Friday, February 20, 2009

Late Night with Conan O'Brien Final Show Liveblog

After 16 years on the air, Late Night with Conan O'Brien comes to a close tonight. Conan will be moving on to California, where he'll be taking over The Tonight Show, as Jay Leno moves on to a new 10:30 PM show. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien will be premiering in early June. While Jimmy Fallon will be taking over Late Night and starting on March 1st. (I'm not planning on watching that, myself.)

The past two weeks of shows have revolved around build-up to the final show, with lots of fan-requested looks back at popular bits from the past. Popular remotes reaired have included: Conan introducing his 1992 Ford Taurus to America and then trying to sell it at a car show (He eventually sold it to Brad Pitt), a trip to a Napa Valley vineyard from the week of San Francisco shows years ago, a trip out with Mr. T to enjoy the fall foliage, a late night search for viewers in Houston in 1997 (Since the local NBC affiliate there aired Conan at 2:45 AM then), a comedy remote in which Conan tried to form his own boy band called "Dudez A-Plenti," a popular dinner remote shot with an eccentric producer that was popular during the WGA strike last year, a 2005 trip to central park with a group of birdwatchers, a remote in which Conan hung out with Hunter S. Thompson (Shooting guns and drinking hard liquor), the classic 2002 Triumph the Insult Comic Dog remote mocking a theater lineup for Star Wars Episode 2, and Conan's trip to Martha Stewart Living several years back.

In addition to that, they've done montages looking back at the show's on-air screw-ups, assorted classic amusing moments (Including the show's thematic fixation on robots, bears, and Abraham Lincoln.), Conan's 2006 trip to Finland, the fan-favorite Walker: Texas Ranger clip from the Walker: Texas Ranger lever bits, and the best loved fake TV channel comedy bits. Stephen Colbert showed up tuesday night for a String Dance-Off. (Which Colbert ultimately won.) The Masturbating Bear had his potentially final comedy sketch (Depending on whether or not the NBC censors will allow them to bring the character to The Tonight Show an hour earlier.) in which they tried to freeze him in Carbonite (Like Han Solo) and he successfully escaped thanks to intervention by Carrie Fisher. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed up on wednesday to sort-of give Conan the key to the city. Martha Stewart made a brief appearance in bringing up her classic Conan remote as well. Nathan Lane serenaded Conan in his interview on wednesday night. The most recent show included a look back at a variety of funny moments, including William Shatner forgetting Captain Kirk's name and Conan taking on a fake crocodile with Steve Irwin, and a stand-up set by Jerry Seinfeld. Over the course of this final week, Conan has also been chopping up the set with an axe and distributing pieces of it to members of the audience. (The most resilient part of the set so far having been Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg's podium in The Max Weinberg 7's band setup.)

Having watched Conan fairly religiously since sometime back in 1996 or 1997 (Back when I was in middle school), it's definitely the end of an era of sorts to see the show concluding in these next 24 hours. Of course, with Conan moving to 11:30 this summer, I'll have to rearrange my usual television schedule, watching the later broadcast of the Colbert Report every night starting this summer. I can't say I'm a fan of their choice of replacement Late Night host either. But I'm looking forward to the final show tonight.

And as such, after I post this entry, I'm planning on doing the first Spiral Reverie liveblog (Which only makes sense, considering how few regular readers I have, and how little interest there probably is in a Late Night with Conan O'Brien finale liveblog) - assuming my internet connection's on my side then (It's incredibly slow at the moment for some reason.) - cutting my teeth on the whole liveblogging thing (Having never done it before. I'm usually in bed when interesting things are happening.) - as the final show airs. The White Stripes are the only confirmed guest at this point - a good way to send the show off, given the week they had them on as the musical guest every night - and I'm expecting that amidst the looks back and comedy bits, we'll see Andy Richter show up at some point. I've been surprised they haven't aired any clips from Andy's final show before he left back in 2000 or so as is, having been Conan's sidekick for as long as he had.

Now to enter the Cone Zone for the final time on Late Night:

(12:22 AM) The show starts in 13 minutes. Just going ahead and updating here to indicate that I am indeed going through with this.

(12:37 AM) The show's finally starting here. The same amalgamation of the older openings they've been using this week. The White Stripes are the only guest on the final show, of course, and there's surprise guests coming. Joel's gift to Conan? Flames, beautiful flames.

(12:38) The audience is cheering Conan's name and giving him a standing ovation. An appropriate start for the final show, for sure.

