Conan’s all right, he’s just a little weird
Contrary to Neil Gabler’s incredibly wrong-headed essay in yesterday’s L.A. Times, Conan O’Brien wasn’t too cool for “The Tonight Show.” Rather, he was too quirky.
And, judging by comments from the network, and O’Brien himself, both parties had been arguing about what the host should do about it: Defang his comedy further, in an attempt to draw mainstream auds that once watched Jay Leno and Johnny Carson before him, or to let Conan be Conan.
This was not, as Gabler argues, a battle between cool hipsters and dorks. The labels simply don’t fit. It had everything to do with splintering audiences and changing media consumption patterns.
NBC decided to go broad as possible and bring Jay back after his disastrous run at 10 p.m. And Conan decided to be true to himself and the traditional “Tonight Show” timeslot. His musical choices on the last “Tonight Show” said it all: Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” on his video montage, and “Free Bird” closing out the show courtesy Will Ferrell in ’70s regalia.
Consider the “Surrender” refrain:
Mommy’s all right, daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird/Surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away
and the story about leaving a relationship that wasn’t working in “Free Bird,” that 70’s anthem requested as an encore at so many concerts:
But please don’t take it so badly/Cause Lord knows I’m to blame
But if I stayed here with you girl/Things just couldn’t be the same
Cause I’m as free as a bird now/And this bird you cannot change
Add Neil Young’s acoustic rendition of “Long May You Run,” and you’ve got a pitch perfect score for Conan’s last “Tonight Show.” Can’t embed video here, so click over here for a vintage rendition of “Surrender,” and to Hulu for the montage, and Conan’s last show.
For now, that is.