It just seems like lots of posts about Conan today. Promise. On last night's show, writer/comedian Deon Cole came on to do what he normally does for Conan: provide him with the black perspective. So Cole pointed out that Conan had some funny ads, some clever ads, but lacked the definitive TV ad for black viewers.
The Team Coco presents The Conan Writers Live was a big hit last night at Chicago's Bank of America Theater, but I can tell you that perhaps it was too much of a big hit.
The show, hosted by Andy Richter and featuring musical wonders from Reggie Watts, included stand-up sets from eight of the writers for Conan O'Brien's short-lived edition of The Tonight Show on NBC. But there's only room for six of them to perform on the 60-minute special, set to air on TBS at 10 p.m. Sunday, June 27. So who will make the cut? What if they all performed well during the taping? Couldn't TBS just extend the special to 90 minutes if it's all "very funny"? The special debuts late on a Sunday after the Ellen DeGeneres variety special, so it's not as if they're going to push anything major off the air to make do. A quick look at the schedule listings for June 27 shows that TBS plans to immediately repeat both Ellen and Coco, followed by a 1 a.m. rebroadcast of the movie, Vegas Vacation. I'm sure Chevy wouldn't mind getting bumped, right?
As for the show itself, it was more than a little heartwarming to see the audience immediately take to Watts even before the taping itself began. I had to scramble to find a seat because my seat in Row G had been (mild spoiler alert?) occupied by a young Conan doppelganger.
Host Andy Richter explained onstage that since Conan himself cannot be on the special -- due to the terms he negotiated upon his exit from NBC -- that meant his writers would get to have this time in the limelight. "Tonight they get to tell their dick jokes in their own voices!" Richter boasted.
Except now it looks like two of them might not get to be seen on TV. That's not fun. To add to the awkwardness, none of "The Conan Writers" actually have jobs with TBS yet. Yes. You read that right. TBS has signed Conan, but since he, Richter and some of his writers have been spending their entire spring on a North American theater tour, the budgeting for the new late-night show on TBS has not included hiring any of the writers. Of course, you'd suspect that anyone Conan brought along on his official "Team Coco" tour and branded on the TV as "The Conan Writers" would be reasonably assured of a full-time writing job in the fall. Just like you'd reasonably think they'd get their time on TV next weekend. Right? Right???
UPDATED: For those of you wondering, the eight sets did not include any of the sketch performers from Conan's various late-night TV shows, but did include Matt O'Brien, Jimmy Pardo, Josh Comers, Brian Kiley, Andres du Bouchet, Dan Cronin, Deon Cole and a Reggie Watts set.
After Conan O'Brien published a press release yesterday afternoon saying he would not harm the Tonight Show franchise by moving it a half-hour past the late local news, but did not explicitly say he was quitting, everyone wondered what his show would be like last night. Well, Conan had plenty of jokes about NBC and did not want to hear his guests Tom Brokaw and Zachary Levi mention the network -- despite the sad but obvious fact that, well, both of his guests were employed by NBC and also because Conan's situation was the only situation worth talking about (and that includes you, Jersey Shore guy).
Conan kept it kinda classy, however, by not elaborating on his statement. Instead, he let his staffers do the joking for him. Deon Cole, who jumped from stand-up to writer on the show, emerged to tell Conan how it really is, by comparing NBC's late-night lineup to a bunch of prostitutes working for the pimp network. Because, really, if you think about it, show business has some things in common with the oldest profession. If you don't have control over your broadcasting airwaves, you're going to have to take a lot of abuse from the boss. But do you, really? Roll the clip.
Something about this recent piece in Chicago's RedEye publication sounded a bit off. What could it have been? Oh, that's right. It was the part wherein the writer claims that Deon Cole was the first black writer ever for The Tonight Show, and cites an NBC spokesperson then has Cole talking about getting a congratulations call from the Rev. Jesse Jackson. "This is a big deal," as Cole told RedEye. Except. Well. Cole isn't the first black writer for The Tonight Show, unless we're narrowly defining that as the Conan O'Brien edition, which is 109 episodes long.
Fact is, Jay Leno employed Larry Wilmore, Kal Clarke and Suli McCullough as writers on staff at one point or another. Not sure what Johnny Carson's track record was, because I wasn't alive then*. *Not true.
One thing I can say, however, is that Conan and company have quickly made Deon Cole a bigger part of the show after his initial appearance as a stand-up, not only hiring him as a writer but putting him front and center to vocalize racially sensitive topics. He did so as recently as Friday's show, which I saw in person (no, you did not see me on camera). Would you like a recapper on this? I can do that for you in 3, 2, 1...Roll the clips!