It's a big week for Australian television. And no, it's not Eddie and his IQ Test or the over-hyped Packed to the Rafters funeral (Did someone actually die in real life? No? Then move on people and stop putting it on the front page of the paper). No I'm talking about one of the funniest people on the planet finally back where he belongs - on the air. YAY!! Conan O'Brien is back on TV. And the best part - Channel Nine is doing Australia a favour and playing his talk show on free-to-air channel Gem Tuesdays to Fridays at 11:30pm.
For those not aware of the late night talk show war in January this year, Conan had taken over the famed Tonight Show only for the bigwigs at NBC to try a ratings shuffle and push Conan back a timeslot and reinstate former host Jay Leno in his stead. Conan refused and one of the funniest weeks of talk show history ensued. Instead of the latest political gaffes or Tiger Woods sex jokes, the target was late night itself with potshots at NBC and Leno. Those hilarious news peeps in Taiwan succinctly summed up the situation thusly.
Luckily for us all, Conan was able to get his own show on basic cable channel TBS and it debuted this week in the US and is being fast-tracked to Australian shores on Gem (god bless digital TV).
I've been a big fan of Conan's for years, having been lucky enough to have awesome parents with pay television so I could watch his Late Night talk show on the Comedy Channel. And a few years ago I managed to score tickets to be an audience member for Late Night with Conan O'Brien when I visited New York with fellow everythingpopulariswrong.net blogger Amy. I don't think either of us have ever laughed as hard as we did watching the intro package of all of Conan's best-ofs as we waited in the audience for the show to start taping. He's such a random, gangly ridiculous nerd - and I love it!
Talk shows or variety shows can be a tricky format. So much relies on the host being able to engage the audience, engage the guests, and just generally be hilarious whilst doing so. Australian attempts always seem too eager. Rove always tried hard, often hitting the mark, but more often than not the format felt forced and there was an awkwardness that was obvious to the audience. And don't even get me started on the mess that is Daryl Somers and Hey Hey! Out of the predominant American shows Leno panders to the audience too much and Letterman always seems above it all, treating his guests and the audience with a thinly veiled sheen of contempt.
For me, Conan has always hit the mark. Yeah, there are off nights and off guests, but when you run a show 5 nights a week, that's pretty good odds. For example his first show started off strong (with a hilarious intro package of Conan playing up his move from NBC complete with a cameo from Don Draper himself and a very apt reference to The Godfather), but unengaging guests Seth Rogan and Lea Michele were probably not the best to be starting out with. Luckily Jack White was there in all his awesome glory to rock out with Conan and his band to round out the show. All in all, I'm excited to see Conan back on TV and I'm looking forward to more of his kooky hilarity.
Here are some of my favourite Conan clips from the past:
And one of the funniest things I've ever seen on television
5) Conan goes behind-the-scenes with an 1860s re-enactment baseball team.