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March 14, 1996 - Image 19

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-03-14

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The Michigan Daily - 'W"4,/ , c4. - Thursday, March 14, 1996 - 7B

Conan O'B
By Ryan Posly
Daily Arts Writer
"The perfect world would be where
'The Conan O'Brien Show' would be
o, I am not kissing up to anyone.
CMI it determined ambition or crazed
reo6nition, but this is how Conan
O'Brien himself predicted his ideal
future way back in 1985, during an
ititerview for the Harvard Crimson's
commencement issue. Little did young
Conan know how true his prediction
wvould become.
Amid'all the hoopla over David
Letterman's migration from NBC to
S in early 1993, a new late-night
tender emerged. Tall, handsome
and- noticeably nervous, Conan
O'Brien stepped into the spotlight
from virtual obscurity and has been
climbing the stairway of success ever
Given the impossible task of filling
Letterman's big shoes, "Late Night
with Conan O'Brien" has far sur-
passed reven the most optimistic of
ectations at the time. According
most critics, O'Brien was destined
to fail alongside the likes of Chevy
Chase and Rick Dees. But NBC stood
by its new host ... barely. With time,
O'Brien found his footing, and the
public found his humor.
yNow O'Brien is enjoying his well-
deserved success and "Late Night"'s
newfound popularity. It has found a
sort of cult following on college cam-
puses across the country and now con-
tently bests its main competition,
*4S's"The Late Late Show with Tom
Snyder," in the ratings. Even televi-
sion super-critic Tom Shales of The
Washington Post proclaims that
O'Brien "has gone from being a joke
to being truly funny, one of the great-
est examples of a self-makeover in
television history."
Sb who exactly is this guy? Speak-
on the telephone from New York,
Brien is friendly, funny and gra-
cious, though less rehearsed and pol-
ished than his television persona. He
is also a little tired, having just fin-
ished taping a show. "We got through

ifen's quick wit marks him as NBC's new late night king


... ...


it," he half-groans. "We got through it
without a lawsuit."
Don't let that fool you, though:
O'Brien, at 32, is far from burned-
out. Born in Brookline, Mass., ("Birth-
place of John F. Kennedy and
Aerosmith. I'm the coming together
of those two."), O'Brien grew up in a
large Irish-Catholic family of six chil-
dren. He is a little touchy about the
notion of his family's wealth.
"The big misconception is that,
people think, 'Oh, if his father's a
doctor and his mother's a lawyer, he
must be rich,"'O'Brien said. "But my
dad's in academic medicine and my
mother didn't go back into law until I
was in high school. So we kind of had
a crappy station wagon, and there
were a lot of us ... It felt kind of real
middle class. We weren't real pam-
pered or anything, and I got hand-me-
downs for a big chunk of my youth. I
started to be able to get my own pair
of pants around the time bell-bottoms
were coming in, so I was screwed
either way."
O'Brien went to Harvard, where he
studied American history and litera-
ture and became heavily involved with
the infamous Harvard Lampoon. He
wrote for the Lampoon for his entire
stay at Harvard and served as presi-
dent of it for two consecutive years.
He seems nostalgic about his col-
lege years and, when pressed, has this
to offer: "When you're in college,
you have no idea what a good deal it
is ... You get to hang around with
people your own age, and someone
has made sure that there are as many
girls as there are boys, and you get to
sit around and read books, choose
what courses you want to take, you
eat a lot of fried food ... It's a great
thing, and I always look back on it
like, 'Why was I so anxious?'.

"In college you
have no idea what
a good deal it is..
Things have gone
well, but I wish I
had thrown more
kegs off rooftops,
and things like
- Conan O'Brien
Talk show host
O'Brien hasn't let his new celeb-
rity go to his head or interfere with his
personal life. Having been a drummer
in a band in high school and college,
he later switched to guitar because of
lack of rehearsal space for drums. So
in his free time he likes to play self-
taught rockabilly guitar and spend
time with his girlfriend of two years.
"It's no one famous or anything, al-
though if you want you can say it's
Vendela. But it's not." It's actually
"Late Night" talent booker Lynn
When asked how much of his true
personality comes off on screen,
O'Brien claims that it's all real. "You
can't act that much, and I'm not a
particularly good actor, so kind of
what you see is what you get," he
"There are variations, like in life.
There are some nights where I'm more
manic than others; there are some
nights where I just babble more; there
are some nights where I'm more pro-
fessional and just sort of move things
along; and there are some nights where
I'll just be yammering on about some-
thing that I'm obsessed with that night,
or getting off on tangents, or a little
hyperactive. But that's pretty much
who I am, you know, you can't really
fake it. After a while ... you probably

