As daunting as it is to fill the shoes of Johnny Carson and the (significantly) smaller shoes of Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien showed the American public last night that he is the rightful successor to the Tonight Show throne. But before he graced the television with those fateful words, “Welcome to the Tonight Show with…,” O’Brien had to prove his prowess. So, he ran from New York to California. No joke. After this cross country intro sequence, he burst through the Tonight Show studio with a bulldozer. Though he only resorted to the bulldozer because he forgot the keys at home, this act is symbolic of the much needed renovations that O’Brien will bring to the show.
Hinting at the show’s impending change, O’Brien switched tongues and spoke in Spanish for a solid 30 seconds, introducing himself as “Conando.” Then, while jokingly stroking a pretend mexi-stach, he sighed at his inability to grow a true mustache. The self-deprecating, mildly awkward humor has been carried over from O’Brien’s Late Night With . . . , an appropriate transition for the incoming, younger generation of Tonight Show viewers. Before delving into a series of hilarious skits, O’Brien promised that future episodes of the show would be more timely. Still, watching him cruise around in his ’92 Ford Taurus as a woman becomes pregnant at the mere sight of pimp-mobile couldn’t be more amusing. Current jokes or not, O’Brien’s hammy performance makes him the man for the job — even if he looks like the President of Finland.
Guest Will Ferrell came on to talk about his upcoming movie, Land of the Lost, upstaging O’Brien’s entrance by barking orders while on a throne carried by half-naked slaves. “No one thought you could do this Conan…seriously, not one person!” repeatedly half-joked Ferrell, who later imitated a monster from his upcoming film, accused Liza Minnelli of being a communist, and offered O’Brien a list of “in the know” things to do in LA. (It included placing a sumptuous order of Big Macs from BK.) With such advice, O’Brien has zero chance of failure. Pearl Jam, the musical guest, closed the show, debuting a “new” song from their upcoming album, Backspacer. Unfortunately, someone in booking didn’t get the memo that it is not, in fact, 1994. (Side note: We find it odd the no one else seems to find this choice odd. The closest thing we could find to dissent was this from Stereogum: “They’re probably our most elegantly aged major rock band, so there is the class, the reverence for the past … but what about the relevance to the now?” Huh.)