Monday, January 25, 2010

Conan O'Brien Is A Big Fat Baby...

...although no one could accuse the 6'4" gangly talk show host of ever being overweight. If he hunches his shoulders forward he looks like a question mark. Sex with him might be mistaken for genital flossing.

Hollywood is a miserable town in which to fail. Much like Detroit, we do one thing and one thing only. We roll out our Edsel's, take our hits and then load up the 2010 version with more airbags.

As hard as it is to give a shit about what two multimillionaires are grumbling about in our still crumbling economy, I'm going to weigh in because it concerns the comedy business, a business I've been in for 24 years. A business so convoluted that the essence of comedy is often lost in the gross amount of money required to keep it afloat. It's a numbers game. The bigger the numbers, the more advertisers and more money. Welcome to TV.

Jay Leno at 10:00 PM was a disaster for the NBC late night news affiliates around the country. The affiliates were rumored to be losing over 100 million dollars with him helming his own show. The affiliates applied pressure to NBC for the latter part of Jay's 4 month tenure. They wanted him out and the more successful 10 pm dramas to return to that time slot.

Conan started losing The Tonight Show audience almost immediately. His herky-jerky physical movements and grotesque faces were not lulling us to sleep. The under-30's responded well to Conan because they weren't going to bed early. The rest of the country needed the soporific that is Jay Leno.

NBC was unhappy with Conan's numbers. The affilates were losing money with him too. But NBC deserved the drubbing Conan got after booting Jay Leno, who consistently posted winning numbers, burying Letterman year after year.

I'm not a fan of either Jay or Conan and don't think either are funny just so you know where I stand on the issue. I'm just an equal opportunity basher.

Conan has never had to play the Hollywood game. He's been one lucky guy for the last 20 years. The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, Late Night and then The Tonight Show. People kissed his ass so many times it was concave. If he experienced career failure along the way, I didn't see it.

But Jay? He was thrown off The Tonight Show as a recurring guest back in the 80's. He wasn't even famous enough for it to make the papers. He eventually made it back on as the permanent guest host, further proving how messed up this business is. First he's banned and then he's a guest host and then The King Of It All?

I found this quote from 1994 by Jeff Jarvis, the Couch Critic from TV Guide. "It doesn't matter what (Conan) O'Brien does because he won't control his fate - his competition will." How prescient was that? He also said "O'Brien - like Leno - took one of TV's great shows and turned it into an also-ran because he didn't have the vision to make it his own."

He's referring to Conan taking over Late Night from Letterman and Leno taking over from Johnny. Jarvis ultimately got it wrong because both hosts eventually succeeded. And you have to wonder if the late night talk show can ever be reinvented. Only Steve Allen and Letterman did that.

"I sincerely believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting." ~ Conan O'Brien

Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show when it was on from 11:30 to 1:00 a.m., way into "the next day." As Johnny's tenure continued he asked them to make the show a half hour shorter. Having watched The Tonight Show from the 8th grade on, (terrible insomnia and a mom who watched Johnny while she graded papers) I was used to the longer format. But like the rest of the country, I survived this horrifying setback in my life.

This is where Conan overshot his mark and became a baby. If he had just moved his show one half hour to midnight, his ratings would have improved because he would be following Jay, who had ridiculously high ratings when he did The Tonight Show. I believe Conan's ultimate decision to leave was based on his embarrassment over losing one of the greatest franchises in comedy history due to poor ratings.

So Conan, take a seat over here with Suzanne Somers, the late Farrah Fawcett, McLean Stevenson, Shelley Long, David Caruso and countless others who thought they were bigger than the Hollywood machine.

They weren't.


  1. Oh,my....I tried to concentrate on the rest of your post, but just couldn't focus after the gentital flossing image ....

  2. And here I was feeling sorry for Conan. My thinking was Jay gambled and lost on the earlier time slot. However, since I read at night this doesn't affect me in the least!

  3. Anonymous2:28 PM

    In Hawaii they fired older newscasters, and now ABC, CBS and NBC all simultaneously air the exact same local late news on all 3channels, so it doesn't matter who is the lead-in to the Tonight/Late whatever show. Somebody did file an anti-trust FCC lawsuit. But what I like is that ABC, CBS or NBC in Hawaii can't blame their lead-in failures on anyone but themselves.
    Aloha, MJ

  4. I don't think Conan or Jay are funny either. Conan was smart to leave with his $30 million. It's the best he's ever going to get. And TV is over. 20-year-olds don't even have TV's.

  5. okay, okay, okay.

    I think you have an amazing argument, and have decided that you are someone who MUST have graduated from law school, but decided to enter the more respected profession of comedy.

    am I right? Because you are clearly talented in BOTH arenas.

  6. My feelings of sympathy for Conan are well under control.

  7. My genitals need flossing. And how do you really feel?

  8. This was a very impressive overview post on the entire situation. I feel like I've learned something that I haven't read before that is awesome.

    But I do like Conan - and you're right - he should have stayed.

  9. Truth be told, I never felt sorry for them because I don't like either one of them.

    But thank you for clearing it all up for me, because I had no idea what the hell happened!

  10. I can't seem to get that genital-flossing picture out of my head.

    And why is VodkaMom kissing up to you? Are there prizes for that?

    Am I the only one who finds looking at Conan is just plain scary? He doesn't look human to me.

  11. You okay?

    Good article, although I've always loved Conan, always will. Creepy face and all.

  12. Two words: Brilliant Commentary!

  13. hard to feel sorry for him when he is making big bucks!

  14. You and I have already thrashed this out on twitter direct message and you're still wrong.

    Jay was/is a pansy cunt and Conan did the only thing he could do. Tell NBC to kiss his red pubed balls.

    In this whole shitfight, he remains the only one with a pair.

    (except you, of course)


  15. Anonymous4:21 PM

    The affiliates, the affiliates ad nauseum. Hell, I don't even watch my local NBC newscast. As a Jay Leno fan, I switched the channel every night after his show to the CBS affiliate. Jay Leno had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that NBC's local affiliate was a sorry excuse and a total disservice to serious news junkies.

    And for the record TeamConan, up until about 4 years ago, this city's NBC affiliate DELAYED Conan's unfunny Late Night show until 2:30 a.m.

  16. I'll stick ith Letterman:)

  17. Goddamn spammer assholes!!

    Anyway, I never watched The Tonight Show with any of the hosts. I was too young when Carson was on and Jay Leno's voice drives me to murder. Conan has too many childish skits like the masturbating bear and I few others I catch when I'm changing the channels. I can't say it will affect my life either way later but right now the saturation is driving me mad!

  18. Well said Suzy! I agree! I always try to comment on your posts from school, but they block your page for language lol! Thanks for the comments on sad...and once again I agree...don't follow people. Kori xoxo

  19. What about all the folks working on Conan's show? All the peeps that left their lives in NYC and moved their shit to LA? How will they ever compensate that trauma, that "cultural" shock if you will?

  20. I'm so irritated with this whole thing-Jay was supposed to LEAVE. He had 5 yrs to prepare for this. So why would he still be on?? Did anyone really like him that much that they were willing to watch him at 10pm every night??

    I don't like Conan either, but I really think it was a mess (of NBC) to try and keep Jay around.