get a pretty good idea of what I'm
True enough, O'Brien is just as
affable when he's not in front of the
camera - quick to joke and always
thinking in terms of comedy skits. For
instance, when asked if he hangs out
with his wry sidekick Andy Richter,
O'Brien says that he would if they
didn't spend so much time together
on the job.
"And he's married, so it would be a
little creepy if on his weekends, when
his wife and he are going to kiss or
something, my head comes in between
them: 'Hey guys! This is agreatmovie,
isn't it?!
Most critics point to "Late Night"'s
inventive comedy sketches as the rea-
son for its continued success with the
hard-to-please college-age audience.
The most prominent of the unortho-
dox bits include a stand by Emer-
gency Guest in a glass case and the
recurring Carl "Oldy" Olson, a frail,
ancient-looking man with "raw sex
appeal." "Women seem to respond to
him, so it's just something that took
off. ... He's very well-paid, he's the
brains behind the show (and) I'm his
So what could a guy who seem-
ingly has everything want now? He
has achieved the improbable, taking
over "Late Night" with aplomb to
become the new king of the 12:30
a.m. time slot. He has realized his'
prediction of over 10 years ago. But
there's still something missing:
"Someday I'd like to have an entou-
rage. Maybe if there's some guys at
the University of Michigan that are
interested. The pay isn't great, it's not
what Oldy gets, but right now it's like
Andy and Oldy Olson are my entou-
Surely you jest, Conan. But seri-
ously, having come this far, what's
next? "Mostly it's just to do weirder
and weirder things with the show that
will confuse and alienate the baby-
boom. That's kind of sort of what 1
feel like I'm here for." And that's
kind of sort of what will keep him
there for a while to come.

"Late Night with Conan 0"Brien" took the place of "Late Night with David
Letterman" on NBC at 12:30 a.m. And he's done a pretty good job.

Things have gone well, but I wish I
had thrown more kegs off of rooftops,
and things like that."
After graduation, O'Brien began
writing for "Not Necessarily the
News" and performing with improv
groups. He was discovered by Lorne
Michaels, creator and executive pro-
ducer of "Saturday Night Live," who
gave him a job as a writer for "SNL,"
where his talents flourished. He was
writing for "The Simpsons" when
Michaels again summoned him, this
time for his shot at "Late Night" fame.
It would seem that O'Brien has fi-
nally hit the big time, with his new

contract giving him reportedly up-
wards of $1 million a year and allow-
ing him to tape only four shows a
week, but his schedule has not slack-
ened. "More work goes into (the
shows) than you'd think, watching
them. So despite their appearance,
you spend a lot of time working on
them, so we're here a lot late at night
and everything."
And even though he's not taping,
Mondays are not a day off for O'Brien
either, although "I think one of these
days I'm just gonna take it off, you
know, occasionally, and say, 'Screw

Life in the Hootie zone: Have American audiences gone insane?

* Tyler Brubaker
iy Arts Writer
Be afraid. Be very afraid. No one is
safe. Turn on the radio- Hootie. Flip
to MTV- Hootie. Read Rolling Stone
- Hootie. Don't start questioning
your sanity just yet. It's not your
imagination. It's real. As your life
becomes one big blur of all Hootie all
the time, stop and ask yourself, why?
-Being a cynical college student and
#t a junior-high kid who hangs on
every word of John Sencio, you prob-
eably scratch your noggin at the thought
of'Hootie. Especially if you are the
type of person that automatically
passes off something as crap if it's
To many of us, Hootie is all the
proof we need to say "Just because
something is popular, doesn't mean
it's good." Yet, too often people blur
the line between quality and public
*proval, usually swinging the pen-
ulum to whatever side they need to
uphold an argument.
First things first, though. Why
Blootie and why now? Chances are,
everybody just got sick and tired of
mass-produced grunge rock. It gets
~hard to keep track of MTV's flavor of
the week after a while. Distorted gui-
tars, flannel shirts and a gimmick will
ly get you so far. If that's all you
ot, then you're destined for'90s com-
pilation heaven. How long can it be
before we see the Offspring on "Liv-
ing in the '90s Grunge Rock Forever?"
Andthen along comes Hootie. Nice,
easy-listening, simple songsthat make
you wish you never broke up with
your high school sweetheart. Even if
you think Hootie is the biggest bunch
of no-talent musicians to ever sell a
Jbazillion records, their popularity

