Why I can't stop being annoyed by Conan O'Brien


Image Credit: Film Images

A late-night talk-show host occupies many roles at once. He is stand-up comic, he is party host, he is interviewer, he is sketch-comedy utility man, he is national spokesman/judge, he is tie-and-jacketed DIY surrealist. But it wasn’t until Conan O’Brien fought his doomed war against the suits at NBC that a late-night talk-show host came to occupy the following role: the Rebel You Have to Like. For a while (and this was the culmination of Conan’s cult of cooler-than-thou TV-zombie-head cachet), it simply wouldn’t do to think, or say, that Conan O’Brien was anything but the bee’s knees. Or to think, or say, that he’d lost the Tonight Show gig for any other reason than that he’d gone up against The Man — who hadn’t given him enough time! Those ratings were going to shoot up, they really were! — and that The Man had screwed him over. It simply wasn’t welcome on the buzz spectrum to say that maybe you didn’t like Conan O’Brien, or to say that his not working out as the Tonight Show host — a situation that was undeniably poorly handled by the network — had more than a little to do with the nature of his talent, which is to italicize and absurdify every joke to within an inch of its life.

In Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, the lively, revealing, fly-on-the-dressing-room-wall documentary about the traveling roadshow revue that Conan put together to fill up the six months in which he wasn’t allowed, by contract, to appear on television, the 47-year-old O’Brien, gangly and unshaven, arrogant yet abashed, keeps describing how hungry he is to go out on stage, to appear again in front of a live audience. The way he talks about it, it sounds like a generous idea: The frowning NBC brass may have tried to muzzle him, but he’s going to give the people what they want! Except that the more he goes on about how much he craves that connection with an audience, the more you realize that what he’s really talking about is how much they give to him. That’s true, to a degree, of almost any entertainer, and stand-up comics are, of course, a legendarily insecure breed. But O’Brien may be a special case. In Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, he’s the comedian as approval junkie, modest and likable on the surface but compulsively nervous about how he’s coming off. He lets the love from audiences in 32 cities wash over him as a substitute for the love that his evil network daddies didn’t give him. He calls his roadshow the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour, but it’s really the Repairing Conan’s Ego Tour.

I bring all of this up because the overwhelming need to be liked that’s front and center in Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is also at the center of why I have never been with Coco, or had much patience for him as a talk-show host. He’s obviously a clever and witty-to-the-core entertainer, and when he started out, in 1993, he seemed fresh. He presented himself as the next-generation David Letterman, building on the cheeky irony — the sense of everything in quote marks — that Dave had first brought to late night. If Letterman, in effect, put quote marks around Johnny Carson (Dave made the very idea that he was hosting a big darn TV program faintly ridiculous), Conan, the first late-night talk-show host who had grown up wanting to be a late-night talk-show host, put quote marks around the quote marks. He turned every winking aside, every look! I’m the host! And I’m making a funny! non sequitur, into a gleeful deconstruction — and tongue-in-cheek assertion — of his gawky, overgrown-boy, put-on ringleader role.

And it was exhausting — God, was it exhausting! Born in 1963, Conan was, and always will be, the quintessential Gen X talk-show host, because he developed his two-ton sense of reflexive irony in the ’80s, when irony was just beginning to rule, and it’s still the diesel fuel that powers his act. Every joke, no matter how trivial or “thrown away,” comes with a little sign attached that says: “Check it out, I’m telling a joke!” What I’ve always found so annoying about Conan is that he uses this generational tic of outsize detachment because it seems like what he’s supposed to be doing, but really because it serves as a moment-to-moment billboard for his tender ego, which needs as many feedings as a vampire. (Is that why his handsome moonface is so pale?) His strenuous postmodern prankishness is really a way of keeping the spotlight, at every millisecond, fixed on him.

