While I would never wish sadness or the crushing of lifelong dreams upon Conan O’Brien, I would secretly cheer if he decides to leave The Tonight Show (or if NBC honchos decide they’ve had enough of his on-air insubordination).
Conan’s a brilliant late-night host, of course. But his oeuvre consists of a classic Simpsons run and 17 years of late-night ephemera. Ricky Gervais has The Office; Chris Rock has his stand-up specials; Woody Allen has Annie Hall and Manhattan. Will Conan end up with “Marge vs. the Monorail” … and a box set of Masturbating Bear and Triumph bits?
There’s probably a behavioral economics argument for why sustained but ephemeral late-night genius is better than a half-dozen classic movies surrounded by a couple dozen The Curse of the Jade Scorpions. But it sure would be exciting to see that genius set loose from its late-night confines, even for a little while. Who knows what crazy shows, movies, Shouts & Murmers columns, comedy songs, and other assorted awesomeness he’d come up with.
Like any practicing comedy elitist, I have a visceral dislike of Jay Leno. I’m obviously on Team Conan. But are his monologue one-liners really that much smarter than Leno’s? Are Conan’s celebrity interviews really less puffy?
I’ve only seen scattered Conan bits since watching Late Night regularly for the first few years of the aughts (the little time I have for late-night shows goes to The Daily Show, obviously). On the other hand, I would have kept up religiously if he had instead made three movies, two seasons of a cult show, and a bunch of web shorts in those seven years.
So I hope, for Conan’s sake, that everything works out and he gets to keep his beloved Tonight Show gig in the right time slot. But if he has to go, this fan selfishly thinks it’ll be for the best.
(Adam Frucci has some thoughts along these lines at The Awl.)