makes sense.
By this point you may be saying to
yourself, "Hey man, it's all just a
matter of individual taste. People just
get adamant about it because they
can't understand what people see in
certain bands." OK, you have a point,
but it's much deeper than that.
Answer this question: the differ-
ence between Hootie and the Blow-
fish and The Eagles is:
A. The name "Hootie" sounds goofy
compared to "The Eagles."
B. Don Henley never had a frat boy
C. 1976 vs. 1996
D. All of the above.
Of course D is right, but the point is
that the only real difference is the
timing. Both are radio-friendly bands
that put out palatable music meant to
be danced to and played in the back-
ground while drinking large amounts
of alcohol. Yet, a lot of people who
own "The Eagles' Greatest Hits" take
the Lord's name in vain when you
mention Hootie.
It's not that hard to figure out. It's
all timing. Maybe you danced for the
first time to "Hotel California."
Maybe you were listening to "Take it
Easy" the first time you got drunk
with your friends. It's all about memo-
ries, baby. You grew up with The
Eagles. Your musical tastes didn't go
all that deep. It made you tap your feet
and you could remember the words,
that was all that was important. Then
you got older, you learned what it
meant to be cynical. All of a sudden,
you just couldn't relate to guys like
Jon Bon Jovi anymore. Sure you loved
"Slippery When Wet," but you just
couldn't get into "New Jersey." You
needed more.

All of this brings us to the "Hootie
Factor": Simply dividing the line be-
tween what is "quality" and what just
happens to be popular. Too many
people either whine and say that ev-
erything that's popular today is crap,
or justify something as good by not-
ing its popularity.
So if you think that Hootie and the
Blowfish are high-caliber musicians
who won their fame by making one of
the most original and important al-
bums in a decade, then don't call it the
"Hootie Factor." Use the name of any
band that you feel is unworthy of the
recognition they've received. Call it
the "Bush Factor," or "Silverchair
Factor" or "Insert the name of a shitty
popular band here Factor."
So the next time your friend says,
"Hey man, Metallica rules 'cause they
like, sold a lot of records and stuff,"
be sure and cite the Hootie Factor.
When they say, "Dude, Pearl Jam's
totally commercial and all they do is
sell lots of albums," ask them if they
like the Eagles or even Steve Miller,
and cite the Hootie Factor.
This idea is good for almost any
argument in any situation. Before you
know it, it'll be sweeping college cam-
puses across the nation. People will
stop watching "Quantum l eap" late
at night and watch the "Hootie Factor
Infomercial" instead. Darius Rucker,
lead singer of the Blowfish, will come
on the show and I'll ask him, "So
how'd you get the name Hootie any-
way?" and he'll say, "My name's not
Hootie, it's Darius," and proceed to
beat the living hell out of me. It could
So now that we've discussed why
Hootie exists and what the "Hootie
Factor" is, what do we do with this
new found information? First of all,
realizing that the popularity ofHootie
615 E.Liberty
"near State St."

"My name is DARIUS, not Hootiel This is my Blowfish posse, and we are taking over America (per instructions from Don
Henley). Give us your brains!"

and the Blowfish can be explained in
some form or another should help you1
sleep a little easier, but even better
than that, you can go forth and preach
the word of the Hootie Factor.
Remind your friends and family
that too often, popularity and merit do

not go hand in hand. Tell your little
brother that just because the public is
infatuated with something does not
necessarily mean that it is a quality
work of art. Tell your roommate that
not every band that is played on Top
40 radio is putting out mindless gar-

People will be more tolerant and
understanding, the world will be a
better place, and we'll all live ... well
it'll make for good conversation for
about a week, anyway, and I guess
that'll have to be enough.

rPs B-day is Mach 13th
so we're having a I
Marcha13th thru March 31st
I 617 Packard I Upstairs I
I from Subway I
not valid wlother discounts
or coupons
L 44



ollege Night -Contests'
$1 Pitchers. No cover
w/student ID 21+

Free billiards. Satellite sports.
Food & drink specials.
April 12 and the 2nd Friday
of every month. 89X DJ Kelly Brown,
contests, giveaways & more!

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