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July 24, 2024, 07:23:43 PM

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Conan O'Brien Needs A Thread

Started by Kelvin, April 14, 2024, 04:34:45 PM

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Kelvin

This might be an odd thread for me to start, as I generally dislike late-night talk shows and never watched any of Conan's, just a bunch of his pre-recorded skits, and occasional interviews or segments.

Of those, the clear standouts were his videos with show producer Jordan Schlansky; a pretentious, deadpan individual who obviously plays a heightened version of his real persona on camera, ala Karl Pilkington.



This in turn led me to Conan's current podcast, Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend, which really highlights Conan's ability to improvise extended bits that sound fully formed.   
 
To be honest, I've always had a bit of a fascination with Conan, purely because of the reverential way Simpson's writers/producers talked about his time on that show. He wrote "New Kid on the Block", "Marge vs. the Monorail", and "Homer Goes to College". And apparently, he'd machine gun jokes at the writer's room, while acting out bits and climbing over furniture.

You can see that same energy, that same need to perform, in his podcast too. The man has a compulsive need to make people laugh.

Anyway, I thought with The Simpsons, the talk show and the podcast, there might be a thread in Conan. Any thoughts?

dontpaintyourteeth

He's showing up a lot on my Twitter timeline this week. Was starting to think he might have died.

The Bumlord

Quote from: dontpaintyourteeth on April 14, 2024, 04:37:42 PMHe's showing up a lot on my Twitter timeline this week. Was starting to think he might have died.

It's because he was on Hot Ones and was first class.


dead-ced-dead

He was on Hot Ones this week and it's gone wild. The closest comparison I can think of is when Homer ingested the insanity peppers.

Kelvin

Quote from: The Bumlord on April 14, 2024, 04:40:30 PMIt's because he was on Hot Ones and was first class.


The last few minutes he reminded me of Robin Williams committing to a bit. Minus a few pounds of coke.

checkoutgirl

Quote from: Kelvin on April 14, 2024, 04:34:45 PMI've always had a bit of a fascination with Conan

Yeah I've always wondered what might have been if Conan didn't end up in the chat show chair so early in his career. There are only a handful of ways that Hollywood can provide a 9 figure bank account and private jet so he took his when it was on the table, and the rest of us missed out on another few seasons of Simpsons and whatever he could have done for the next 20 years.

He only got interesting again for me when he had that unpleasantness so went on a live tour and started doing that travel show and assorted segments with his staff and that.

Easily the most talented man to ever run a "Tonight" style chat show. Only Craig Ferguson and David Letterman compare.

beanheadmcginty

I've found myself mostly watching Conan and Jon Stewart recently. It's like the past 20 years never happened. Half expecting Obama to win the election in November.

Poobum

I like Conan O'Brien and I like Hot Ones, but I had to stop watching. Found it viscerally repulsive.

Kelvin

Here's a clip of him and Jordan Schlansky butting heads over nose-hair trimmers. Conan's early riff on the products is especially great.



And here they are talking to some relationship councillors about a similar issue:


Nice, in that you see Jordan break character at the stupidity of their discussion later on.

Magnum Valentino

Great idea. I recently listened to his interview with Larry David which was funny enough that I went back in search of another good episode and found his tribute to Norm. Happy to take other recommendations for good Needs A Friend episodes.

I remember being on Jordan's side about his chaotic office as it really resembled mine at the time. I haven't seen or listened to the stuff they've done together much more recently.


Conan was behind one of the greatest pilots that ever fell on stony ground, of course, Lookwell.


Ruben Remus

I've never entirely understood how a nerdy Simpsons writer with no experience as a screen performer managed to get himself in the running to replace David Letterman. Was the gig just not particularly coveted at the time or something? I'm sure there's some showbiz context I'm not understanding but it always felt unaccountable to me, like we live in the one timeline out of ten thousand where this is the way that Conan's career went.

I liked it when he would appear on some of the Simpsons DVD commentaries and the other writers seemed to regard him like an impossibly cool older cousin. I sometimes think that his tenure on The Simpsons gets a little over-mythologised by people (his wikipedia entry implies that he was single-handedly responsible for the show's turn towards the surreal, which I would say is massively simplistic) but it's clear that he was a major character in the writers' room who made a big impact in a short span of time. Not hard to picture him rising to showrunner if the late night thing hadn't happened.

madhair60


Mister Six

Quote from: checkoutgirl on April 14, 2024, 04:51:15 PMEasily the most talented man to ever run a "Tonight" style chat show. Only Craig Ferguson and David Letterman compare.

