Although I was ultimately bummed primarily out of the fact that I would dearly miss The Office and Saturday Night Live, I must admit that I was morbidly intrigued by the prospect of the writer’s strike once the daily produced shows came back. Much akin to the comradere of military brethren, the first in were the first out. Obviously, being pretty much forced to go non-scripted, the scenario would favor those who were the best at ab-libbing. And as late night talk shows go, hosts usually have to be pretty good at that while having to endure annoying celebrities pushing lame projects. But as the strike has shown, some are better equipped than others.
The most popular of these is probably Leno. Even though most don’t see him as much of anything respectable when it comes to comedy anymore (cue the Stewie joke), The Tonight Show is, with or without him, the gold standard. And though he did obviously put a lot of hard working effort into the show, the time period of the strike didn’t show him in the best light. After some of the in-prompt to stuff like “Ask Jay Anything” didn’t really pan out, he let others do the work by having segments like “Doctors Tell Doctor Jokes”. Which was pretty painful to watch. However, he did get to do a lot of animal segments, which are always fun. The thing is, Leno may not be that funny anymore, but he’s always been a really likable guy. And when he wasn’t trying that hard and was sometimes bluntly honest, such as saying that he was glad that he didn’t have to deal with idiotic flavor of the week celebrities, he was genuine and funny.
The Comedy Central flag bearers, Colbert and Stewart, did a little better. Stewart has always been a good ab libber, and the opportunity also gave him the chance to be blunt and throw in some of his (funny) biases into news commentary. It came across as shuffled and disorganized, yet still entirely true to the nature of the show at the same time. Also, the fact that WGA supportive stars didn’t show up pushing projects gave him more time to talk to authors and newsmakers, much more to the spirit of what The, .. A Daily Show should be. Much of the same can be said for Colbert, although it put him into somewhat of a bind because Stephen Colbert isn’t really Stephen Colbert. Not having good material put him in the pickle of trying to keep character while being forced to be himself. But it worked for the most part, and the show was honestly much of the same. But that’s a good thing!
But lastly, and what this entry is really about, is Conan Christopher O’Brien. He. Was. On. Fire.
Despite the fact that I ventured into the adolescent gutters of Adult Swim during my college dorm days, the Lorne Michaels variety of comedy via Late Night and SNL has always been my cup of tea. While I’ve come nowhere near the realms of disliking that type of material as of late, I can honestly say that it’s been in a short decline over the past year or two. But Conan restored my faith entirely during the strike. Late Night is consistently funny, even as it reuses many of the same increasingly stale bits such as Celebrity Survey or State Quarters. But sans writers and featuring solely Conan, it scaled mountains. First, it was the ring spin, which showed how truly goofy Conan really is. Then it was the zip line, which combined awesome, funny, and viewer generated material. There was the German Disco Light Show, he played Blue Moon of Kentucky, it goes on and on. And it was all “Conzie Wonzie”. I may be carried away by an unmarked WGA van for saying this, but *whispers* Conan was way funnier without them. And that’s fine, because now it gives them something to shoot for now that they’re back.
I’m glad the writers are back and are getting what they deserve, but I’m also glad that we got this glimpse into what the shows are really about when they are more about the names on the marquee’s. It’s probably something we won’t ever really get to see again, which made it truly fun and unique.