By now, though, you might well ask: Don’t most late-night talk-show hosts do some variation on this? Well, yes and no. My aversion to Conan O’Brien sounds like a generational rant, but it’s really not. The two Jimmys, Kimmel and Fallon, are both younger than Conan (Kimmel by 4 years, Fallon by 11), and though it’s undeniable that their shows are powered by plenty of free-floating delirium and rib-nudging post-Letterman detachment, both of these guys know how to relax — which, to me (sorry to be so uncool), is an essential part of the pleasure of watching television after midnight. They know how to lay down a comic groove that they don’t have to keep intruding upon. Both of them, in their ways (Kimmel with his mock-abrasive dead-eyed scowl, Fallon with his darting quickness and joy), give the masterly ease of Johnny Carson a 21st-century flow.

I personally think that Fallon, the rare comedian who can wield a skewer with joviality, is destined to be the future king of late night. When O’Brien, in the midst of his Tonight Show debacle, was doing all his faux-rebel squawking, and the media was righteously cheering him along, as if he were the Beatles to Jay Leno’s Pat Boone, it was Jimmy Fallon, hosting the best late-night party around in Conan’s old time slot, who was the elephant in the room: too hip to be detached, delivering all the wit of Conan without the hidden sheetrock of self-aggrandizement. I’m glad that Conan O’Brien is still on the air — he deserves to be — but the cult of Conan represents an overly energized nightly tussle with “convention” that I can’t join, and never could. Conan O’Brien can’t stop trying too hard.

So I know I’m bound to get some flak for having written this, but does anyone else agree with me — that Conan, for all his talent, is a wearying entertainer? And what did you think of him in Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop?

Follow Owen on Twitter: @OwenGleiberman

Comments (403 total) Add your comment
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  • Jim

    This thread is going to get nasty–fast.

    • xx100

      I agree with everything he said. Never got into Conan. I also agree Fallon is the next head of Late Night. He’s the real heir to Carson. His show has gotten so funny. Love him.

      • Jank

        No, the real heir to Carson was and always will be Letterman. Fallon is like Jay Leno – perfectly safe and boring, he has his moments now and then, but he is no Carson. The current king of late late night has to be Craig Ferguson – his interviews are actual conversations and are funny, unlike Fallon, who like Jay, just sucks up to guests

      • Al

        Carson was always safe. He never did anything groundbreaking. He just became a comfortable fixture.

      • AlyssaG

        If you’re thinking of the Carson heir in terms of broad likability, then I agree that Fallon is the next king of late night. They may have different approaches to humor, but their styles both translate to all types of audiences. Conan’s style never did– and his biggest mistake was trying to adjust it so it did. He should have just lived in his niche, celebrated it. Much like Letterman does.

      • Steph

        Thanks for calling out Jimmy Fallon, I feel like he doesn’t get enough recognition. I was, and am, a huge fan of Conan. I grew up watching his “Late Night,” and was sad to see him leave. However, I’ve grown to prefer Fallon. His show is genuinely the most fun hour on television, and you can’t beat his TV show parodies.

      • jay’s ghost

        hey gleiberman, where the hell were you when this was all going down? no one in great numbers has ever loved conan in the tonight show slot… it’s why he failed. and yes, his neediness gets annoying. jay has little, if any, need to be loved or admired. he simply wants power.

      • Steph

        Also, more to point, I did see “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop”. I admired that it didn’t glorify Team Coco, but rather showed a portrait of a man who is driven, hardworking, incredibly smart and bitingly witty, a perfectionist, and yes, sometimes unlikable. I agree that the tour was as much for him as it was for fans, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. As in “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”, we get to see that insecurity, the need for attention and ego boost. These traits aren’t exclusive to Conan by any means. I think it’s important to remember that we’re seeing him just after he’s lost his DREAM JOB, the thing he’d wanted to do since childhood. We see some despair, anger and frustration in the film, which I think is only natural under the circumstances, especially for someone so dedicated to his work. I enjoyed the film for what it was, and I enjoy Conan’s comedy for what it is (I went to his show in Phoenix, and I had a blast!) and I try not to let the one affect the other.

      • Buddymoore

        I really don’t think anyone will be able to live up to what Carson has done. There never has and there never will be another host quite like Carson Daly.

