You can feel it in the air, across Facebook, Twitter and all of your favorite websites: Conan O'Brien's rebirth is upon us. After an 11-month, boob tube exile, which included a country-wide tour, a stop at Bonnaroo, and recording his own set of Jack White-produced seven-inch records,O'Brien returns to late night TV. This Monday at 11 p.m., his new program Conan airs on TBS.
We couldn't be more excited for the return of our gingered, pompadoured leader to comedy supremacy. In recognition, we present five of our favorite CoCo moments. We hope they will satiate your Conan jones'n until next week.
1. Artie Kendall
While Conan is much deserving of the comedy genius moniker he cultivated over seventeen years on late night TV, much of the absurdity that is a trademark of his shows is provided by the immensely talented supporting cast. Writer/Performer Brian Stack is a prime example of this. A veteran of improvisation and sketch comedy, Stack's earnest demeanor provides a framing device to explore truly ridiculous characters. Take his Artie Kendall character: a ghost crooner from NBC's radio days who haunts Conan's 30 Rock studio. While an old-timey singer may come off as wholesome, Stack flips the script, portraying a darkly misogynistic and racist version of 1940's America. The result is nothing short of hysterical, notice Conan on the verge of breaking up throughout the sketch.
2. Jordan Schlansky
Another shining moment came in the wake of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike. After a short dark period, Conan resumed production of Late Night in order to prevent layoffs among his staff. Unlike Letterman and Ferguson, who were able to reach interim deals with the WGA and retain their writers, or Leno and Carson Daly, who were accused of strike-busting by preparing their own material, Conan turned out an entirely improvised show. Frequently, he resorted to taking his cameras backstage and messing with his staff. The segment where O'Brien prods at producer Jordan Schlansky is one of the funniest in the show's history. Schlansky serves as a perfect foil for Conan, never once laughing or giving in to O'Brien's relentless teasing of Schlansky's eccentricies and affinity for Canadian prog rock. Conan is in a state of sheer glee when messing with Schlansky, equally bemused and befuddled that someone like Jordan exists, let alone works on his staff. Watch as they dance together.
3. Norm MacDonald
Too often late night TV comes to a screeching halt during guest interviews. Even the most affable and interesting celebrities often go through the motions of telling a mildly funny anecdote and plug their upcoming project. Thank God for Norm MacDonald. From the beginning of Late Night Norm has forgone using his guest segment to promote anything in particular. Instead, he tells long stories about hobos, cheesy jokes, and generally does anything in the name of making Conan uncomfortable. He's also one of the few guests not afraid to butt in during another guest's segment. In this now infamous clip, Norm mocks Melrose Place's Courtney Thorne-Smith for being the romantic lead in a Carrot Top film. When Courtney tries to shut him up, Norm delivers a killing blow.
4. Celebrity Secrets
The silliness of Conan's programs allowed a perfect platform for celebrities of all sorts to come by and join in on the madness, often poking fun at their public persona. While Conan had an affinity for utilizing celebrities from yesteryear, Mr. T, William Shatner and Abe Vigoda were frequent guests, the "Celebrity Secrets" bit featured some of the largest stars in any given field. Often starting with the celebrity downing a glass of whisky in a jail cell, "Secrets" revealed the dark truths behind Harrison Ford, U2, and David Bowie. In this segment Senator John McCain reveals his other collaboration with Russ Feingold.
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5. Satellite Channels
Often the desk segments on Late Night are where the most bizarre content is exhibited. The Satellite Channels, established when the show was in its infancy and satellite TV was still a novelty provided some of the funniest, if not strangest moments in the show's history. We could elaborate, but it's best for Lincoln Moneyshot to speak for itself.