I hated the Late Show with Conan O’Brien when it first came on sixteen years ago. I was a Letterman supporter and anything that NBC concocted to fill his void after Dave’s departure had to be lame.
And for a while, it really was.
I can’t remember when I gave Conan a second chance…it would have been a few years after his debut…but I remember noticing a distinctively different host. Gone was the nervous tick and scripted jokes. They were replaced by this admittedly nerdy guy with a strange sense of humor that was right up my alley.
Conan O’Brien himself made me a fan.
It might have been when O’Brien booked Letterman to return to the show. The famous “I love what you’ve done to the place.” line before Dave rolls his eyes with sarcasm. Once Letterman gave his blessings, it seemed, once he declared that he had no problem with Conan, then I began to take notice of his replacement host. It was an important event, I think, as Conan brought Dave on not only out of respect…that was certainly due as Letterman practically invented the format that Conan was using…but to let us know “I agree. Dave got shafted. I’m a fan too. I’m just trying to honor what he made.”
He did honor what Dave did. The question is now will he be able to take that weirdness to an earlier time slot, or will he tone it down (like Letterman did) in order to cater to the more mainstream audience?
He’ll have to, I’m sure of it. But I hope that someone realizes that we now have a few generations who grew up on Letterman and O’Brien late night. Regardless of how old we are, we can handle things like this now.
It’ll be tough to figure out what to watch at 10:30 now, it wasn’t so much before. It’ll be even tougher to figure out what to watch at 11:30 as 1.) I’m not a huge Jimmy Fallon fan and 2.) I’m old now, do you really think I’m even up at 11:30 at night?
Regardless, one thing that O’Brien has taught me was to never judge a book by its cover and how sometime it takes a few shows before a person’s true talent is shown. I’ll be sure to take that into consideration with Fallon, but more importantly, I’ll do it with O’Brien’s next gig as well.