Friday, July 12, 2024

Conan O’Brien: Mocks Leno, Brings Famed Bear and Dog to Radio City in Comeback


The best thing that ever happened to Conan O’Brien was getting fired.

{Proof of this was shown last night at Radio City Music Hall as Conan returned triumphantly to Rockefeller Center, home of NBC. He mocked Jay Leno, brought on his Masturbating Bear (now the Self-Pleasuring Panda) and Triumph the Comic Insult Dog. He also featured some famous young actor friends–John Krasinski, Paul Rudd, Bill Hader— and sidekick Andy Richter. There was an appearance by an indie rock group called Vampire Weekend.

Later, both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert joined O’Brien for some silly sketches, all in good fun, and enough to make the rapt audience even more appreciative of being loyal to the fired “Tonight Show” host. This included a Dance-Off that concluded with Stewart being shot on stage. “That’s with limited rehearsal,” O’Brien said later. “Those guys showed up ten minutes ago.”

But mostly Conan’s show at Radio City was all about… Conan. He was on stage for the first 40 minutes without a break, doing stand up comedy, song and dance. The sold out room sizzled with excitement and five thousand mostly youngish white people. (The lack of diversity was commented on a lot from the stage.)

If anything, being fired and going on a live tour has probably done a world of good for Conan. When he returns to the talk show format in November on TBS, the result of this experience should be an even more confident, matured performer. Certainly, before the Jay Leno mess of this spring, we’d never have expected Conan to be able to play Radio City for 90 minutes and be the focus of the show. But anger is a great motivator, and so is revenge. And while O’Brien’s stage show is low on vitriol, it’s clever enough to get the point across.  In the process, O’Brien is building massive good will among members of a new audience, and a younger generation.

It couldn’t have worked out better.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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