      • @Owen

        Seriously. Please read this, Owen. Your articles are written with fascinating ideas but you are truly one of the most awful published writers I have ever read. You speak SO vaguely, make bizarre connections which are not clear to anyone but yourself, and use ridiculous metaphors like: “…but really because it serves as a moment-to-moment billboard for his tender ego, which needs as many feedings as a vampire. (Is that why his handsome moonface is so pale?)” First of all… his “billboard” needs “as many feedings as a vampire”? WHAT? Those are two separate metaphors which you are trying to relate which just doesn’t work. Second of all, what is that stuff in brackets all about?!

      • Matt

        Buddymoore, your response made my day.

      • Jane

        Fallon is a slighly funnier Leno, which isn’t saying much. Plus he is somewhat likable

      • Tommy

        This hack is annoyed by Conan but loved Zookeeper. Sounds like he doesn’t know anything about comedy.

      • Walternate

        Buddymore FTW

      • lydia

        I also never really liked Conan O’Brien’s brand of comedy. To put it simply, i’ve never found him funny. Not only are Jay Leno & Dave Letterman bigger & better talents, but so are Jimmy Kimmel & Jimmy Fallon.

      • Steph

        To the person called “@Owen,” you completely misread that metaphor. It’s the EGO, not the “billboard” that needs to be constantly fed. I wouldn’t normally post something like this, but that comment was just irritating.

      • Conan is so overrated

        I agree with the person who said that Conan’s neediness makes him a HORRIBLE interviewer.

        It hardly matters who the guest is, because Conan is gonna talk about himself the whole time anyone. If he just wants to do comedy, that would be fine. But don’t bother to bring on guests, and pretend to be an interviewer, if all you are going to do is use your guests as “set up material” to tell jokes about yourself.

        He is just an ass.

        He is a vain narcissist. It is time for him to go away.

      • Mike

        Yes, the oldies; it’s always nice to think back, like the hey days of Britney Jean Spears.

      • liam knuj

        I never liked Conan. He was boring. His jokes were not clever…in fact, I would not call them jokes–he never made me laugh. It is a mystery to me that he made it. I attribute that to his leftist commentary and support by the left biased media.

      • Tom

        Late Night with Owen Gleiberman.

    • Jensen

      Owen, as a former Conan fan I agree with you 90% (I disagree on the part that Kimmel is better).

      • Brett

        Owen, I agree with you 90 percent, as well. I think Kimmel will be the future king of late night, not Fallon.

      • lydia

        It’s not just about comedy; it’s about the ability to sustain a show; it’s about charisma. All things Conan O’Brien is void of.

      • DRDarkenY

        I like O’Brien (clearly better than Gleiberman, who probably *adores* The Talentless Chin and his raging mediocrity that *almost* eclipses his raging greed), but I have to agree w/those who point to Ferguson as the best of the current late-night talkers. He’s off-the-wall enough to surprise you, and he has fun with the kinds of guests who don’t get on the 11:30 slot much – and his co-host is one of Grant Imahara’s robots.

    • Jensen

      I wish, I really do wish, that Conan had stayed in his 12:30 spot because that is where he shined. He was funny, witty, and charming. His humor was better than anyone else’s on TV. But now, ever since he got the 11:30/11:00 spot, he has lost that touch. Every episode that airs now I just lose and lose more interest in Conan.
      I find myself watching Fallon a lot now because he is what Conan used to be, for me.
      Sorry Conan, it seems like you lost your touch at this point, and it hurts me but everything must come to an end.

      • ryq

        totally agree with you. conan was not funny when he was in tonight show. he was really awesome at late night.

      • Bri

        I absolutely agree, Conan just lost something for me when he was hosting the Tonight Show & even now with his own show. I prefer Fallon & Ferguson now.

      • Sarah

        Yes, Conan was a god at 12:30 but I just cannot dig him at 11:30/11:00.

      • DTO

        I want to support Conan, but on his TBS show, he’s up against Stewart and Colbert, so he loses out to them with me. Also, say whatever you want about Fallon, but he can be funny and he’s got The Roots as his house band! That’s awesome.

      • TLIfan

        I’m a mega Conan fan but agree 12:30 Conan is way funnier than 11:00/11:30 Conan. But I think 11:00 Conan is inching its way towards 12:30 Conan.

