For some weird reason, I always feel like I kind of know Conan O’Brien. When I lived in Boston, I used to play basketball at theBrookline High School gym, where he went to school. I’m told his wife Liza used to work at Seattle Weekly, where I started out. And on and off for 17 years, Conan used to drop by my house late at night.
By the looks of things inside the INB Center in Spokane on Friday night — two days before Coco’s 47th birthday — a lot of people feel like they kind of know Conan. He just has that effect on people.
As for the show, this was not only one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the INB (and I have seen everything from Phish to Jerry Lewis in Damn Yankees there), if it was an episode, it would have been one of Conan’s best ever.
Flat-out, gut-busting hilarious.
But there’s more going on here than laughs. Conan started on the small screen, and once banished became a cause championed via the Internet. You could tell these were his peeps, as many furiously texted the scene to friends prior to the show starting. But this story arc ends up not by gazing into yet another screen punctuated by word fragments, but by going out and hanging out with 2,800 of your friends and neighbors. Yeah, Conan’s putting the old-school meaning of “social” in social media.
I guess I was trying to take this whole experience someplace profound and culturally significant, but then they brought out the masturbating bear. (To skirt fuzzy intellectual property issues, they gave him a panda head so he could legally get down to his dirty business.)—-
Great Falls native Reggie Watts kicked the evening off and lit a fire under the crowd. Next came the band, with the La Bamba-led horn section running through the audience, pumping up the volume. Then came Conan, introduced in the first of a handful of classic videos shown on the screen behind the band. “Mommy! Daddy smells like pee!” gives you a glimpse at the plot line.
After his monologue delivered in a Steven Gray Gonzaga jersey (“Why don’t they call them the Gons’?” Conan wondered. “Who got to decide?”), the show was off and running. In fact, it was humming at such a high level — Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (who gave a shout out to Nadine Woodward), Andy Richter’s fake ad for Dick’s Hamburgers (“With prices even the homeless can afford!”), a visit from a kitty-killing exec from some TV network — that the audience was actually a little worn out about 45 minutes in. But some choice scenes from Walker, Texas Ranger left most of us doubled over in laughter. (“Walker just told me I have AIDS,” says the cute-as-a-button 10-year-old in the clip. How that is funny is, in a nutshell, the genius of Conan.)
Most surprising is how much the show picked up where Conan’s last night with NBC left off — with his guitar. Conan likey being a rock star, and he led the band numerous times, in a rendition of “My Own Show Again” (to the tune of “On The Road Again”) and finally with “I Will Survive” (instead of “go on now go / walkout the door” it was “go on now go / get your freckled, Irish ass out the door.”)
Final image I will remember: Conan with his guitar in about aisle L of the main floor, high-fivin’ other pasty white guys and strumming his guitar — livin’ the dream, man.
The guy’s karma is a thing of beauty — choosing the legacy of Ted Turner over Rupert Murdoch’s; forging a connection with fans that can only be described as, well, real; and, most important of all, allowing a certain furry friend to continue to pleasure us all.