Saturday, January 23, 2010

Conan O'Brien's 'Tonight Show' farewell: 'The hardest thing I have ever had to do'

Over at NJ.com, I have some of the highlights from Conan O'Brien's last "Tonight Show" episode. Conan's closing speech was as eloquent as the "People of Earth" statement he delivered to declare he wouldn't host a "Tonight Show" that aired tomorrow.

And that's the end of this saga, folks. For a little while, anyway.

62 comments:

Carmichael Harold said...

The last 10 minutes of the show were fantastic. . . from the appreciation speech, to the plea against cynicism (which, to be honest, may be the hardest shot he could possibly take against Leno, unintentional as it was) to the batshit Freebird finale, which, judging by his face, let Conan go out seeming as happy and joyous as a man can be with his clothes on. Plus, more cowbell.

dez said...

Speaking of cynicism, Leno's going on Oprah soon to tell his side of the story and try to get sympathy. Bleh.

the2scoops said...

The sloth and caviar may have been fake, but Questlove from The Roots tweeted that Tom Hanks walk-on music was a half-million and was on the restricted list NBC gave him.

Anonymous said...

Love Conan. Hope someone gives him a late night!

writersblock said...

A truly excellent show - and a fun, classy way to go out.

The cowbell was icing on the cake.

Shame on NBC for this entire mess... but not surprising. I hope Conan goes to Comedy Central and has fun again.

Leno? just needs to retire. PLEASE!

Jennifer said...

Even sadder than losing Conan is losing all his great characters and bits, since NBC surely won't let him take them with him. I <3 Conando.

WJ Collins said...

Conan of the Night? Late at Night with Cronan O'Reilly? The streets of TV heaven are too crowded with angels...

grat said...

@the2scoops

If I'm not mistaken, Tom Hanks had Lovely Rita playing on his entrance, which makes this finale that much more spectacular.

belinda said...

*tear*

Good man. It's gonna be really strange not to have Conan on TV for the next (at least) 9 months.

Mike F said...

great finish...not sure it measured up to last night's show in total...but what a fun way to go out...love Conan

will be interesting to see where he goes from here...now that he's free to do what he wants

Anonymous said...

I've been watching Conan since '95 when Andy was there and staring contests were all the rage. So, yeah.

In my humble opinion it's not whether he can succeed at Fox at 11 or need to go to basic cable (Comedy Central) or HBO; it's that he needs to change the format a bit. Aside from quality of jokes and gags, Late Night was better because there was more comedy to the boring bits (Conan interviews are usually dull unless it's a level 99 guest). And Conan's monologues are pretty average overall. They could usually squeeze a second gag between interviews (less commercials?).

So maybe he can do something with more gags, no monologues and just one guest and sometimes musical.

Tyroc said...

What a complete class act. Wow.

I never felt his stint on The Tonight Show reached the heights of his time on Late Night but it was young, and it felt like he wanted to nudge the wider audience into his world of abstract silliness over time without scaring them off too much. It still felt like Conan, but slightly softer (like Dave did when he left Late Night to go to 11:30 all those years ago.) Too bad it didn't have time to grow to maturation.

After the way he handled himself these last weeks and the fire it lit, now more than ever I can't wait to see what COCO does next.

Ron said...

What the hell is this "Cocco" sh$t? Can someone please explain the madness behind this incredibly gay nickname?

mack said...

Ron, it's pretty easy to figure out.

jasctt said...

Ron = late to the party.

Great ending and can't wait to see where Conan lands. Hope he's back in NYC soon.

Bg Porter said...

A wonderful Viking funeral for the Tonight Show. Very curious to see what the residual effects of the last two weeks will have when The Chin returns on 3/1 -- will the faithful from flyover country follow him back to 11:35?

Hoping that when Conan returns he'll have used the time off to come back with something that either seriously rethinks the format or is unrecognizably different. No desk, no couch. Bury those alongside the smoking husk of the Tonight Show.

Chrissie said...

I had not appreciated the prophetic irony until now that Conan's first Tonight Show started with a cold open set to "Surrender."

The montage was the first lump in my throat ("To Be Continued"), then Conan's speech at the end got me again, particularly when he himself got choked up thanking the fans. I wanted to reach right through the TV and hug him.

As for Leno's first show back, I'm already wondering if he'll steal Jack Paar's line: "As I was saying before I was interrupted..."

Blair Waldorf said...

Classy and fun. I look forward to his new show.

I hope NBC doesn't own the intellectual property rights to Will Ferrell playing the cowbell.

renton said...

Who would have thought after that first week of Conan's 'Late Night' shows in 1993 that his departure would be mourned/celebrated as it has.

