Yet another confession No. 387 – I’ve never been particularly fond of US chat shows. They can be fun if the guest is decent but I’d rather watch an eight minute youtube clip than an entire episode which will have a bland monologue, desk bits or sketches, and other guests who I don’t find that interesting. So despite many adoring Letterman, Leno, Craig Ferguson and Stephen Colbert, those shows left me cold (and yes, I’ve deliberately left James Corden out of that list as surely no one adores him, and why anyone watches his show is something I will truly never understand). The one exception to this is Conan, which I’d never really watched until I met my partner five years ago and she happened to be his biggest fan, to the point that if you even mention Jay Leno’s name she spits on the floor after what happened between the two in 2010, so I do that a lot, obviously.
Since that time I’ve watched a lot of his work and enjoyed almost all of it, of course Conan isn’t exempt from making the odd dodgy episode, given the man’s rate of output it would be amazing if he was, and sometimes the monologues are a little on the weak side. But only sometimes, most of the time the man’s on fire, and even if a joke is slightly dodgy he’s well versed when it comes to riffing about this. The non-interview related segments are also far, far better than those found elsewhere, with Clueless Gamer, Fan Corrections and his travels with Jordan Schlansky being a particular delight. There’s also the running jokes of which there are too many to mention, though Paul Rudd’s ongoing appearances and the showing of clips from Mac and Me is a brilliant one which amazingly never gets old. Oh, and Conan is unique in having a side kick, in the form of Andy Richter, who’s actually really funny and adds to rather than subtracts from events.
But last year Conan announced that he was going to shake things up and reduce his show to thirty minutes, explaining that he made decision because “A half-hour show will give me the time to do a higher percentage of the comedy in, and out, of the studio that I love and that seems to resonate in this new digital world. It’s still going to be me hosting a very silly show, but I want segments on my half-hour program to link to digital content, deepening the experience for my younger fans, and confusing my older ones”, which sounded like a good idea, I was never fond of the musical guests and the second celebrity / person of interest to be interviewed sometimes wasn’t that interesting. And judging by this first instalment it does look like it’s going to be an even better show.
Once again it begins with an opening monologue though as this time it was based around discussing the changes to the show it’s hard to know how strong such a thing will be on a regular basis, but tonight it was very funny so that’s pleasing. A short sketch followed based around the hit NBC series This Is Us, This Is Conan, which allowed them to carry on the long running gag that off screen Conan and Andy are secretly lovers, and it contained many a great line (my favourite being the one about the band now living on a farm upstate) and a fun cameo from Milo Ventimiglia who seemed happy enough to send himself up, and Andy proved a particular pleasure in the skit, and like the monologue if they can carry on creating material of this level the show should be essential tv.
After that the first and only interview took place, with an up and coming actor of the name Tom Hanks who a couple of you might have heard. Refreshingly he wasn’t present to promote anything, and so it gave the chance for Conan to chat about anything he liked, which at first was about whether Hanks deserves to be known as the nicest guy in Hollywood and if he ever gets angry. Hanks’ responses were decent enough but both Conan and Richter made it a truly funny part of the episode, and a lesser host and sidekick might have made the story dull. Hanks does deserve kudos for following it up with a fantastic impression of the sadly recently deceased director Penny Marshall though, and Only the third part of the interview, where they discussed Hanks’ fondness for taking photographs of lost gloves (and other objects) and putting them on instagram fell a little flat. It was interesting enough but not particular hilarious stuff and not even Conan and Andy could rescue the section this time around.
Judging by this first episode I’ve certainly a lot of optimism that Conan’s made the right decision and separating the wheat from chaff means it’s a tight, lean twenty one minutes of tv which should be a rare example of a chat show that looks like it will always be worth watching. The longer interviews will hopefully mean he’ll be able to bring out the best in his guests, though I’d have no issue if they were a little shorter if it meant they had the time for an extra sketch or two, as long as they’re of the same quality of tonight’s at least. Stephen Colbert may be considered the current king of late night chat but right now Conan’s a lot more fun to watch, and hopefully soon many more people will start to notice this too.
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