White whine of the century: the Conan saga

4 May

Conan O’Brien appeared on “60 Minutes” this past Sunday to talk about his departure from The Tonight Show. However, since he has a no-disparagement clause in his NBC contract, he wasn’t able to say much of anything interesting in the way of shit-talking. He mostly just offered long-winded cryptic non-answers and exasperated chuckles in response to questions that have been asked of him many times over.

It was incredibly boring, and I hope we never have to hear about O’Brien’s plight again.

I understand why the situation is/was newsworthy. A very public figure was handed one of the most high-profile gigs in entertainment and was subsequently canned from said job six months later. Interesting. Rare. I get that.

However, there are two facets to this story that I don’t get.

(1) Why we still feel bad for Conan. He is a millionaire many times over with a soon-to-start new show on a channel much more suited to his comedic sensibilities, one that will afford him the freedom to pump out all the absurdist comedy his heart desires while cashing in massive check after massive check. He will be doing what he loves and is undoubtedly professionally luckier than 99.9% of the population. Conan’s worst day at work: 100 times better than any day you or I will ever have.

(2) Why Conan still feels bad for himself. His initial frustration/sadness was understandable –I’d be pissed too if I was offered, say, the Twins GM job after years of steady ladder-climbing, only to be shitcanned during the first season — but, as evidenced on “60 Minutes,” Conan is still as bitter as ever.

As shown during one segment, Conan’s traveling tour features classic song renditions with the lyrics changed to joke about his firing. (The clip of “I Will Survive” was particularly painful.) In the subsequent interview, Conan at one point said something to the effect of, “I’m laughing because otherwise I’d be crying.”

Crying about what? Good god, man, the show you took over was watched by half-asleep 105-year-old suburbanites pining for some milquetoast headline gaffes and rehearsed interviews to help them momentarily escape from the scary world out there that passed them over long ago. If you’d have featured Reverend Otis. K. Dribbles on the precious Tonight Show, half of the geriatric viewership would have swallowed their dentures out of shock, and the other half would have pounded out an indignant letter to the Readers Digest editor on their typewriter about how this goddamn lunatic isn’t fit to dust Jack Paar’s phonograph.

Recognize it wasn’t a good fit. Move on. Please.

I’m still on the Team Coco roster, but dammit if this isn’t the most prolonged “white wine” in recent memory. Sack up, Conan.


2 Responses to “White whine of the century: the Conan saga”

  1. Jon May 4, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    I’ll admit that I disagree with you on this one. Conan did mention several times that he’s still a lucky, lucky man, and I’d have to assume that the in-show songs were designed for comedy, not to necessarily reflect Conan’s feelings.

    As for the bitterness, though, that I can understand. He waited years to get the job that’s widely viewed as the top job in his field, then was canned before he felt he had a chance to build an audience. I’d be just as frustrated in the same situation.

  2. B. May 5, 2010 at 6:33 pm #


    Sorry, your even-handed response has left me a bit frazzled. I’m not used to respectful disagreements on the internet.

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