When I was little I used to think of reasons for an extended bedtime. The best one I could think of was the privilege to watch late night television. “Daddy, I want to watch the great comedians that inhabit the realm of late night television. I would like to laugh so hard that my pants fall off. Is there a late night talk show host that can do this for me?” Since Johnny Carson was off the air by this point, my father responded that no, there was no man that could fill this void. David Letterman, though he is quite clever, comes off so intense and anxious that you feel as if you need open heart surgery. Jay Leno – well, I guess he appeals more to the West Coast simple, non-existent sense of humor. I wanted a man who not only had the stunning intellect of a Harvard educated man, but also possessed the staggering creativity that would produce the sheer genius concoction of vomiting kermit.
I did not expect that this man would come in the shape and form of Conan O’Brien, but I am eternally grateful that he did. After being president of the Harvard Lampoon for two years, he then went on to be a writer for Saturday Night Live. It was in 1993 that producer Lorne Michaels offered Conan his own late night talk show and, luckily for the world’ s sake, the freakishly white giant of a man with an eccentric quaff of red hair took the offer.
The show had a famously rough start in which it was threatened with cancellation, week after week, due to low ratings. Conan really had to prove himself as a comedian, unlike Letterman and Leno, who had been stand-up comics for years.
I did not enter the “Cone Zone” until my junior year of high school, which I believe is when Conan really began to hit a stride with his audience. With his mix of unforgettable characters, the raunchy banter with his band – the Max Weinberg Seven – and his hilarious on-location interactions with “real” people, he truly has the best late night talk show on television.
O’Brien brings out the disgusting juvenile inside all of us. His self-loathing attitude is also quite refreshing in a world of flawless celebrities. Leno and Letterman have become used to yakking it up with celebrities, because they themselves are millionare celebrities. Conan, however, still doesn’t feel that he has reached that high level of status, which makes him more appealing. You get the sense that when he is not on camera, he is just a regular, extremely funny guy.
I am literally counting the minutes until Conan takes over for Leno at “The Tonight Show” in 2009. Other girls may like boys they can actually see outside of the television box, but until I get on the show – and oh yes, I will be on the show someday – that precious hour will have to do.
Lepore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.