Archive for June, 2009

Another Late Night

Posted in Television on June 3, 2009 by Adam

Late night television was a big part of my adolescence. I have never been an early-to-bed type, and for the majority of my teenage years, my night-owl schedule allowed my to tune into Late Night with Conan O’Brien quite regularly. It was pretty much a nightly tradition, in fact. I would occasionally catch the last few minutes of Leno while waiting for Conan’s introductory horns, and I never enjoyed those times. Whether it was a musical act, a stand-up comedian or Jay taking part in some goofy science experiment, it always seemed…I don’t know…a bit 11:30 pm for my taste. But then Conan came on, and I was sure that all of the fogeys who had to force their eyes open during Letterman (who I do like very much, it should be noted) or Leno were finally safely asleep. The real “late night” hours began. I would eat some junk food, turn the lights off, and, in later years, maybe smoke a bowl. Come 12:30, I felt as if I were part of a secret club of insomniacs, ready to chuckle to ourselves until the sun came up. Especially during the summer, weeknights belonged to Conan–and whatever was on Adult Swim afterward. There were parts of his show I loved, namely the post-monologue, pre-interview sketches, when absurd characters like Preparation H Raymond and the Masturbating Bear would make it impossible for both me and the host to keep a straight face.

So I watched this week’s first episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien with a sense of excitement and trepidation. It was obviously going to be better than Leno, but I wondered just how much it would hearken back to the earlier days of a later time slot. I hoped O’Brien would retain the self-deprecating schtick, as worn-out as it can sometimes seem, while still looking forward to the partially new personality he would have to build for his expanded audience. I sat down, and I waited for two worlds to collide and produce a delightful hodgepodge of old and new, New York and LA, underground comedy and mainstream entertainment.

By my own account, O’Brien was fairly successful in achieving this with his first show, especially if one were to give him the “all pilot episodes suck” benefit of the doubt.

But by the time 12:35 rolled around, I had experienced an interesting feeling: apathy. At first, I thought it was just because the episode was merely okay, neither a disaster nor a masterpiece.

That’s when another funny thing happened. As the fast-paced opening credits of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon whizzed by, I suddenly got that old feeling. I looked out the window and the Brooklyn sky had a tinge of suburban twilight coloring. I got a craving for Sprite and Pringles. I imagined for a moment that I was the only one on my block who was awake. And I began to watch and I no longer felt apathy. I still didn’t love Fallon as a host or as a comedian, but that hardly mattered. I felt special, I felt like it was summertime and the clock had just struck and all the old folks had hit the hay and I was left with my show, the one that was a little bit weirder, a little bit cooler and, most importantly, a little bit later.

And I realized that content is really only part of the story. My relationship with Late Night with Conan O’Brien was one not founded on jokes or interviews or the host’s persona–all of which were enjoyable, to be sure. The real thing that kept me coming back every night was the feeling that things were just getting started for me at a time when they were winding down for most others. It was a feeling not unlike invincibility, and even though I am no longer young enough for such feelings to be wholly acceptable, I often yearn for them.

Welcome to my life, Jimmy.