Not since the prehistoric days of the Clintonzoic Era, when Johnny Carson retired, has late night television been such a hot topic. At the time, of course, it was just written and talked about. Now it’s also Facebooked, MySpaced, tweeted, blogged, IM’d, emailed and texted about. As my poor college friends and loyal readers of this blog know, I joined Team Conan in 1993. In an almost creepy way. In fact, I think I technically established Team Conan. Let me remind you, people, that with no wireless, high-speed internet connection — and no internet to connect to — I was forced to do all my Google stalking on microfiche, at the library. Fine. It was creepy. (For more on this, and another tale from the TMK Annals of Botched Brushes With Greatness, I invite you to read the post NBC Order.)
But the point is, I stood by him. Even long after I discovered Frasier reruns at midnight and stopped watching his show on a regular basis — even after he slandered New Jersey in his much-hyped battle with Cory Booker — I held a special place in my heart for Conan. He was always funny and smart, yes. But I just always knew, somehow, that he too was the last one picked for every team. And that made us kindred spirits.
Yesterday, the New York Times blog “Media Decoder” shared Conan’s letter to the People of Earth, in which he explains why he will not host Tonight if it moves to the 12:05 time slot. It is well-written, just the right amount of funny and completely classy, underscoring the fact that Conan is a tall, red-headed, Irish mensch. Note the way he ends the letter: “I’m truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.”
Last night, nearly two decades since Conan became a household name, I declared my loyalty to Team Conan before thousands. And I hope you will do the same, for whatever it’s worth.
I also hope that, before making any final decisions, NBC thinks about this. How much would they have lost if they’d pulled the plug on Conan’s fledgling show in late 1993, when no one watched? They kept going, and look how that turned out.
I’m just sayin’…
And for the record, I’m truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.
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.”
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.
Note — Frick on a stick. This template is REALLY limiting in terms of image placement options! I can’t even illustrate my punchline properly! But I digress.
When HBO first came to Central New Jersey — back in the early 80s — I became permanently obsessed with a program called Missing Persons: Dead or Alive? It relayed the eerie stories of infamous disappearances, from Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa to Judge Crater and THIS MAN — D. B. Cooper. For the last 20+ years, I have thought of good old D.B. often, wondering if ever we’d learn his fate. What happened to him on that November night back in 1971, when he hijacked and then jumped out of a commercial airplane somewhere between Seattle and Portland?
I Googled him every now and then, but failed to realize the awful truth until today, when the media announced that his parachute may or may not have been found near Amboy, WA. What happened to D.B. Cooper? It’s so obvious! He underwent plastic surgery and became ROSS PEROT.