Not really familiar with Letterman, but Ferguson and Conan are top-tier for me. Both obviously brilliant and restless minds with a compulsion to perform and entertain, so even when they have a boring guest or a rushed, low-quality bit due to recent events, they were able to elevate it with some joyful silliness.

It must be fucking exhausting, and it's no wonder that they both moved on from it - and incredible that Conan did the talk show circuit for 28 years. You can see how less committed minds find themselves slumping into mediocrity. Fallon used to have some really fun bits in the early days but now he barely seems to be conscious. Colbert is visibly disinterested whenever he has to talk to some boring sleb about their latest pixel-laden blockbuster. Kimmel just sort of exists. Does Seth Meyers still even have a show?

I should give the podcast another go. I listened to the one with Timothy Oliphant, which was brilliant because he's also a really funny guy, and pals with Conan, but then I just kind of drifted away.

AllisonSays

Quote from: Magnum Valentino on April 14, 2024, 05:48:59 PMGreat idea. I recently listened to his interview with Larry David which was funny enough that I went back in search of another good episode and found his tribute to Norm. Happy to take other recommendations for good Needs A Friend episodes.

If you can ignore the slightly excessive, ingratiating laughter - Americans! - the one with Harrison Ford is funny. Very charismatic guy but with more of a sense of humour about it than I'd anticipated.

Quote from: Ruben Remus on April 14, 2024, 06:06:39 PMI've never entirely understood how a nerdy Simpsons writer with no experience as a screen performer managed to get himself in the running to replace David Letterman. Was the gig just not particularly coveted at the time or something? I'm sure there's some showbiz context I'm not understanding but it always felt unaccountable to me, like we live in the one timeline out of ten thousand where this is the way that Conan's career went.

I liked it when he would appear on some of the Simpsons DVD commentaries and the other writers seemed to regard him like an impossibly cool older cousin. I sometimes think that his tenure on The Simpsons gets a little over-mythologised by people (his wikipedia entry implies that he was single-handedly responsible for the show's turn towards the surreal, which I would say is massively simplistic) but it's clear that he was a major character in the writers' room who made a big impact in a short span of time. Not hard to picture him rising to showrunner if the late night thing hadn't happened.

O'Brien's ascendancy is covered in both the (excellent) books on late night by Bill Carter. Basically, Letterman was seen as so stellar in 1993 that the show seemed like a bit of a poisoned chalice for whoever took over. NBC thought they had Dana Carvey, but he reneged. They then looked like they were floundering to find a replacement, so did a deal that Lorne Michaels would produce whatever the show was, as a means of restoring some industry confidence. Michaels as a result pretty much could choose who he wanted, and he chose O'Brien. The level of network enthusiasm for this is shown by O'Brien being on an (iirc) six week renewal cycle for his first two years.

Ruben Remus

Quote from: Wacky Homemade Badges on April 14, 2024, 06:50:00 PMO'Brien's ascendancy is covered in both the (excellent) books on late night by Bill Carter. Basically, Letterman was seen as so stellar in 1993 that the show seemed like a bit of a poisoned chalice for whoever took over. NBC thought they had Dana Carvey, but he reneged. They then looked like they were floundering to find a replacement, so did a deal that Lorne Michaels would produce whatever the show was, as a means of restoring some industry confidence. Michaels as a result pretty much could choose who he wanted, and he chose O'Brien. The level of network enthusiasm for this is shown by O'Brien being on an (iirc) six week renewal cycle for his first two years.

Thanks, that's very interesting. I really should read those books!

Matthew Dawkins Jub Jub

It got a lot of praise when the episode came out, but his chat with Jim Downey (maybe the longest tenured SNL writer?) really is very good.

Conan is equally good at playing the wacky host and the frustrated straight man.


Ruben Remus

Quote from: Matthew Dawkins Jub Jub on April 14, 2024, 06:56:05 PMConan is equally good at playing the wacky host and the frustrated straight man.

On the latter point, I think Conan might have been the single best foil that Norm Macdonald ever had. It would be nice if there was a clean, comprehensive collection of all those interviews/sketches available on youtube as is the case with Norm's Letterman appearances, but unfortunately O'Brien doesn't seem to have an equivalent to the great Don Giller who lovingly archives Dave's stuff.

Mister Six

Quote from: Ruben Remus on April 14, 2024, 06:06:39 PMI've never entirely understood how a nerdy Simpsons writer with no experience as a screen performer managed to get himself in the running to replace David Letterman. Was the gig just not particularly coveted at the time or something?

