Sadly,tonight marked Conan O’Brien’s last night behind the desk of “The Tonight Show” and I’m not going to lie,I got teary eyed. After all the nonsense and all the snark going around the past couple of weeks regarding NBC’s Late Night Wars 2.0,there is something to be said about the goodbye O’Brien gave to his fans tonight. As a fan of Conans for years,it was incredibly touching to see how important the show,his staff and his fans are to him. To watch someone have to say goodbye to something that they had worked hard for years for and seemed to love every moment of was painful. Quite honestly,I will not be able to say it as eloquent as O’Brien said it himself,so here he is thanking everyone,including NBC,for their time and support over the years.
Conan was feted by some of the biggest stars in the business,who came to support the man and say thanks to what he did. O’Brien in between big name guests like Tom Hanks,who created the Coco moniker,Steve Carrell and Neil Young,wanted to make sure that his fans,especially the youth who created this movement in support of him,knew that thinking big and being positive would not let you down in the end. O’Brien said,“To all the people watching,I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing:please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism- it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.”
He rounded out his last night as host with a rocking version of “Free Bird”performed by Will Ferrell,his wife Dawn,Beck,Billy Gibbons,Ben Harper and his band. O’Brien joined in on the fun,grabbed a guitar,which presumably was from his massive personal collection,and wailed away. Oddly enough,this song became one of my favorites courtesy of the soundtrack for a little movie Tom Hanks was in himself. You might have heard of it,Forrest Gump? Check out O’Brien and his band of merry rocker.
For me,the program was emotional on various levels. O’Brien was the first last night talk show host I grew up with. By the time I was old enough to get it,Leno had already taken the throne from Johnny Carson after his first vicious battle for the spot with Dave Letterman. And Letterman,while funny,was too old for me to get. O’Brien was quirky,awkward,smart and more than anything into “my”pop culture. He opened my eyes to a different level of humor,alongside “The State”and “Kids in the Hall”. He was the antithesis of standard late night programming. And something that has yet to be noted in the nearly thousand pieces that have pontificated over this late night debacle is the amount of exposure his program brought to not yet big names in music and comedy. When Neil Young ended his beautiful performance tonight,and we found out he was more of a Conan supporter than to be expected,he thanked O’Brien for what he has done for “new music”. And it’s true,what Johnny Carson was to comedians in the lates 70′s and 1980′s,Conan was to indie rock bands in the 90′s and early ’00s. He was the only place I would ever see some of my favorite bands get any coverage outside of MTV and knowing what occurred behind the scenes,he had his hand in picking out the majority of the musical quests. He got “us”. We weren’t just an audience to him,we were his people and he ours. Micheal Ian Black explained it best why this whole mess has seemed to really effect my generation. If someone like O’Brien can get screwed by a big corporation,what’s to keep us safe? It was almost a slap in the face to anyone who doesn’t like the average comedian,the anti-Dane Cook in us all. For all us kids,who grew up on bizarre tripped out cartoons,after school specials and found humor in Ween songs,its a real dose of reality that in fact we can not have it all. So from the bottom of my heart and from one pale,red-headed Irish kid to the next,I want to thank you Conan O’Brien. I want to thank you for entertaining us for years,opening my eyes to comedy and music I had no idea existed,backing your staff in your original move to LA and in your contract negotiations and for most importantly,keeping it classy. I know you are going to go on a much deserved and well,legally mandated vacation,but I want to let you know you have a supporter in me for life and I will be waiting with a cowbell for September 1st to come,if only for the better weather. You go Coco. You go.