First of all, I promised I’d dedicate this post to Keith, who goes to sleep much earlier than I do and is quite cute.
I also must admit that I am double-fisting between WordPress and the last NBC episode of Medium (which will reappear on CBS this fall). It’s not right, I know. But I desperately need to find out the fate of the du Bois family and Allison’s brain tumor. I also desperately need to share this brief tale, as there will never be a more appropriate occasion.
Side note/spoiler alert: the tumor is benign, but Allison is in a coma after suffering a stroke during surgery.
A little more than 15 years ago, in the frigid winter of 1994, I was a college senior in baggy, used Levi’s, dark brown lipstick and Doc Martens. I had spent the last four years surrounded by short, stocky, dark-haired, middle class Jewish boys in backwards baseball caps who wanted no part of me. (I’ve always suspected things would have gone a different way if my boobs had been more reminiscent of a Hungarian shtetl peasant’s, but what can ya do?) The unrequited loves of my college life had graduated the year before, and I lacked diversion. I couldn’t stand being there anymore but was terrified of the real world, I lived with the knowledge that Jan thought I was fat, I couldn’t sleep, I was depressed, and my friends had had it with me. Good times.
But there was one lone light in my life. We met during a bout of insomnia, when I turned on the little pink TV my grandma had scored when she opened a checking account. He made me laugh. He introduced me to people I’d never otherwise have met. He was an underdog, just like me. Physically, he couldn’t have looked more different from the people around me. He was nine years older than me, 6’4, with red hair, freckles and pasty skin. He was, as someone famous once said, the least Jewish-looking person you could imagine. But he’d gone to Harvard, he was the son of a doctor and a lawyer, and his little brother had gone to the prom with my friend Lauren.
His name was Conan O’Brien, and I seemed to be the only person in the world who thought he was funny. Rumors of cancellation swirled around me, and I felt a certain kinship — he was the celebrity equivalent of me. Smart, lovable and misunderstood. He just needed more time! People mocked me when I told them I found his wit chuckle-worthy, much as they mocked me at the height of my Duran Duran obsession. On our spring break that year, Kiki, Wendy, Jen, Lisa and I were fortunate enough to attend a Late Night taping. I was very concerned beforehand that we wouldn’t be able to get tickets. The NBC page laughed when I expressed this concern and told me they’d been PAYING people to sit in the studio audience and clap on cue.
In June of that year I went again, and this time, actually got to shake hands with and talk to the giant comedic genius.
“I went to school in Boston too,” I said, sure that he’d find this FASCINATING and a sign of our soulmate-hood.
This prompted Conan to ask me if I was Irish, and I wondered briefly how someone who’d gone to Harvard could look at ME and pose such a silly question.
The first and only thing I could think to say was this: “No, but I use Irish Spring soap.”
Hey, it’s better than what I said to Pete Sampras.
Not surprisingly, this did not compel him to get down on one knee and propose.
“You’re my idol,” I blurted out.
And even Conan himself could only reply with, “Please. Let’s not get crazy here.”
No one thought he’d make it. But I believed in him. I knew he could do it. And tonight, Conan O’Brien has become the 5th host of the Tonight Show — the loftiest position in post-prime time television. This is one small step for a dork, and one giant step for dork-kind. I’m kvellin’ like Magellin’.
But you should know that in addition to feeling certain I’d one day be an O’Brien, I also fantasized about being discovered by Conan. So I decided to send him some of my brilliantly comedic writing samples. Except of course that I had none, so I had to be crafty.
There was no time to develop full-fledged sketches or sit-com scripts; I’d have to convey my unparalleled genius some other way. I remembered a brain game I’d once played at camp. It involved the penning of a poem or song containing 26 words, in alphabetical order. The fate of my comedy writing career lay with this gem of a plan, executed with a Macintosh SE and dot matrix printer, late one night in Waltham, MA. I think we all know what the fate of my comedy writing career turned out to be. But this, ladies and gentlemen, is my 1994 alphabetical Ode to Conan — mailed to Rockefeller Center, signed for by someone in the mailroom and never seen again until right this minute.
At Banter, Conan’s Deft. Educated Finely, Graduated Harvard. Imparts Jokes. Kismet! Letterman Moves, Now O’Brien Presides. Quipping Richter, Sidekick. Throw Us, Very Witty Xanthrocroid, Your Zeal.