Tag Archives: Jaypocalypse

The One in Which We Compare Conan O’Brien to Barack Obama

Sometime around the beginning of this year I pondered the similarities between Conan O’Brien and President Barack Obama (and teased an upcoming blog post on the subject via Twitter).  With Conan’s new show premiering on TBS tonight, following the Republican tidal wave that swept into congress last week, and in doing so affixing a bold question mark onto Obama’s presidency, it seems like there’s no better time to finally revisit the parallel.  This comparison is perhaps more relevant, and possibly more darkly prescient, than ever.

When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 a collective sigh of relief escaped young voters across the country.  Actually, it was less a sigh of relief and more of a giddy shout.  Hope had won out.  Yes we could.  We had a charismatic leader, the sexiest president since JFK, who was certain to reverse the damage done by eight years under George W. Bush’s tyrannical reign.  And just like how JFK utilized his good looks and immense charm to capture the nation’s heart in the first televised presidential debate, badly outshining a sweaty, swarthy Richard Nixon, Obama used new media, most notably the internet, in a way no President had before.  He was a star for sure, but in a way we had never seen.  He galvanized the young, tech savvy populace, the early adopters who proclaimed their support on their Facebook and MySpace pages.  MTV had been encouraging late teens and twenty-somethings to Rock the Vote for many years, but in that election we truly had a rock star to endorse.  We were fed up with the Bush regime, with Republican rule, and we were energized, we were motivated, and we had Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant, as our shining ray of hope.  And in that time it was a symbiotic relationship.  Obama inspired the poor, the hungry, the unemployed and recent college graduate masses, and they banded together to have their voices heard, to provide Obama with the spirit and the mandate.  He gave us hope, and we gave him our vote.

And then on that Tuesday night in November our prayers were answered.  Celebrations erupted on the streets of Williamsburg, citizens went wild in Chicago, and Hawaii cheered their native son.  We had won.  We had our guy.  And he would lead us to the promised land.

Or would he? And what does all this have to do with Conan O’Brien. Grab a snack and read on.

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Filed under Analysis, Interweb, Local Flavor, Makes You Think, Talkies

Remember Like a Year Ago When All We Did was Write About Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno?

Well, now there’s a book (not written by us).  Bill Carter, who chronicled the first Tonight Show War in The Late Shift, is set to release The War for Late Night, an in-depth look at last winter’s late night talkie drama, what many of us referred to as the Jaypocalypse.  With Conan, beard and all, set to premiere his new show on TBS in just a matter of days, the book should be a fascinating recount of how the late night landscape was perhaps forever changed, and how, in the end, the skirmish might have been the best thing that ever happened to Conan O’Brien.

Read an except from The War for Late Night on Vanity Fair

And since there will inevitably be a movie based on the book, let’s remember the last one:

(Fun Fact: did you know that the actor who played Jay Leno in The Late Shift, Daniel Roebuck, went on to play Dr. Leslie Artz on Lost?  It’s true!  I know, right?!  Oh, and Letterman was played by John Michael Higgins, who is just generally awesome.  Crazy!)

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Filed under Flashback!, Literarally, LOST, Other people's stuff, Talkies

