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Late Night Changeover: The Debut of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien

TonightShowConanI don’t feel that I’m really qualified to be “reviewing” the first hour of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.

First of all, I don’t actually watch much Late Night television: I’ll check out the odd monologue, or watch the occasional comedy sketch, but for the most part the focus on interviews has become more and more irrelevant in our information overload culture. My generation just doesn’t watch as much late night comedy, and when we do it’s Stewart/Colbert before it’s Leno/Letterman.

Second, if I did watch Late Night television, it wasn’t The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The show was everything that was wrong with late night: Leno wasn’t actually all that funny, and while he was good at getting the “right” interview for his guests’ promotional needs that isn’t exactly a reason for me to tune in. Considering that I don’t like Leno to begin with, and that he’s ruining NBC’s schedule (that’s all I’ll say on that subject), I can’t really judge this based on whether Conan lives up to Leno’s legacy (which I don’t really respect to begin with, it appears).

And third, I think Conan O’Brien is a hilarious human being, his awkwardness representing a great connecting point for me as a viewer; whether his taste in music, his taste in guests, or more recently his gut-busting comedy he managed during the strike without any writers, Conan has consistently impressed me at every turn. Although certainly not young, Conan has nonetheless been the host who felt most in touch with my generation’s late night needs.

So, really, what am I going to say that I couldn’t tell you before the show airs: I’m going to think Conan is funny, I’m going to think he’s funnier than Letterman, and my lack of nostalgia for Leno’s Tonight Show means I think it’s legacy has actually been more or less saved pop culturally speaking. As a result, it is with all objectivity out the window that I tell you that Conan O’Brien is still Conan O’Brien, the Tonight Show is different than it used to be, and one would hope that this improvement would be reflected in the show’s success.

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