16 years ago “Late Night with David Letterman” changed its name to “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and on March 2, 2009, “Late Night” will change its name once again when new host Jimmy Fallon takes O’Brien’s place. As a fan of the show and of Conan O’Brien, I am quite sad to see him go. O’Brien is not leaving the talk show circuit permanently, mind you; in June he is scheduled to take over as the new host of “The Tonight Show,” but I can’t help but feel like Friday Feb. 20, 2009 marks the end of an era.
Since 1993, O’Brien has entertained us on his late night NBC talk show with his wit and comedic charm, however it wasn’t until 2005 that O’Brien finally won me over. I am not exactly sure what it was that drew me in.
Perhaps it was his smart quips with band leader Max Weinberg of the Max Weinberg 7, or it might have been his trademark red hair fixed in a bouffant style that seemed to get larger with every show. Whatever it was, I made it my goal to stay up until 12:37 AM to get my Conan O’Brien fix, and when that proved to be impossible, I turned to the internet to watch shows online.
At the heart of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” was O’Brien’s unique sense of humor and willingness to do anything, characteristics his writers captured perfectly in their scripts. “I have unparalleled writers who are the greatest left brain thinkers. They’re strange, they’re weird, a lot of them are probably desperately ill,” O’Brien said. He added, “They have given their talent, their time, and their lives to me to make this show so memorable…I love them dearly.”
When one enters “Conan O’Brien” into YouTube’s search engine, Conan O’Brien and Chuck Norris is one of the most popular search results that appears.
With a tug on the “Walker Texas Ranger lever,” O’Brien was able to bring up non-sensical clips of Chuck Norris as the “Walker Texas Ranger,” in one of the most unintentionally funny shows of our time. “Walker Texas Ranger” is conveniently owned by NBC Universal, therefore “Late Night” did not have to pay a penny to air it. Another one of the many “Late Night” staples was Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. A name that is pretty self explanatory, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was a puppet who frequently smoked cigars and insulted others through his interviews with people.
Conan O’Brien started out in the entertainment business as a writer for “Saturday Night Live.”
In 1993, Lorne Michaels, the creator of “Saturday Night Live,” decided that O’Brien had what it took to take over for Letterman when
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Letterman left “Late Night” for “The Late Show” on CBS.
“In 1993 Lorne Michaels took one of the greatest and most ridiculous chances in this medium when he plucked a completely unknown writer with no television experience and threw him on television,” O’Brien said during his final episode, Friday. “Lorne michaels single handedly created my career in television. I don’t know what I did, I think that I must have saved his life at one point. He certainly saved mine.”
O’Brien has never forgotten about the original host of “Late Night.” “[David Letterman] set the bar absurdly high and living in his shadow has been a burden and an inspiration to me for years…” O’Brian said.
Now that O’Brien’s run on “Late Night” is over, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that I missed so many years of such an amazing show. During the last week of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” O’Brien aired his favorite clips from shows that included everything from a short mockumentary about his own take on “Making the Band,” to a clip of him taking part in an old time baseball game with a fake mustache and a late 1800’s voice. Another tradition he continued from the monday of his last week was taking an axe to parts of his set and giving the pieces of history to his audience.
If you are worried that O’Brien will be unrecognizable when he takes over for Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show,” think again. “Sometimes I read that its time for Conan to grow up because he is going to 11:30 p.m.,” O’Brien said, “but I assure you that that is not going to happen. This is who I am for better or worse.”
Karen Blyton is a second year student majoring in English. She can be reached at KB666213@wcupa.edu.