Michael Ian Black Does Understand

If there was one comedian/mid-level celebrity whose career I’d like to emulate it would probably be Michael Ian Black (okay, there’s a laundry list of comedian/mid-level celebrities who careers I’d like to emulate, and an even longer list of A-list celebrities whose resumes I wouldn’t mind having.  But there are few people out there who I admire and appreciate at the level of Michael Ian Black.  One of the reasons I like Mr. Black so much is because, obviously, he’s as funny and smart as anyone else out there (if his work in I ♥ the [Insert Decade] didn’t convince you of that, check out his stand-up album I Am A Wonderful Man, an excellent performance from someone who is not known as a stand-up comedian).  But, beyond his humor, I especially appreciate the fact that he has the courage to say or write just about anything, the best examples of which are found on his Twitter feed, where he makes fun of everyone and everything from Asians to his kids to his wife cutting off the tip of her finger to himself.  Often times I’ll find myself wanting to tweet something potentially offensive, and I don’t do so because I fear that not everyone will get the joke; sarcasm and satire sometimes don’t play so well in less than 140 characters.  But Black has been able to pull that off, so much so that he’s participated in several Twitter fundraisers in which for a small donation he’ll make fun of you mercilessly, usually mocking your Twitter name or criticizing your photo.  He has created this persona of being an arrogant, insensitive asshole (again, refer to the name of his comedy album), which is a weird achievement to want to replicate, but it seems clear to me that it’s just a put-on.  It might be an extension of the real Michael Ian Black, but, if so, it’s a huge exaggeration.  I mean, he lives in Connecticut with his wife and kids (who he appears to loathe, if his tweets are to be believed), so how terrible can he really be?

Amidst this backdrop of bombastic, often crude, tweets and blog posts it was surprising that Black received the most backlash for a tweet he composed on Friday night to commemorate Conan O’Brien’s last night as host of The Tonight Show:

Typical trenchant, insightful, slightly dickish Michael Ian Black commentary.  But out of all his tweets this one caused the most commotion (although, as you can see, it was retweeted 100+ followers, so I guess not everyone was outraged).  It was a joke, but like many of his jokes, he had a point, a good point.  Which is another aspect of MIB I appreciate: his candor.  He’s a fan of Conan too, but the truth is Conan fans didn’t turn out in droves until these last two weeks, when it didn’t matter anymore.

So, to clarify his point, Black knew he needed more words than Twitter would allow, so he took to his blog (and spared us from a full on tweet procession), and exemplified another quality I admire: intelligence.  He composed his actual, and, as he noted, “unfunny” thoughts on the Conan situation, comparing Conan to Sally Fields in Norma Rae and asking “how did a Harvard-educated, multi-millionaire late night talk show host magically transmogrify into a guy who got laid off at the local car plant?”  Now I’ve basically been glued to the computer the last two weeks reading every update on the late night wars and watching every relevant monologue the night before, and I’ve even contributed my own thoughts, but Black does have a point.  In the end, it’s just millionaires playing in the sandbox, and Conan doesn’t really represent the oppressed, jobless masses.  In his essay, Black puts aside the sarcasm and the deadpan humor, presenting refreshing clarity about the whole thing.  I’m not sure I’ve read a better breakdown on the skirmish.  Despite the working title of his latest TV show, Michael Ian Black does understand.  A lot better than most of us.

Bonus: How I once gave Michael Ian Black unsolicited career advice. Sorry!

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Filed under Interweb, Other people's stuff, Talkies, The State

Something Funny Happened on the Way to Five Thursday’s Ago

(This a post I intended to compose a month ago, but then the holidays hit, and then the Thursday night comedies went on winter vacation so there was no real rush to write this.  But with the comedy block returning tonight, save for The Office, this seemed like the right time to finally record these thoughts).

One month ago, on December 10, before the Jaypocalypse, NBC’s Thursday night comedies aired their Christmas themed episodes.  And something funny happened:  The Office, well, wasn’t.  At least it was very clearly the weak link in what was otherwise a very strong night of comedy.  30 Rock continued to be the joke-for-joke best show on television, Parks and Rec extended what has been a breakout second season, and Community turned in what might have been its best episode yet.  And The Office?  By far it’s weakest Christmas episode to date.  Sure, it had a lot of live up to – Christmas Party, Benihana Christmas – but it didn’t even equal last season’s Moroccan Christmas, which itself was rather a disappointment. And against the other comedies that night, it just didn’t measure up.  Something seemed off.

Now, I’m not out on the ledge yet.  But it’s certainly concerning.

Keep reading: Do they know it’s Christmas time at all? Plus Anthony Michael Hall and Julianne Moore!

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Filed under Analysis, Bad Humor, Dunder Mifflin, this is Pam, Good Humor, Must See TV