      • calebjones

        Maybe this dislike of new conan is due to the return of Andy Rictor? I find Andy to be unfunny and totally not needed anymore. I admire Conan giving him a job but Andy drags down the show. Not Conan. And I’ve seen conan give his guests the opportunity to get the laugh while he sits there and enjoys the guest, so I wouldn’t say he hogs the spotlight. Andy is the one who seems to jump in when he should hang back and be the announcer instead of the sidekick.

    • Kat

      I like Craig Ferguson best – but I can say that without being nasty about it.

      • Sara

        I completely agree. Craig Ferguson makes me laugh more than anyone mentioned.

      • Moira

        Hear, hear! Ferguson is the wittiest and most natural host/interviewer on late night right now. Who else can geek out in a great tribute to “Doctor Who” and deliver a spot-on “Why Everything Sucks” monologue? The man is hilarious, utterly brilliant and incredibly underrated.

      • Strepsi

        I agree : CRAIG FERGUSON FTW

      • Gary

        OK, let me tell you all How It Is. #1, as some others have said, Craig Ferguson is THE freshest and funniest thing in late night, not to mention the best at squeezing out an ACTUAL CONVERSATION with someone beyond the lame pre-interview, kiss-ass, “sell my movie!” bull. I still miss Tom Synder for this same reason (and wish Craig would again do a Snyder-esque one-on-one for an hour like he did ONE other time). #2, having said that, Letterman’s still The King, and can still bring me to tears of laughter. #3, Carson is something BEYOND The King, in his own universe. #4, Leno used to be funny 20 years ago, still has his occasional moments, but is largely watered down, Middle American, cringe-inducing, celeb-ass-kissing BORING. #5, it remains a miracle of God to me that Kimmel and Fallon were both given nightly network shows, BUT…Kimmel has grown on me and possesses a snarkiness I appreciate. Fallon, meanwhile, isn’t The Worst Thing EVER…but it’s pretty close. How Owen finds HIM to be the eventual King of Late Night is beyond me. I won’t say I’ve never laughed at anything he’s said or done, but it’s VERY rare. #6, CONAN. You know, the whole focus of this article. I was in college when his NBC show debuted, and I said on the VERY first night that he was good, that he’d succeed. And I maintained that belief as so many were knocking him. So I like him. But, yeah, something didn’t translate to THE TONIGHT SHOW, as much as I defended him over Jay and NBC. And honestly, I NEVER watch his TBS show; I forget it’s even ON. I would agree with many of Owen’s points. Especially the “exhausting” and “wearying” part. I, too, am glad he’s on, and think he DESERVES to be on. But Conan’s just not my cup of tea. #7, oh, and I think Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are overrated, too. #8, oh, and i’m a 38-year-old white Democratic male, so I know I should be shot for feeling that way. #9, Late Night Lesson over. Good night, everyone!

      • jmm

        I agree – I think Craig Ferguson is the best interviewer of all of them.

      • dave

        Fallon’s the next king because he’s the next Tonight Show host. He’s in very good with NBC and will get their full support when he does take over. Not saying I necessarily like any of that but those things are facts.

    • Dirk

      I’m no particular fan of Conan, although, when I happen to watch, he is funny. I’m a Daily Show/Colbert watcher. I switch over to Conan if my shows are in rerun, or Dave, depending on the mood. Never Leno though, can’t stand that guy.

    • Roger

      Fallon should be selling shoes. He is that bad. Kimmel is just arrogant. Letterman is the bitter old hasbeen who didn’t get the “Tonight” show. Conan failed in late night primtime and just comes off as pathetic. Leno is still the best and closest to Carson.

      • Ted

        I disagree with you, Roger. Kimmel isn’t arrogant at all, in fact out of all the late night hosts, he always seems genuinely interested in having a conversation. There is a certain sense of sarcasm, but I’ve never felt he was putting down his guests, or being arrogant. To think Leno is the the best is a strange opinion. His jokes are very corny and predictable. Once he came back to his original time slot I then realized just how mediocre he is.

      • Kilmer

        Letterman isn’t bitter; he’s just real. Scary, huh?