Fucking James Corden got a plum slot on American telly, so the bar is clearly inexplicably low at times. Obviously it worked out incredibly well for O'Brien.

(Though judging by that Louie episode, they do a bunch of pilots and screen tests and such, so maybe it's not as much of a gamble as it seems, even if Corden is an unlikeable twat.)

selectivememory

Quote from: Ruben Remus on April 14, 2024, 07:08:47 PMOn the latter point, I think Conan might have been the single best foil that Norm Macdonald ever had.

Yes, completely agree. He knew exactly how to play those long, meandering segments and feign outrage when Norm was being mischievous or when he said something a bit too close to the line.

I've been watching a lot of Conan the last few days as well thanks to all the Twitter chat about him. Invariably just end up watching lots of clips of him and Norm together, definitely need to look more deeply into his work because he is a fantastic comedian in his own right. Just happy to be a complete clown for the audience, as that Hot Ones interview shows.

Ruben Remus

#21
Quote from: Mister Six on April 14, 2024, 07:20:47 PMFucking James Corden got a plum slot on American telly, so the bar is clearly inexplicably low at times. Obviously it worked out incredibly well for O'Brien.

(Though judging by that Louie episode, they do a bunch of pilots and screen tests and such, so maybe it's not as much of a gamble as it seems, even if Corden is an unlikeable twat.)

Corden certainly did seem like a weird appointment at the time, but I think it's fair to say that replacing the somewhat niche Craig Ferguson in 2015 was probably considered less consequential by the parties involved than replacing shit-hot David Letterman in 1993 when late night tv in general was much more popular and relevant. Conan obviously turned out to be incredibly deserving of the role, but it seems like it took a very specific convergence of events for him to even be part of that conversation (as outlined above by Wacky Homemade Badges) given his lack of any sort of on-screen profile beforehand.

MrMealDeal

What is the US comedy world's view of Corden? I know the US and UK are different, but surely not so different that they'd actually find Corden funny or genuine?

McChesney Duntz

Quote from: MrMealDeal on April 14, 2024, 07:39:22 PMWhat is the US comedy world's view of Corden? I know the US and UK are different, but surely not so different that they'd actually find Corden funny or genuine?

American here. One who has never met any fellow countrymen who found Corden amusing or entertaining in the least, apart from those who were moved/impressed by him making Macca cry (?) in their "Carpool Karaoke" segment. And even those people struggled to recall the non-Beatle's name at the time. So, there you are.

I find him more likable than funny. I think he recently has amped up the craziness and gone way over the top, trying to get a 10/10 on every sentence.

He was funnier when he was closer to being real rather than this high energy over the top character he has migrated towards.

lankyguy95

He definitely knew how to play with and accentuate Norm but I think his best partnership is with Kevin Nealon, with whom he always has a very funny verbal joust. You can tell they love the game of it, and they relentlessly draw the funny out of each other.



checkoutgirl

Schlansky is a good foil but I don't find myself going back to the stuff he's featured in. You can see him trying to stay in character and not laugh but he struggles because Conan's so naturally funny.

And he doesn't have insane stories about growing up in a rough neighbourhood in Manchester in the eighties. He's obsessed with good coffee and authentic Italian cuisine we get it.

checkoutgirl

Although the segment where he's in the middle of an Italian village lecturing two old men and a cat is quite funny.

checkoutgirl

Quote from: Mister Six on April 14, 2024, 06:29:58 PMKimmel

Chat show hosts on the whole can be quite inoffensive and mediocre but the current crop take it to extremes. The best I can muster is they don't seem like evil people (except Corden). Trevor Noah, he's not terrible but he's just not very good either. Myers, Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel, Corden even Oliver, just annoying.

Ripe pickings for Jon Stewart.

I can't believe I ever gave Bill Maher the time of day. Heidecker has eviscerated him on Office Hours and there's no going back after that.

checkoutgirl

Quote from: Mister Six on April 14, 2024, 07:20:47 PMFucking James Corden got a plum slot on American telly, so the bar is clearly inexplicably low at times. Obviously it worked out incredibly well for O'Brien.

Piers Morgan mystifyingly got the Larry King gig. He fucked it unsurprisingly but amazingly got it in the first place. English candidates must get a 20% advantage or something.

As for the Conan thing, there's try outs and Conan was obviously well able for it. It's a gruelling job though, pumping out hours of entertainment every week for years.

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