with it.

After a bit of classic Conan monologuing (with his standard "zany motions", dancing at the crowd before mocking their zeal) he brought out another classic bit in which he gives some Universal Studios attendees a tour, Conesy style. With his hilarious overreactions, excellent chanting of "Circle!" and awesome drive through the streets of L.A. this sketch showed an example of what I hope the new tonight show will be.

Not every one of Conan's bits tonight fired on all cylinders, however. The Lakers game gag was tired and expected, and I cringed when he made an octomom joke (I don't think she was ever funny, or really deserving of news coverage. A great number of people aren't very good at birth control and they don't get months of fame and bad late-night jokes), yet I was willing to forgive his misses because they were absurdist in a classic Conan sense. I didn't care that they weren't the funniest things he'd ever done, because they were done in his way, and that's the most important thing about the first show: Conan more than proved that he is going to be doing things his way.
His guest on the show was Will Ferrell, who can always be trusted to be a great guest, and he was in rare form tonight. From calling Liza Minelli a commie to giving Conan ridiculous tips about life in lala land, Ferrell worked hard to "not upstage Conan." Fortunately, Conan can keep up with, and really, surpass, any guest he has, and he met Ferrell quip for quip, showing any new watchers what a capable, and hilarious, interviewer he is.

I usually detest "musical acts" on late night shows, and unless a band I love is on I generally fast forward through them. But tonight I watched Pearl Jam for you, gentle reader (if there is still one of you out there) and I was not too disappointed. They sang a decent (though far from earth-shattering) song and Conan wrapped up the show nicely by thanking friends old and new.

Announcer and side-kick Andy Richter didn't have a lot to do this first time out, yet he was easily able to coast by on sheer chemistry with Conan, and I'm sure greatness will come out of this duo in the future. And that actually sums up the show for me. While parts of it were less than brilliant, each bit gave me faith that the Conan I have loved for so long would be inhabiting The Tonight Show for years to come. He will still be absurdist. He will still make jokes about his lack of facial hair and his pompadour. He will still focus on bits over a monologue and even over guests. He will still be Conan O'Brien. And at the end of his first show, that is all I could ask for.

Grade: A-
Tags: The Tonight Show with Conan Obrien
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