This Week: Curtains For Conan O’Brien

History was made last night on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Yes, they froze The Masterbating Bear.
In carbonite, the same thing they did to Hans Solo in that Star Wars movie.
Putting the bear on ice is just one of the things O’Brien is doing as he brings his series to a close. There are just three shows to go on O’Brien’s Late Night, which began Sept. 13, 1993 and wraps Friday after more than 2000 episodes.
There’s a nice zany feel to these last few shows reminiscent of O’Brien’s outstanding solo efforts about a year ago during the writers strike. Last night, for example, Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert stopped by to steal O’Brien’s invisible puppet strings (invoked during his nightly “puppet dance” art the top of his monologue). The two then engaged in a puppet string dance off. Last week, frequent guest Alec Baldwin stopped by and, since this was his final Late Night booking, he asked to be killed off. O’Brien obliged as seen in this CelebTV YouTube clip:


O’Brien has also started breaking off chunks of his set and handing them out to the studio audience. He even put pony tailed announcer Joel Goddard out with the trash last night.
These last shows feature plenty of sketches from the past, including a few peeks at O’Brien’s phenomenal visit to Toronto in 2005 when he took the city by storm. Last night O’Brien ran his 2003 summit with the late great author Hunter S. Thompson, conducted in upstate New York over hard drinks and machine guns at Thompson’s insistence.
I had the great pleasure to sit in O’Brien’s studio audience several times over the years and it was the best hour you could spend in New York. Get a glimpse of O’Brien singing “The End Of The Show Song,” his nightly salute to his studio audience, on view over at Late Night Underground.
O’Brien has to be relieved that this final week is here, however. He won’t be taking much of a break, if any, he told me last month at the TCA press tour. He’ll be off to L.A. for rehearsals in his brand new Tonight Show studio, built for him on the Universal lot. At press tour, O’Brien said there were still plenty of details to work out before he takes over Tonight in June. Still unclear is whether Bruce Springsteen drummer Max Weinberg and the Max Weinberg 7 will be relocating with O’Brien to Los Angeles. Stuff like The Masturbating Bear may be history as O’Brien moves to the earlier hour, although look for Triumph The Insult Comedy Dog to keep right on barking.
For now, watch O’Brien exit laughing (12:35 a.m., NBC and A). “If I knew it was going to be this exciting,” he cracked last night, “I would have left years ago.”

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