(12:39) 2,725 or so shows total, Conan just said. I probably saw close to 2000 of them.

(12:40) Video greeting from John Mayer, singing "LA's Gonna Eat You Alive."

(12:41) Conan released Abe Vigoda from his cage into the wild. What will he do without his cameos on Conan? Life won't be the same without Abe Vigoda.

(12:43) Conan's favorite remote. 1860's style baseball. This remote? Wonderful. Originally aired a few years ago. Check it out here. That gentleman likes to ply his seed in the other melon patch.

(12:48) If that was any lower, I'd have to dig to Hades to find the apple!

(12:50) Now Conan's hacking more of the set up to give pieces away to the audience. He tore down a column from the side of the stage and promised to break it up during the commercial breaks and distribute it amongst the audience.

(12:54) Back from the first commercial break. The piece of the set was hauled into the hallway to be chopped up for the audience.

(12:55) Will Ferrell just showed up as George W. Bush. He's thanking Cone Bone for his years of "humortastical wonderment." And also called Will Ferrell an asshole, so naturally he didn't have a nickname for Ferrell. Then Ferrell stripped out of his Bush costume into an old "sexy leprechaun" costume from a previous interview to once again humiliate Conan with an unwanted lapdance.

(12:57) Another commercial break.

(1:00) Back from commercial. Conan's talking about his love of practical jokes and mentioned Andy Richter - will he appear?

(1:01) Now they're showing an old prank Conan played on Andy, tricking him into stumbling onto the Today Show set behind Matt Lauer, completely naked. Classic. It's pretty cold in here. ... Katie around?

(1:02) Andy Richter! YES! I told you you'd never last without me!

(1:03) A montage of classic memories from the show: Conan learns bartending (I think I may have still been in high school when that one aired), an interview with Jackie Chan featuring lots of cheesy kung fu movie special effects, Dr. Joyce Brothers prompting Andy to laugh at "sexual dysfunction" (Leading to Conan smacking Andy), an appearance on Rolonda portraying Andy like those "extreme teenagers" on daytime TV shows, a sketch with Ian Roberts (Of Upright Citizens Brigade) involving an attack dog shooting a guy in a suit to protect him from dog attacks, Jim Carrey in "The Conan O'Brien Story," yet another sketch with the "Ginger no!" shooting dog, pimp Conan with a fur-covered car, a clay pigeon shooting sketch that ultimately amounts to Andy getting shot, and a documentary sketch about Conan's childhood. (The other kids liked to call him Stinky.)

(1:07) Commercial break again.

(1:12) Back from commercial. Another highlight reel with Andy. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's watchin' TV! A soap opera parody bit with Conan and Andy, Olympic speed skating, Studio 6A (A parody of the short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip), Conan calling Jennifer Garner out on her insisting "snuck" wasn't a word, Conan and former labor secretary Robert Reich's movie trailer, the claymation show, an edit with Harry Connick jr. singing to Conan, a bit of a classic remote at a day spa, and lastly a Rebecca Romijin Stamos (Back when she was still married to John Stamos, I believe) interview (Conan lusted after her as a running joke for years) in which she and Conan effectively kissed by passing a napkin between the fronts of their mouths (Which Conan passed to Andy and Rebecca failed to pass back, kissing Conan, prompting him to freak out on the air).

(1:16) Another commercial break. The White Stripes are out next.

(1:20) Back to the show. Conan's talking about how happy he was to be able to get The White Stripes, since they were his first choice for the final show.

(1:21) The White Stripes are performing now. And Meg isn't on the drums this time, actually doing vocals with Jack. I thought it was familiar - "We're Going to be Friends," by Jack White himself. This song was used as the opening to Napoleon Dynamite.

(1:25) Song finished, and now they're going to commercial again. Only 10 minutes left. Kind of a sad feeling, knowing it's almost over. These Late Night with Jimmy Fallon commercials are pretty depressing, too, with Jane Krakowski and Rachael Ray and all. I'd rather have a few months of Conan reruns and let the new shows start at the same time.

(1:28) Final segment is go, opening with a big photo of the staff. Conan's thanking everyone who helped out on tonight's show. Now he's moved on to giving credit to the whole show's staff and crew for making the show happen, thanking them and encouraging us to watch the end credits.

(1:29) And now he's talking about the Max Weinberg 7 and his good fortune in having such a top quality orchestra on the show, thanking each of the members by name. Thankfully, they'll be going to LA with Conan, so we won't be losing them.

