Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Conan" Week One: Wednesday

Posted By on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 at 1:58 PM

Compared to the first two entries, "Conan's" third episode, "Dead Men Don't Wear Spanx," had markedly less of the pop-savvy, non sequitur-driven weirdness that marks Conan O'Brien's sense of humor and accounts for his hip appeal. On the plus side, the show really hit its groove with its guests.

Best clip: Ironically, the best clip from last night's "Conan" isn't actually from last night's "Conan." It's the "Mad Men" montage "Don Draper Says What?" which O'Brien played for the benefit of his first guest, Jon Hamm (who made that funny cameo on the premiere's cold open). Is it me, or is it weird to see already-familiar viral videos on late-night talk shows like this? I had a similar feeling when O'Brien showed the Taiwanese animation on Tuesday. I think of O'Brien and David Letterman both as experts in "found object" comedy, but showcasing something like "Don Draper Says What?" makes them seem just behind the curve. It's almost like something that - gasp! — Jay Leno would do. Anyway, here's the original:

Best guest: Hamm was a great guest, with plenty of fun stories about being injured on the "Mad Men" set. But Paper Hearts' Charlyne Yi proves to be exactly the kind of guest O'Brien (or any light-hearted, generally apolitical chat show host) should have: an unusual, authentic, high-energy personality. With Yi, O'Brien didn't have to awkwardly talk about a pluggable project or goose bland anecdotes with wisecracks. Yi's such a character that her stories of being fired from an unnamed popular sitcom ("The Big Bang Theory," maybe?) or auditioning for the role of the killer in Scream 4 require virtually no steering on O'Brien's part. Where David Letterman seems to relish sparring with cantakerous guests like Charles Grodin or the late Harvey Pekar, nice-guy O'Brien clearly enjoys buddying up with the oddballs.

Best monologue joke: The improvised-sounding gag about Matt Damon's slap-fight combat style in the Bourne movies was the funniest bit in an otherwise perfunctory round of jokes about the news.

New character?: "Saturday Night Live's" Will Forte plays a verbally-abusive, buffalo-riding Ted Turner, even though he didn't really sound or behave like the larger-than-life ex-media mogul (but the same impression would be great for Zell Miller). Incidentally, just because O'Brien's on TBS, he still seems to have plenty of NBC folks as guests, including Forte and "30 Rock's" Jack McBrayer, with Hamm a recurring character on "30 Rock."

Memorable Andy Richter moment: Conan's announcer and sidekick hasn't really taken the spotlight this week. An exception occurred when Hamm talked about having a broken hand on the set of "Mad Men," and a handshake from Elisabeth Moss caused him to fall to his knees screaming. Richter asked, "Is that on film? I'll bet that's funny! Heh-heh-heh!" like a cross between Beavis and a mischievous Michael J. Pollard.

Musical guest: Fistful of Mercy with Tom Morello lit into a barn-burning version of "Father's Son."

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