So I’m busy doing a revamp on the blog, and bam! big comedy news. Oh well, no rest for the wicked. And I don’t get to have any fun either.
Leno’s passing along the “Tonight Show” to Conan O’Brien in the year 2009. Already many are expressing theories involving Conan backstabbing Leno and strong-arming NBC management that should give Bill Carter plenty of material if he wants to write “Late Shift 2: Electric Boogaloo.” I don’t really have an opinion on such behind-the-scenes machinations, other than I’m inclined the think the best of both parties because if you look back at how NBC’s bungling destroyed personal friendships before, somebody had to give.
More interesting to me is how will Conan adjust his style in 2009. Some speculate lots of dumbing down and toothless comedy, citing how Leno eagerly embraced a base audience. I’m sure some modifications will occur… I just don’t think the Masturbating Bear will play at 11:30. But the Conan character Triumph has certainly broken into primetime, appearing on such middle-America fare as Last Comic Standing on Tuesday. Smart and irreverent comedy can play at 11:30. Just because the time slot appeared to swallow Leno whole doesn’t mean it’ll consume Conan.
Conan would probably do well to look at Carson, who appealed to the whole country while maintaining an edge of cool that only abandoned him after Arsenio Hall (remember him?) came on the scene. I’m not sure where the two intersect, Carson’s confidence and laid back persona couldn’t seem more opposite Conan’s nerdy energy. But Carson’s level of cool, like the rat pack, doesn’t exist anywhere anymore. Performers and audience are too self-conscious now to allow it, hence irony.
The boundaries of what you can and can’t say, even on the Tonight Show, have certainly broken down. And, FCC fines aside, I don’t see America stuffing that cat back in the box. Who knows what you can say on TV five years from now? Who knows if networks will still be relevant as cable gains more prominence? Maybe late night action will be concentrated on “Adult Swim” and “Daily Show” by then. Whatever TV comedy turns into, Conan’s five years of planning time might just be a blessing. He could very well need it.