Monday, June 8, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.conm
Tonight' has a new, pale face
BY ERIC CHIU
When NBC announced that Conan
O'Brien would be taking over "The Tonight
Show" back in 2004, most of the buzz
surrounding the move
involved whether or not he ** *
could actually pull it off.
Since being chosen TheTonight
from relative obscurity to
host "Late Night" in 1993, ShOw with
O'Brien has carved out a Conan
comfortable niche with
his absurdist humor. But Bnen
with characters like Pimp- Weeknights
bot 5000 and the Mastur- at11:35p.m.
bating Bear, his appeal to NBC.
an audience accustomed
to Jay Leno's "Tonight
Show" was (and still is) up in the air. Now
that O'Brien has officially taken the reins of
"The Tonight Show," it'saclear that he could
.. care less ahout his new audience's expecta-
Right out of the gate, "The Tonight
Show" can't help but feel like "Late Night
With Conan O'Brien" on a new set - but
that's hardly a bad thing. O'Brien has been
coasts, but keeps his
on the air for more than a decade, and so far
"The Tonight Show" has relied heavily on
the same fine-tuned combination of mono-
logues, traditional interviews and musical
guests, along with sketch material and pre-
These segments, which
different situations outside of
the studio, were always great
on "Late Night" - one of the
most memorable had Conan
playing in an old-time base-
ball league - and on "The
Tonight Show," they're just
as strong. These segments
work especially well thanks
to O'Brien's consummate
showmanship and ability to
riff on whatever ridiculous
scenarios he faces.
So far, "The Tonight
Show" has gotten a lot of
mileage from the fact that
O'Brien has switched coasts.
In the first episode, he was
shown sitting in the rafters
during a Los Angeles Lakers
game and, later, guiding a
tram tour in Universal Stu-
dios. to addition to cracking
a variety of jokes at the tour's
expense, O'Brien has the
tram driven through down- supremely co
town LA and buys the whole
tour group things from a 99-cent store. As
good as the pretaped segments were during
"Late Night," the show's new locale helps
keep them fresh.
Being a late-night talk show, "The
Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" adheres
to the genre's tropes. At this point, the topi-
cal monologue and celebrity interviews
are essentially relics of a bygone era. But
O'Brien's irreverent approach toward these
usual talk show conventions carries over to
"The Tonight Show."
The first two episodes featured Tom
Hanks ("Angels & Demons") being struck by
iffed and ready for comedy.
a giant meteor and Will Ferrell ("Land of the
Lost") entering the set perched on a throne.
While it's hard to tell whether or not it's just
the show pulling out all the stops during its
first week, having "The Tonight Show" open
to such surrealist humor is a nice change
from Leno's straightforward jokes.
One minor pitfall of the show- is Andy
Richter ("Andy Barker, P.I."), O'Brien's side-
kick on "Late Night" until 2000. He now
works as the announcer for the "Tonight
Show," but the show doesn't seem to know
what to do with him just yet. The rapport
between Richter and O'Brien is familiar
and regularly funny, but after eight years
apart, there's not yet a sense that the two
are entirely comfortable working together
Still, that hiccup is more of a growing pain
rather than inexperience, and as O'Brien's
time on "Late Night" showed, he's more
than capable of overcoming such shortcom-
ings. Since O'Brien came into the public eye,
he's grown into a more than capable host.
And after taking on "The Tonight Show"
with such a strong start, it's safe to say that
O'Brien and "The Tonight Show" will defi-
nitely be around for a while.
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