I don’t usually watch TV. I get news online, watch movies and series with Netflix, and play video games far more than I consume passive media. That all being true, I still tuned in last night with both excitement and sadness to watch Conan O’Brien’s final Tonight Show performance. His witty guests and teary-eyed speech were some of the most entertaining and moving TV I’ve seen since the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
I have always enjoyed Conan’s smart brand of funny, but it wasn’t enough to inspire more than an occasional crossover into regular TV consumption to access it. Perhaps that’s in part due to the ill fitting embrace of corporate schlock attached to big network programming. Conan’s comedy has always seemed a bit too progressive for mainstream’s fluffy vanity. His snarky attacks on pop culture, often presented through an outsider’s geeky lens, felt a bit out of place on the straight-laced and tradition soaked Tonight Show.
When September rolls around and brings with it free agent status for Conan, where will he be? It’s hard to say, particularly for someone like me who avoids popular television. I’m hoping the next phase of Conan’s career involves fully embracing his hugely supportive Internet fan base. An Internet distributed regular netcast is probably shooting too high, but someone out there must realize the full value he brings as a fresh and forward-thinking entertainer. The fact that he’s so fully won over the young/intelligent/geek vote should not continue to go unrecognized as it did so foolishly at NBC.