Great to see how much he grew and improved over the years.

amyp3 said...

Aside from quality of jokes and gags, Late Night was better because there was more comedy to the boring bits (Conan interviews are usually dull unless it's a level 99 guest). And Conan's monologues are pretty average overall.

THANK YOU! (And no, I'm not capping 'cos I'm an Olde(r), I'm capping for emphasis.)
Good Lord, the way his fans are acting you'd think the greatest entertainer ever had just died.

At some point this past week or so I went from being transfixed by the highway wreckage that is NBC to being tired of all the Coco-hype. He's not always THAT funny.

And he's certainly not a great interviewer, which should be a prerequisite for a talk show host. But then again, neither is Leno, Ferguson or Fallon. (Letterman, when he's not being snotty, has his moments with guests that he likes.)

If you want to know what O'Brien meant about not getting cynical, read some of his fans' comments on other sites. I've actually seen posts on Gawker media wishing all of Leno's "old fans" would die.

Good lord, really people? Can we have some perspective?

Anonymous said...

Anyone else think it was odd to play a Lynard Skynard song to close out on a night when Neil Young was there given the animosity/controversy between them?

Omagus said...

writersblock: I hope Conan goes to Comedy Central and has fun again.

I think Comedy Central would be the perfect location for Conan...but I just can't see where that network would fit him in. Stewart and Colbert have created established franchises that aren't going anywhere, and there are the newer commitments like Demitri Martin, Sarah Silverman and Tosh 2.0 that also seem to be doing well.

I think it's probably more likely that he goes to Fox or HBO but they both have hurdles of their own to clear as well.


Bg Porter: Very curious to see what the residual effects of the last two weeks will have when The Chin returns on 3/1 -- will the faithful from flyover country follow him back to 11:35?

I'm pretty surprised that this hasn't been discussed more. Apparently, NBC feels that Jay Leno will just pick up where he left off. There has to be some residual damage to this whole mess, right? What happens if it results in a ratings disaster? Will NBC keep Leno or look for someone new? Does Alan have any thoughts on this?

olucy said...

As for Leno's first show back, I'm already wondering if he'll steal Jack Paar's line: "As I was saying before I was interrupted..."

I've been wondering that too! Well, he's predictable enough, so I'm waiting to see....

Yesenia said...

Throughout all this I've been reminded of a graduation speech he gave at Harvard, its pretty good here's the full transcript http://www.february-7.com/features/conan.htm but this is a particularly great line and it makes me believe Conan's great attitude and personality will continue to lead him to great things:

"I left the cocoon of Harvard, I left the cocoon of Saturday Night Live, I left the cocoon of The Simpsons. And each time it was bruising and tumultuous. And yet, every failure was freeing, and today I'm as nostalgic for the bad as I am for the good.

So, that's what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over."

B said...

I wonder how many celebs may refuse to go on Leno once the show returns. You'd have to think there will be a few. Letterman is still available at 11:30 and Jimmy Kimmel in the past year or two really started getting higher profile guests.

Also, if Conan gets an 11 pm slot on FOX that would mean the first interview would probably be sometime around 11:30. I would think publicists would be itching to get their big clients on that spot since it would come a half hour earlier in the evening and might reach more eyeballs. One of the things always said is people watch the monologues and tune out.

Bitsy said...

amyp3,
You just ripped on every late night host on T.V. Maybe you ought to consider switching off the T.V. at 11 if you don't enjoy late night comedy.

Larry McHenry said...

Good Job Conan. That was a class way to go out in the end, and I hope to see you back on our screens soon.

Larry McHenry said...

And one more thing, if you want to see the difference between someone robotically going through the motions, and someone saying something from the heart, look at the last minutes of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno back in May, and look at the last ten minutes of what Conan did last night, and you'll see it clear as day.

Anonymous said...

do you guys think conan will go back to new york?

filmcricket said...

Alan, thanks for transcribing Conan's speech; I'm not ashamed to say I got a little choked up watching it.

While I wish Will Ferrell had kept away from the camera - it felt like the operator had nowhere to go and so the director kept cutting to the other players because Ferrell was blocking shots of Conan - it was great to see Conan riffing and laughing. Much more joyous than the White Stripes' appearance on Late Night. Bg Porter said this was a Viking funeral, I saw it as an Irish wake.

I agree it'd be nice to see Conan get away from the traditional talk show format. Guests who can do comedy with him would be great; guests who can play music would be even better; guests who are just there to plug a project can go elsewhere. If he lands somewhere that gives him free rein, he could really change the conception of late night as we've come to know it.

Mike said...

