At press time the countdown was at 24 hours, 35 minutes, 17 seconds. The seconds on the clock are swiftly folding onto each another and this approaching event feels nearly historical. I mean, there’s a countdown clock involved, anything with a countdown clock either screams a raging apocalypse or the dawn of a new age.
By the time you’re reading this it’s probably only a matter of hours. The wait is over, dear friends. Coco returns to us tonight and with him, that suave head of red hair that he’s perfected while on hiatus.
Conan described the title of his new TBS show, “Conan” as, “Simple. Pure. Like the man himself.” Essentially this will be everything Team Coco devotees have been thirsting for since his unsettling exodus from late-night comedy in January.
But before we can discuss how “Conan” will be different, let’s go back to that fateful Friday, January 22 – the final episode of “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.” Although it had nothing to do with retail hell, it was indeed a Black Friday.
When he and Andy Richter aired the last “Tonight Show” episode Conan left us with some surprisingly somber advice in his closing monologue.
“Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” He advised viewers, especially younger fans, to avoid cynicism, warning them that it doesn’t do any good. After enduring months of network comedy wars, it was a reflective parting shot.
Although his finale show ended on a jovial tone in a closing musical rendition of “Free Bird” with Conan on guitar, Will Ferrell on vocals and cowbell, and musical greats, ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, Ben Harper and Beck performing, the final scene had an eerily melancholy feeling.
He’d only occupied “The Tonight Show” set for seven months and it felt like we were witnessing a TV death of a friend – a tragic comedy of sorts. Of course laughs were abundant with bits that poked fun at the controversy he and Jay Leno were swirling in, but it wasn’t the same. The end was near and the feelings of loss were palpable.
And so, the “Tonight Show” moved on, exterminating any remnants of Conan. Leno (and his chin) reprised his role as the king of late night after floundering on primetime with an embarrassing set of ratings and NBC execs protected his career with a mother-like ferociousness, giving Conan a hefty multi-million dollar incentive to toss the baton of “Tonight Show” host back to Leno.
Since being ousted, he’s kept the Coco spirit alive with his “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” and incessant, yet much-appreciated and equally hilarious tweets. And in the last week leading up to the show premiere, the hilarity has continued with updates like, “This Halloween, I’ve hired Larry King to sit in a rocking chair on my front porch” and his latest, “Tomorrow, I’ll be back where I truly belong – indoors, under artificial light,” the deafening buzz about Conan hasn’t ceased.
We’ve seen him sponge-wash a wooden desk in tantalizing slow motion to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” and blow up a car full of explosives and popcorn kernels off a cliff to promote his show, but it still leaves us wondering, what will “Conan” be like? How will it be different than his earlier late night efforts? Will the network switch make a difference?
If Conan’s first guest is any indicator of what we can expect in the future- it’s the same quick quips and intelligent humor that made Conan our Coco. The first to sit in his guest chair will be 85-year-old Arlene Wagner, a.k.a. the “Nutcracker Lady.” Not flashy enough for you? Biebs and Lady Gaga couldn’t swing the fan vote so the curator of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum will be helping Conan make his triumphant return to TV. If we can trust anything in this world it’s that this sit-down will be interesting, if not hilarious with Conan behind the desk he so affectionately scrubbed.
Along with Wagner, Seth Rogen, “Glee” darling Lea Michelle and musical guest Jack White will round-out the show lineup. It’s as if the stars have aligned and our cosmic comedy prayers have been answered. And for Tuesday’s show, Tom Hanks, the genius behind the Coco phenomena, returns.
And so, as the numbers on the countdown clock rapidly change, propelling us into the apocalypse, I can’t help but let my optimistic excitement take over those whispers of failure for this new comedic Conan-Richter venture. The quintessential dynamic duo has returned. Welcome back Coco, we’ve missed you.
Ann Rivall is a senior majoring in journalism. Are you crazy, meaning you prefer Leno on the “Tonight Show” throne over Conan? E-mail comments, questions or Conan-related news to [email protected]