(1:30) Now Conan's talking about Joel Godard too, how he went from being hired as an announcer and how he became one of the strangest and most dada performers in the medium.

(1:31) Time to thank the writers for their brilliance and weirdness. It's impossible not to smile watching all this. Former head writers were mentioned: Robert Smigel, Marsh McCall, Jon Drop(? - I couldn't match this one up with a name on the IMDB), and the current head writer, Mike Sweeney. (The money shot Lincoln himself.)

(1:32) Addressing Lorne Michaels now, thanking him for taking a huge chance in taking a completely unknown television writer with no real performances and bad skin and putting him on television, making his career.

(1:33) A second to acknowledge people at NBC - despite its being in the toilet - Rick Ludwin, Don Olmeyer, Jeff Zucker, and Nick Burnstein.

(Any staff names I screwed up, my apologies to those individuals. I'm going to try to check my spellings online.)

(1:34) A nod to David Letterman now as well and how high he set the bar for his generation with his comedy. Talking about how everything started with Late Night's original host, Letterman, living in whose shadow was both a burden and inspiration to Conan. Thanking Jay Leno for constantly plugging Conan since day one and encouraging his viewers to stay up later to watch Conan.

(1:35) Talking about the warmth and kindness of the city of New York, how good it's been to him - the Mount Olympus of broadcasting - and how shooting there has affected the DNA of the show. Eternal thanks expressed to the people working there and the city of New York. He couldn't believe he got to do the show in that building.

(1:36) Next in the line-o'-thanks is executive producer Jeff Ross, to whom he gives credit for keeping him balanced and getting the show on the air every night. (He wouldn't let the audience give him a standing ovation, of course, haha.)

(1:37) Now he's acknowledging his wife, kids, his parents - who were there tonight - and his brother Neil (Who watched every single show since the beginning and kept cheering him on), his whole family for keeping him sane.

(1:38) Conan says he doesn't know what he did to deserve this opportunity and that he's sure there's others who were much better than him, but that no one's enjoyed it more than he has. He assured us that he's not going to "grow up" now that he's going to 11:30 like critics have called for. The childish weirdness he's known for is who he is, for better or for worse, and that's not going to change. (A relief to hear, as someone who's loved his style of comedy for a significant chunk of his life.) He asked us to continue with him to the next gig, and said we were going to have a really great time.

(1:39) And now it's over. The credits are rolling, and Conan's going out into the audience, hugging fans and shaking their hands, while the staff distributes pieces of the set.

It's the end of an era, all right. Hard to know how to feel with it over, having watched the show a good 12-13 years of my near-25-year life. But yeah, while not over the top, that was a good final show. Next week's all reruns before Jimmy Fallon's Late Night starts. The three-month wait for the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien to get going in June will be a long one.

So yeah, there you have it, my first attempt at a liveblog. Instead of using any of the chatroom-like services I've seen for liveblogging (As I was uncertain as to how to best integrate something like that with this blog), I just constantly updated this post. I hope it worked well enough for those of you who stuck around to read it, and if you have any particular feedback about the liveblogging process and how to improve it, believe me, I'd love to hear it, seeing as this has just been an amateur first effort.

Thanks for coming by, at any rate. Let's look forward to the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien when that starts in June.


Lindsay Champion said...

A liveblog sounds great. I have been a big Conan watcher for many years and have been enjoying the antics the past few nights.

Don't forget to check out the Late Night With Conan O'Brien Podcast hosted by my friend Aaron on the NBC website ( ) of which Conan himself is the interviewed guest this week. That's my boyfriend John singing and playing the theme song, who was a staff member for several years on the show.

lindsay ||

Benjamin Fennell said...

I hope you enjoy it, then. I saw your post on Conan a few days ago when I last dropped by your blog and it reminded me to write something. Originally, I was just thinking of doing a farewell post of sorts myself, but then, never having done one, the liveblog idea came to me last night, so I figured I'd go through with that after writing the more elaborate introductory post I did here.

I'll definitely give that podcast a look. I haven't checked out enough of the site's features in some time, though I went by Late Night Underground a number of times earlier last year when the WGA strike was still going on. That's really cool, too. I'll have to pay extra attention when listening to the theme song. It's gotta be pretty cool being close to someone who worked on the show.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to the liveblog. Thanks.

Jen said...

Great commentary!! It was really fun to read.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Thanks for dropping by, everybody! I hope the liveblog lived up to your expectations. I tried to include as much detail as I could.

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