Great finale - made me look very much forward to his return to late night in September.

Can someone explain the joke about Chuck in Conan's list of options for use of his studio? Didn't get that one...

Also, to amyp3, Craig Ferguson does the best interview in late night. All of his interviews go further than the stereotypical "tell me a story, tell me about your latest project." He actually engages the guest, which leads to interest and entertaining conversations.

Mary said...

In the decade plus that I've been following Conan, he's struck me as one of the most human celebrities out there. It's why, even when real life interfered with my ability to stay up until 12:35 on a regular basis, I still felt a tremendous amount of residual affection for him, and it's why watching him get such a spectacularly rotten deal has been so agonizing. But Conan's farewell speech didn't just vindicate my already-high opinion of him, it exceeded it more than I could have imagined. "Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it," or so the saying goes, and if you ask me Conan passed with flying colors.

LA said...

Conan's Tonight Show swan song couldn't have been more perfect. Bravo.

Anyone recognize the "pregnant" girl Will Ferrell was macking on during Freebird? She looked so familiar, and yet...

BigTed said...

"Anonymous said...
Anyone else think it was odd to play a Lynard Skynard song to close out on a night when Neil Young was there given the animosity / controversy between them?"

There was never any real animosity between Young and Skynard. Young has always said he thinks "Sweet Home Alabama" is a good song, and Ronnie Van Zant was quoted as saying, "We love Neil Young, we love his music."

W. Blake Gray said...

Glad this hullabaloo over unfunny comedians is over. Now maybe America can wake up and move on to the next mindless distraction.

Seriously, folks -- who cares? Leno's pablum, Conan's only occasionally funny. This whole drama has been the first time either has been interesting.

One thing's for sure, they're not Jimmy Kimmel. He's actually funny.

Richard said...

Conan was excellent last night. He made just enough fun of the network but not too much.

And speaking of level 99 guests I think Tom Hanks, the man that gave Conan the nick name COCO, was awesome.

Both of these very talented and entertaining people are top notch in my opinion and how about Farrows' a$$ crack during Freebird? I loved it.

Anonymous said...

Conan is a real classy guy. I really enjoyed his final words. He is the only late night host, where, when his name is mentioned, a bunch of his skits, characters and location shoots pop right into my head and make me smile. I hope he finds another network, I will follow him there.

Bitsy said...

LA,
That was Will Ferrell's wife, Viveca Paulin, who is pregnant with their third child.

dez said...

"Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it," or so the saying goes, and if you ask me Conan passed with flying colors.

ITA. It's shown what a backstabbing whiner Leno is, how classy Ferguson is, and how mean Kimmel is (Letterman being an old crank is nothing new, heh heh).

Loved Coco's last show and I will watch whatever he does next.

Anonymous said...

Tom Hanks did not give Conan the nickname "Coco" (regardless of what Conan said last night.) The nickname came from a comedy bit about Twitter updates that they did on the second episode. The announcer was getting carried away and called him Coco, and Conan pretended to be angry and told him to stop calling him that. Hanks appeared later in the episode and was teasing Conan and repeated the Coco nickname.

Anonymous said...

I wish we'd seen more of Conan--and less of Will--at the end. Why did we need to see Will frenching his wife? We didn't.

Alf said...

Yes, Hanks came out to "Lovely Rita," which, for those who don't know, is a Beatles song and therefore very expensive. Rita is his wife's name. I thought, in addition to costing NBC a lot of money, it was a nod to Letterman and Shafer, who usually play songs with a (sometimes obscure) connection to the guest.

Jenna Culbertson said...

This was so sad to see him leave. I guess all good things must come to an end. Curious to see how well the show rebounds...

Publius said...

Anonymous...Don't you know your DBT?

James said...

W. Blake Gray, you don't make much sense. You don't think either of them are funny yet you're in a thread about them?

Stop telling other people what to enjoy. Stop your hate. Get off your high horse and go enjoy the comedy you do without belittling those who differ.


I thought this finale was Conan's nice bow out where as the episode before with Robyn Williams was the bang. I was surprised and pleased at Conan's plea to his fans to reject cynicism. I'm glad he highlighted the decades long relationship he shared. Too much negativity afloat.

Dez, I agree with you. Both Jay and Kimmel come off as nasty through this entire debacle. Letterman has always been nasty. Ferguson is the shining star. Conan was understandably doing some nasty and ended it on a positive note.

LA said...

Bitsy - Thanks for the info. I figured it was an actress with a prosthetic belly. Good times.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDoc2BcfqRs

We will miss you!

Anonymous said...

i hate jay leno!

cgeye said...