      • kellybelly

        Ted, I agree with you that Leno’s jokes are corny. However, I think he’s a really good interviewer. I only watch him for whatever guest is on. Actually, doesn’t everyone watch the late night shows for the guests? The only one I watch for the host is Craig Ferguson. I really don’t ever care what guest he has – Craig is the funniest guy out there.

    • Ash

      Craig Ferguson is still the best. Conan is honestly so boring.

    • Missy

      Why I can’t stop being annoyed by Owen Gleiberman
      (see above article, and every other by Owen Gleiberman)

    • Lizzie

      But that is part of what makes him funny to watch. He isn’t the best, Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Fallen are waaay better, but Coco has his place. On Cable and doing fine. He became infinitely more interesting after he got humiliated and fired on the national stage! lol! The smacked down heard across the internet! Lol!

    • Nemo Niente

      Absolutely on the same boat… I cannot understand how he’s still on the air… His side-kick is funnier than him, and I feel that at times (given his overwhelming sense of insecurity) Conan resents him for it as Andy Richter gets honest laughs at his comebacks. I’ve tried giving his HBO shows a chance, but after the first agonizing 10 minutes, I simply have got to change the channel… Good thing is that, thanks to his absolute lack of humor and originality, I’ve learnt to appreciate other comedians whom I would have, otherwise, let sink into anonymity…

  • Jacob

    Gleiberman continues to prove how big of a tool he is.

    • Jenn

      Glieberman is more of a transparent petulant coward than a tool.

      • Matt

        Cool, you know words. He is DOING HIS JOB, and I agree. I used to love Conan O’Brien, but after this Leno debacle, I just found it too icky, the way that he was trying to market himself as some sort of folk hero, even though he got a multi-million dollar settlement, put his show (which has many employees who don’t EVER see that kind of money, and who moved from NYC to LA) on the chopping block because of a timeslot argument. Making Leno the enemy is the worst – does everyone forget that Conan forced NBC’s hand in promising him the tonight show all those years ago?

      • Jason C.

        Matt: Do you even know what happened? Did you forget that Leno said he was going to retire and then went back on his word saying that he would take his act to another station because he didn’t want to retire? Did you forget that when Conan made the deal to go to TBS he only said he’d take it if he got to use his old crew ensuring that they all got jobs? Maybe you should think before you post.

      • John

        Jason C: I think it’s YOU we need to ask if you knew what happened. Leno was forced into a contract that gave the Tonight Show to Conan at a certain time. CONAN was the one who forced NBC to promise him the Tonight Show or elese he was going to jump to another network. Conan had his shot. He blew it.

      • reel_deal

        John and Matt are right, Leno was forced into retirement by NBC and Leno went along as to not be a total a**hole, then came the 10 pm show and when Conan was not getting the ratings they created the debacle so NBC was to blame not Leno

    • gazmo

      Jacob is dying for proof of the size of Glieberman’s tool.
      To each his own, I guess.

      • Fog cue

        And gazmo is the perfect p**y for Gleiberman’s tool.

    • Thom

      You know, Owen is entitled to his opinion. But there is something unseemly – and perhaps even unprofessional – in flat out attacking someone rather than reviewing a movie or TV show.

      No matter what anyone’s personal feeling on the matter may be, there’s just something unpleasant with this article and his approach to it.

      • Sarah

        I think you hit the nail on the head, for me. I actually am not a big Conan fan, and I do really like Fallon, but this article REALLY bugged me, and I think that’s why. Also, to second (or third, or fourth, or whatever) some other commenters, where’s the love for Craig Ferguson? I think he’s funnier than any of the people Owen mentions.

      • Jeannie

        I agree. This seemed like an absurdly long article, all for the sake of bashing on Conan O’Brien. It comes off very rude and condescending, even though I agree with some of what Owen said about Conan, the approach he took in saying these things feels like he’s unnecessarily on the attack.

      • Em

        Thank you!!!!

      • TLIfan

        Owen: For someone who doesn’t care for Conan, you certainly wrote quite a lengthy essay on how much you don’t care for Conan. Methinks you’re trying to repress secret fascination with him.

      • Linda

        Yes – I agree completely Thom. It’s just flat out rude.

