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.)
Via Hitsville, I see that the New York Times continues to assure readers it is dowdy, out-of-touch, and scared of printing language spoken by actual 2008 adults. The latest is an article about vulgarity in NBC’s Thursday-night shows, helpfully annotated by Bill Wyman at Hitsville:
“In the case of ’30 Rock,’ the reference came in the form of an acronym — part of the title of a make-believe ‘Survivor’-like show — referring to a teenager’s crude designation of someone’s sexy mother.* In ‘The Office,’ besides the bleeping, the character’s lips were even pixilated to prevent lip reading. But it was not difficult for many viewers instantly to realize what was said**.”
* The show-within-the-show in “30 Rock” is called “MILF Island”; MILF stands for “mother I’d like to fuck.”
** In “The Office,” Jan and Michael, hosting the dinner party from hell, engage in a “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”-style face-off, culminating in an argument about having children in which it’s revealed that Michael has had a vasectomy, had it reversed, and then had another one because of Jan’s indecision. “Fine, let’s have a fucking kid,” she says sarcastically. “Do you mean it? Do you want to have a kid?” Michael asks, ready to have his second vasectomy reversal.
See, the real problem with the Times’ (and, by extension, 97 percent of daily newspapers’) prudishness is not only that it drains all the humor and realism out of the topics at hand. It’s just plain confusing, people!
Readers might think 30 Rock’s show-in-a-show was called “YMAH: Your Mom’s a Ho” or “YMSMASPFROMS: Your Mom Sent Me a Spam-Porn Friend Request on MySpace.” The Times may think it’s sheltering readers from put-cotton-in-your-ears language — but it’s really just giving them license to mentally run through all the dirty words referring to a teenager’s sexy mother. Shame on you, gutter-dwelling Times readers!!!
The New York Times provided a hilarious example of newspapers’ self–enforced irrelevancy the other day, when they attempted to write about Jimmy Kimmel’s “I’m Fucking Ben Affleck” response to Sarah Silverman’s “I’m Fucking Matt Damon” video. The article is meant to show the Times is totally plugged into the viral vidgeist — but of course it serves only to show how out of touch and prude newspapers are.
As Vulture points out, “The entire article is a masterpiece of tortured syntax that deftly removes all humor from the videos.” Here are the best parts, as flagged by Vulture:
“A satiric video in which Mr. Kimmel, the host of the ABC late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live, talks enthusiastically — jokingly, we are led to believe — about his sexual relationship with Ben Affleck, has been a huge hit online. …
“After Ms. Silverman revealed that she was hooking up with Mr. Damon — everywhere, it seemed, and all the time — Mr. Kimmel vowed to take his revenge. … Most of the lyrics of Mr. Kimmel’s and Ms. Silverman’s songs are too graphic to be repeated here. One vulgar word describing the coital relations between, on the one bed, Ms. Silverman and Mr. Damon, and on the other, Mr. Kimmel and Mr. Affleck, was repeatedly bleeped out for the broadcast of each video.”
Never mind the priceless juxtaposition of New York Times second-reference style with the subject (Mr. Kimmel is fucking Mr. Affleck — must show the proper deference!). Could the Times possibly have written a more unironic, monocle-wearing ode to their own dowdiness? It’s not just the language dodge, which is bad enough. They’re still writing about comedy bits with a straight face — the way the Times probably wrote about that just wonderfully droll Church Lady in 1988.
This was a one-off (two-off, really) viral video attempt. Proper responses include laughing and forwarding to a friend; watching a second time; ignoring; and writing a blog post about the inevitable and annoying response videos. Responses that show you don’t get it include: writing a long article simply summarizing the videos — even while blushing and hiding from the central joke — and treating them like big productions that need to be explained and reported on.
Saturday Night Live’s first post-strike episode was surprisingly solid, thanks to Tina Fey and her love of slightly sexist humor and poop jokes. Only one sketch bombed (a TMI drunken wedding toast) and an otherwise brilliant Rock of Love parody was ruined by Amy Poehler’s annoying one-legged farter (topic for future consideration: why SNL still bothers to come up with “characters” and why SNL characters and catch phrases were ever big deals in the first place).
The most interesting sketch came near the end, when a scene opened on Bill Hader doing a spot-on Daniel Plainview impression inside what turned out to be an old-fashioned soda shop. Sure enough, it was an “I Drink Your Milkshake” sketch. And it got an interesting audience response — not crickets or forced laughter, but what seemed to me to be chuckles of sheer bafflement. Most of the audience simply didn’t know what was going on. (The biggest laugh line was Kenan Thompson joking that Hader would get a cold from his shake — hardly a reference to the original gag or the movie.) It was a great lesson in the limited reach of Internet fads and viral video.
The sketch is based on a scene from There Will Be Blood in which Daniel Day-Lewis’ crazed oilman shouts “I drink your milkshake!” I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I gather it’s roughly equivalent to Borat saying “I crush her” only more violent. Various geniuses made viral videos parodying the line, or mashing it up with the Kelis song “Milkshake,” or otherwise creating Internet hilarity. New York Magazine’s Vulture blog called it (only semi-sarcastically, as far as I can tell) “2008’s fastest-growing catchphrase” and provided a guide to its proper usage. Various non-NYC-insidery-blog media outlets picked up on what the cool kids were blogging about, and soon you had the Associated Press noting in its Oscar roundup:
Despite the art-house nature of “There Will Be Blood,” Day-Lewis’ performance has seeped its way into popular culture. A line he bellows during the film’s stunningly violent climax — “I drink your milkshake!” — has become a bit of a catch phrase.
Note the hedge “a bit.” Judging by the response to SNL’s milkshake sketch, the catch phrase hasn’t seeped very far beyond the in-the-know audience from which it came. It’s saying a lot if Saturday Night Live’s audience — not a hip bunch like the Daily Show crowd, but probably a good barometer of general pop culture awareness — missed the joke.
The sketch is a good reminder of how even the Internet’s top pop culture blogs are still pretty self-contained and inter-referential and off the general population’s radar. The same thing happened last year when Best Week Ever discovered “Chocolate Rain.” They tried to turn their discovery into a pop culture phenomenon; viral vid parodies ensued; and “Chocolate Rain” singer Tay Zonday appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show — again, to the audience’s utter bafflement.
I Drink Your Milkshake and Chocolate Rain are both fascinating examples of pop culture’s real-time, Internet-era metamorphosis. Their narrow reach, and the hipster blogs’ attempts to recreate old-school fads like catch phrases and characters in viral video form, show that maybe things aren’t changing as quickly as we thought.