Friday, February 20, 2009

Late Night with Conan O'Brien (1993-2009)

Clash of the titans
I remember first becoming a fan of Late Night with Conan O'Brien--despite its tired gags about docile Asian (or rather, gaysian) male hookers--back when Conan and Andy did a clever series of shows called "Time Travel Week," and during a reenactment of a Civil War battle on Civil War Night, they brought out ultra-frail Civil War veteran Carl "Oldy" Olsen (a character who was retired in 1998 after the actor who played him died). That's how old of a Conan viewer I am.

Everyone's chiming in with their favorite memories of Conan's Late Night run (the Masturbating Bear, Triumph at the Attack of the Clones line, the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever, the writers' strike shows), and sure, those are all amusing moments, but I'm more fond of the weirder, lesser-known bits that haven't been featured in any of the clip montages that Conan has shown during his final Late Night week, like "Time Travel Week" and the following:

- The Hunky Newcomer, an O.C.-ish intern who squints his eyes and pouts to the accompaniment of Simple Plan's "Welcome to My Life."

- Conan experiments with having an all-kid studio audience for an entire show. Whenever the testy six- to eight-year-olds express their boredom with guests Dave Foley and Myron Kandel from CNN, Conan either brings out the Boredom Monster to entertain the kids or gets the CNN financial expert to stand up and do the Chicken Dance.

- "Max on Max," a porno video of a naked Max Weinberg humping a naked Max Weinberg.

- A lengthy parody of Led Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same and its dream sequences, in which the pale Late Night host proceeds to blind viewers' eyes by unbuttoning his shirt and imitating Robert Plant.

- Conan and Andy can barely keep their composure while a robot shits into a toilet during one of their "Staring Contests."

- Conan realizes the stupidity of his campaign for a 10th anniversary rerelease of Dirty Dancing after he plays back Jennifer Grey and Jerry Orbach's unintentionally funny crying scene (which Conan later reenacted with Orbach when he guested on the show).

- The search for Grady from Sanford & Son.

- Andy's little sister Stacy, who's obsessed with Conan. (She was played by a pre-SNL Amy Poehler.)

- The audience's horrified responses to Mick Jagger and Uma Thurman's "If They Mated" baby. The kid has such a disgusting-looking face it makes the V lizard baby look adorable.

That's also Conan's pud-pulling face.
- Years before Conan found comedy gold in the immensely popular Walker Lever, Polly the NBC Peacock shows Conan a clip of a badly aging Chuck Norris as part of a jab at craggy old CBS. The elderly Norris impersonator's fighting moves are priceless.

- Wrist Hulk.

- After a sketch in which Superman flies home to find Lois Lane in bed with her lesbian lover and he starts to masturbate, the camera cuts back to the actor who's playing Superman. He's still rubbing his chest long after the sketch ended, and a mock-disgusted Conan runs over to stop him.

- Conan and Andy watch a clip of the new Ninja Turtles ripoff Embryonic Rockabilly Polka-Dotted Fighter Pilots.

- Conan shows a blooper montage of Mr. T cracking up during the taping of a classic remote in which they went on an apple-picking field trip. T's pig-snort laugh is so bizarre and hilarious that viewers ask Conan to air the blooper montage again.

- The day after a fire chases Late Night out of Studio 6A, Conan tapes an entire show outside the building, near the Rockefeller Center skating rink. Left without a clip to plug guest Samuel L. Jackson's The Long Kiss Goodnight, Conan has to rely instead on a flipbook of the scene they were going to show. Then when people walk onto the makeshift set without realizing Conan and Andy are taping, Conan says, "It doesn't get any crappier than this."

- Though a 2003 New York blackout forces 30 Rock to turn to reserve power, Conan and announcer Joel Godard attempt to do the show with only flashlights to light the studio. But after about 15 minutes, they give up, turn off their flashlights and cut to a rerun.

- A forgotten uncomfortable moment, and it's not exactly funny or a favorite moment, but it's interesting because it shows how closely tied Conan is to SNL, which gave him his big break as a TV writer: in 1998, he asked Chris Rock about his upcoming projects, and Rock joked, "I'll be in Lethal Weapon 4, starring Brynn Hartman." Then the audience booed. (Brynn Hartman was Phil Hartman's wife. She killed her husband and then herself a few months before Rock made the joke.) Conan tried to defuse the situation by saying, "It's okay. We knew them. We can joke about it."

- "Clutch Cargo" Bob Dole (voiced by Robert Smigel) longs for his previous life as a pirate: "Oh, how I miss Squawky."

Oh, how I miss Late Night with Conan O'Brien already.

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