      • Squishmar

        I came to this article thinking it was a review for the Conan film. Wow. And Owen’t not even a television reviewer. This is almost like just a personal attack on Conan. I can’t think of another instance like this. It would be like, I don’t know, Tina Jordan or another book reviewer writing a scathing article about how they’ve hated Aerosmith and Steven Tyler… like they have license now that he’s written a book. Just kind of strange.

      • Martin

        No one remembers the fluffers who insisted Lyle Lovett was gonna be the next Johnny Cash?

      • Anya

        To make matters worse it just seems so random. Like what even triggered him to write such a long article bashing Conan? This article just seems like an unnecessary personal attack.

      • Anya

        **Ignore my other comment, I see now that Conan has a new documentary out. Nevermind! (This website needs a “delete comment” button!)

      • dan ehrl

        Don’t agree. Owen was pretty respectful in his dislike. Can’t like everyone..

    • Conan Has ALWAYS Sucked

      I agree with everything you said. I particularly loved how you called him out for his annoying Ironic Stance.

      My only complaint about this article would be what was NOT said, which is this:
      The exact same insecurity, neediness, and desire to be loved by the audience at all times is the reason why HE IS A TERRIBLE INTERVIEWER.

      No matter who is interviewing, the interview becomes about Conan. I have yet to see him interview anyone where he didn’t simply use their answers/comments to talk about himself.

      He is a vain narcissist. It is time for him to go away.

      • Teresa

        I don’t mind Conan in general, but I absolutely agree that he is a terrible interviewer. I gave up watching after time and time again the guests were not able to finish stories that I was actually interested because Conan had gone off on a self-deprecating tangent. I find Jimmy Kimmell a really good interviewer.

      • Linda

        I couldn’t disagree more. Conan is one of the best interviewers I’ve seen because he always seems to make the guest feel at ease and he always seems to be having such a good time with them. I often watch him interview people I don’t even know, because he can always make an interview fun.

      • Squishmar

        Hey, Conan hater… how about you just don’t watch him? No? He needs to go away? Who’s the narcissist now?

      • Missy

        If you want to see a terrible interviewer, watch Jimmy Fallon! He’s cringingly awkward and kiss-ass.

      • Cecily

        I’m on the ‘worst interviewer ever’ train with Conan. It seems like he always manages to make the interviews awkward for everyone involved, especially the person he’s interviewing. Ugh.

    • Linda

      Amen Jacob. I think it says A LOT that he wasn’t courageous enough (or didn’t believe his own BS enough) to come out with his opinion earlier when Conan had almost unanimous support. Now that the a bit of backlash has begun, he feels safer.
      I LOVE Conan. I find him to be one of the quickest, wittiest comedians I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. I don’t think there is a funnier guy out there. That being said, of course comedy is extremely subjective, so people will never agree on what is funniest.
      But to write this idiocy about Conan being driven by his need for laughs. Well, d’uh!!! He’s a friggin comedian! That would be like chastising a singer for desperately wanting to sing in front of a crowd and have them enjoy it.
      Mr. Gliberman, just because you have no marketable talent that people would pay to see, don’t b*tch about those people who want to use their talents to entertain.

      • Squishmar

        Well, in all fairness, Owen Gleiberman is a writer who gets paid to write. That is a marketable talent.

  • Jacob

    See, while I agree on a lot of your points, all of your horrible reviews on this site pretty much negates anything you say.

    • Lyndsey

      Completely agree with that!!!

  • Firecat

    If he annoys you so much, don’t watch. Is it really necessary to post this assassination piece?

    • Glenn

      Well, to be fair, Owen’s just a critic, its not exactly assassination. And good critics have something to say to help enlighten/explain/understand. And Owen’s a good critic. Having said that, MY inner critic says he’s wrong on this one. I’l let others support Conan, but my issue is I can’t believe how far off he is about Jimmy Fallon. Give Fallon his due on the sketches and impersonations – those are killer. But as a monologuist (new word?) and interviewer, he has never, for me, shaken the feeling that he’s unbelievably nervous and uncomfortable in that role. He often reminds me of a scared little boy on stage for the first time. Future King of Late Night? Not if he can’t deliver a monologue without flop sweat.

