Get Used to It: Conan’s Here to Stay

Jun 2, 2009

Some might not like Conan O’Brien’s nervous mannerisms and others might not care for his hair.

Some might say he laughs a bit too much at his own jokes. Some might even accuse him of conspiring to push out Jay Leno.

However, it doesn’t really matter what you think of him. Conan has the job. He won it through years of hard work and an intense focus on his ultimate career goal, hosting “The Tonight Show.”

He has defied incredible odds when you consider how he was plucked from obscurity to replace David Letterman in 1993 and has now become only the fifth person in 54 years to host the most revered show in all of television. It is an admirable, even breathtaking achievement. He is here to stay. Get used to him.

Critics today will nitpick about his first show last night. You’ll read them focusing today on Conan’s tendency to laugh too loudly at his own jokes or laugh insincerely at the antics of a guest (last night it was Will Ferrell).

Some critics might scoff at Andy Richter’s hairdo, or wonder what in the world Andy added to last night’s debut, other than to boost Conan’s ego with his own overly loud laughter.

Some might even point out that, despite the obvious differences in style between Conan and Jay Leno, Conan last night trafficked in some of the same subjects that were Jay’s stock-in-trade — the haplessness of the L.A. Clippers, for example, a subject that was a staple of Leno’s monologues for 17 years. In addition, a spoof last night in which Joe Biden appeared to tell Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor of his love for various Mexican foods could just as easily have been written and produced for Leno’s “Tonight Show.”

It will all make interesting reading, but the truth is, first nights such as this really tell you nothing about how a new host is going to do over the long term. First nights such as this are useful only for getting certain things out of the way, such as the new guy’s nervousness and his tendancy to refer constantly (and a tad annoyingly) to the new job and his status as “the new guy.”

Here’s another truth about Conan and the people he has surrounded himself with: They’re a swell, smart bunch of guys — Andy, Max Weinberg, the executive producer Jeff Ross, even Conan himself. There is every reason to believe they will soon figure out how to make “The Tonight Show” their own.

Meanwhile, those of us here in New York who were lucky enough to become acquainted with them will miss them.

Best wishes to them all. 

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