As for Leno's first show back, I'm already wondering if he'll steal Jack Paar's line: "As I was saying before I was interrupted..."

Betcha there's already a line on that action in Vegas... and the odds say he will. He's got to link back to the old skool hosts, so he can have Paar.

Here's hoping Mr. O'Brien kicks out the jams and goes full Kovacs (yeah, look it up -- he's the host no one namechecked when they remembered Jazzbo Collins, for Pete's sake....) I agree with this suggestion completely; it's the way the old skool hosts used to roll -- guests had to do something different than what's we see on a frakkin' clip -- they *entertained*:

"Guests who can do comedy with him would be great; guests who can play music would be even better; guests who are just there to plug a project can go elsewhere. If he lands somewhere that gives him free rein, he could really change the conception of late night as we've come to know it."

Just check the Carson DVD infomercials; Ed Ames' tomahawk chop, Betty White and "Ebb Tide"... back when late night shows were truly variety shows, instead of monologues/host-only skits, plugola, then musical guests.

Anonymous said...

Never liked him anyway, guy was horrible. Can't remember the last time the guy made a "joke" and I laughed.

Sore loser, should've been fired earlier.

Chalmers said...

"Lovely Rita" might have been a a tribute to Leterman. They even use another Beatles song, "Julia," when Ms. Roberts walks on.

Allision DeWitt said...

Seems to me Hanks made an indirect slap at Leno, in saying Conan would always be the "real" host of The Tonight Show. He did it briefly but I wonder how King Leno took that.

But anyway...compare Leno making snide cracks about Letterman's wife to that genuine humor, fun, graciousness and emotion .
Plus Neil Young AND a cowbell.

Well done.

TomAss said...

I think a lot of all the hub-bub is that for the young among us, we've grown up with Conan. I used to stay up late when I was in Middle School and watch Conan and Andy on Late Night, even before I could understand half(or more) of the jokes.

Is Conan always really funny? No, but find somebody that goes on TV for an hour five nights a week and is consistently funny. I can't imagine anyone living up to that hype.

I'm with Coco, and will follow him wherever he goes. Will I tune in every night? No. Do I own an Nielsen box? No(but I wish!). But I'll watch him whenever I'm grabbing for the remote at 11:35.

Anonymous said...

Further to Big Ted's points, the Neil/"Tonight's the Night" shirt Ferrell wore during "Free Bird" was the same as one Ronnie van Zant was more than once photographed wearing (most notably at the concert that provided the centerpiece for FREEBIRD... THE MOVIE).

Jonah said...

Holy hell, when Will Ferrell came out dressed in a ridiculous getup and started to sing "Freebird" I thought it couldn't get any better.

Then he brought out the cowbell.

I'm going to miss you, Conan.

zsasu2000 said...

What about Beck's uncredited appearance in the corner during the band jam?

AG said...

I'm following Conan wherever he and Andy land (though obviously there's going to be some fancy DVR/Hulu footwork to juggle O'Brien, Stewart and Colbert), but I second Mike re Ferguson's interview skills -- I *like* his pacing, I like that he seems to actually read books when he's got authors on, and I like that he seems to prefer awkward moments in conversation to boring/slick ones. Never dull, that freaky Scot.

Of course, I actually found myself charmed by and interested in Carson Daly's conversation with Dita von Teese the other night, so YMMV.

bahamas cruise said...

I am not a normal "The Tonight Show" watcher, it is just on far too late for me! But I did happen to watch last night to see how the much talked about farewell would be delivered. As Conan said most people thinking saying good-bye is a sad thing, but his farewell was actually an inspiration. No money can ever replace a passion or a career you love, you tell he was in the industry because of what he brought to his own life and other's lives opposed to doing the job for the money.

When I watched the episode I overlooked the “if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen," so thank you for putting emphasis on that because I truly believe that is true.

I believe Conan has many amazing things in his future because of this philosophy.

Thank you for breaking down his speech, it was just as amazing to read it as it was to hear it!

filmcricket said...

""Lovely Rita" might have been a a tribute to Leterman."

Well the Max W. 7 has definitely played "Lovely Rita" for Hanks before; it happened at least once on "Late Night." Hanks seemed to appreciate it.

Josh M. said...

"I wish we'd seen more of Conan--and less of Will--at the end."

Amen. Ferrell rivals only Jack Black as the King of Making Everything About Himself. The camera kept trying to find Conan, but Ferrell would run out from the stage and hog the spotlight.

Rob S. said...

Dita was on Carson Daly? Sorry I missed that!

Omagus said...

What about Beck's uncredited appearance in the corner during the band jam?

And Ben Harper's.