      • Steph

        Glenn, I disagree with you about Jimmy Fallon’s interview and monologue. True, monologue isn’t his strongest suit, but his tend to be shorter than most other hosts’ to make room for more sketch comedy and games. His interviews I feel are fun and conversational. I saw his first show, and remember how nervous he seemed, but watching it now, I see a man who genuinely enjoys his job and has fun talking with the people on his couch. He comes across to me as laid back, and helps put his guests at ease, since he’s talking with them more than drilling them with questions. (Quite the contrary, I don’t like Letterman’s interview style, I feel he puts guests on the spot too often and strives to make them uncomfortable.)

      • Em

        Maybe I’m too used to Ferguson’s conversational interviews, but I also find Fallon’s interviews awkward and obvious. I’m drawn to his enthusiasm and earnestness though.

      • Lisa

        I totally agree with Steph. Jimmy’s always had weak monologues, but I love seeing him interact with guests because he seems so genuine. Ferguson is definitely the master of it.

    • fancypants

      I agree with you. Owen’s a critic so he has every right to review Conan’s TV show and/or movie, but to review a person himself, to basically write a piece about how some entertainer annoys you because of that entertainer’s intrinsic personality?? That’s just petty and rather pointless.

      • Jan


      • Linda

        But he isn’t actually doing a review of the movie. (Note the lack of the standard “letter grade” EW always gives.) He’s just writing an article to bash Conan for the sake of bashing him. He writes quite sparingly about the actual film.
        Just because he’s a film critic (one that I FREQUENTLY disagree with!) doesn’t give him the right to be a Conan Life Critic.

    • John

      Owen is a film critic. This new Conan documentary is about as desperate as Sarah Palin’s. Owen has every right to call Conan out on his BS.

  • andy

    owen you’re a brave man.

    • SLB

      Conan O’brien is not funny.

      • helena

        totally agree with owen on this one. I have always had a hard time watching Conan because he always seems so uncomfortable and nervous. Kimmel is the exact opposite. totally at ease and fun to watch. Fallon has grown on me too – his little boy cute-siness gets old fast, but he left most of that behind at SNL.

  • Nick

    I’ve got to admit that I totally agree with you Owen. I’ve never been able to watch Conan. He seems like a nice guy…just not my style of humor. I agree that Fallon is destined to be the next King of Late Night. He’s always trying new, fun things…and he makes it all seem effortless.

    • GM

      I agree with Owen and Nick… to a point. I also can’t tolerate Fallon. Good lord, people, really? I like Kimmel, though.

  • Jason

    It doesn’t surprise me that Owen G. feels this way about Conan or that he prefers Fallon over Coco. Fallon is safe; he’s nice, boyish, and doesn’t pose a threat to any kind of order.

    Conan isn’t exactly Lenny Bruce but his comedy is often times…odd. And he’s plugged in to the pulse of youth that Owen just can’t seem to hear (or get).

    This piece seems less like a critical analysis of Conan’s comedy (or the movie Can’t Stop) then it is more of the reviewer justifying a dislike for a person that has achieved (for better or worse) “folk hero” status. It’s fine to go against the grain. But to degrade a comedian in favor of another seems a tad sleazy to me. There’s really no point to this article other than to say “you are wrong to like Conan as much as you do.” Is that all there is?

    • Jenn

      Well said. Glieberman is in a bitter place in his life and is lashing out like a child.

    • Pittner

      I loved Conan on his late night show and though I think he’s lost something since then, I’m definitely still a fan. I could understand where Owen was coming from until all the Fallon talk. He seems like a very nice guy but he is not a great host. Saying he’s relaxed is a joke, he’s all about giggling at everything people say and having nervous energy to go with it. They play games with the guests because it prevents Fallon from having to be funny on his own any longer than he has to because he can’t do it. I think Kimmel is really good but I get sick of Guillermo all the time.

    • gigity

      There’s nothing remotely odd about Conan’s comedy, or for the most part funny either. He’s an attention whore who relies on ticks to get laughs. Fallon has actual talent.

    • dwill

      Comparing Conan to Lenny Bruce – JUST. ISN’T. RIGHT.

  • DFSF

    Inception sucked.

    • E.

      I love this comment.

    • Punch Drunk Fool


  • Evan

    Conan is hilarious. So is his co host andy richter. If you don’t like how conan works, then don’t watch him. Team COCO nuff said.

    • AXB

      Not to worry, no one is! Have you seen the ratings for the would-be King of Late Night? In the toilet so bad that Chelsea Handler has now surpassed him.

      • Esox

        Handler’s ratings are better than Letterman’s?

  • Mephysto

    Personal taste in humor I guess. Judging by the positive reviews you give to such movies like Epic Movie or Hangover 2 and such, tells me that your sense of humor and/or type of comedy would be consider by many as horrid.. But again, different strokes for different folks I guess..

    • Mephysto

      Apparently I like the word SUCH a lot

      • candace

        Someone gave epic movie a positive review? Epic Movie?

  • LKM

    Thank you! From the first time I saw Conan I thought he was a waste of my time. To me, his rant against the “man” was childish and egostistical. Remind you of anyone….like Charlie Sheen? I was beginning to think I was the only non-Conan out there.

    • Jenn

      You’re a whiny douchetrain but that doesn’t mean you’re the only non-Conan fan out there.
      Grow up, little man.

  • Matt

    This is fantastic commentary, whether people agree with you or not. Conan’s personality can be a little wearying at times (for example, he acts wildly insecure when a joke doesn’t quite hit the mark), but I think his wacky neuroses are what make him unique and appealing. I have to say, though, the I’m-with-Coco bandwagon fans are extremely grating.

    • Jenn

      True, Conan IS funny. But “Team Coco” zombies are sad cases.

      • Squishmar

        And Jenn… Yes, I’d say “Team” *Anybody* zombies are sad cases.

    • Squishmar

      He doesn’t act “wildly insecure” when a joke “doesn’t hit the mark.” On the contrary, he does some of his best comedy when a joke bombs. His improv skills are his strong suit and his rapport with Andy. The further away from the written monologue he goes, the funnier he is.


    I agree, I think it’s pretty silly to have someone who HATES Conan review his movie. At least get someone who’s indifferent…

    • Jenn

      Agreed. Owen is being infantile.

    • gazmo

      If you don’t like Owen – PLEASE go see 10 movies that Peter Travers (in Rolling Stone) says are GREAT.
      That’ll bring you back to Owen REAL QUICK!!!

      • Punch Drunk Fool

        haha which one should I look at? There’s one of those lists by him for every year, I’m guessing the 2010 one. Is it the 2010 one? Ok I’ll check out the 2010 one.

      • Sarah

        Hahaha, Peter Travers thinks that every freaking movie is great. Even when everybody else is talking about what absolute s*** the film is, the filmmakers can always count on a positive blurb from Travers to put in their previews.

    • Syl

      This isn’t an actual review though. There’s no letter grade. Seems more like an attack on Conan than anything else.


    Also… “So I know I’m bound to get some flack for having written this, but does anyone else agree with me — that Conan, for all his talent, is a wearying entertainer?” Well Owen, for all your ‘writing talent’, you are a pretty wearying ‘journalist’.

    • Jenn

      Owen really did come off like a grumpy old shrew in this one. There ARE entertaining ways to bash a comedian but Owen certainly didn’t deliver.

    • Brett


      • BRETT

        How original of you. Actually I’m just someone who respectfully disagreed with the reviewer.

  • Jackson Five

    I also never really liked Conan O’Brien’s brand of comedy. To put it simply, i’ve never found him funny. Not only are Jay Leno & Dave Letterman bigger & better talents, but so are Jimmy Kimmel & Jimmy Fallon. As a matter-of-fact, Jimmy Kimmel might just have become the best of the bunch. Conan O’Brien? Oh please!!!

    • Glenn

      Uh, please lets not try to bring Leno’s “comedy” into the discussion. We might as well start talking about the merits of Carrot Top and Gallagher too.

      • Jackson Five

        It’s not just about comedy; it’s about the ability to sustain a show; it’s about charisma. All things Conan O’Brien is void of.

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