'Conan' first-night review: Coco's so-so show

A little over nine months after leaving The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien gave birth to Conan on Monday night, and the baby arrived looking both familiar and a little tired.

Conan commenced with a taped bit about O’Brien’s departure from NBC, complete with a lamely repeated-three-times Godfather joke about the host getting gunned down. When he bounded out to greet the studio audience, he said the applause “lasted longer than my last job.” Sheesh. It was great, however, to see Andy Richter’s joyously deadpan reactions, and my colleague Mandi Bierly was correct in ascertaining that Conan’s first guest would be Arlene Wagner, of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum. O’Brien showed off the perhaps intentionally cheap-looking set, with the redeeming feature of a glowing moon that bounced like a beach ball.

After that, Conan settled into talk-show-as-usual mode. Seth Rogen, affable as always, came out and told some “weed” jokes. Glee‘s Lea Michele came out and burbled, “I’m so happy for you! This is so awesome!” O’Brien brought up the controversial GQ photo spread and Michele’s explanation was show-biz perfect: The photographer was “such an icon” that the Glee folks just went with the flow, and “we were having a good time.” Conan provided a sight-gag: A picture of himself in high school, placed in one of the magazine shots of Michele.

Really, the funniest moment was the use of one of O’Brien’s old stand-bys, the Masturbating Bear, who was wedged into a taped bit in which lottery balls were pulled from his, um, sack.

The hour ended with Conan and Jack White doing a fun rockabilly number, and engaging in what was easily the evening’s most spontaneous, amusing interview.

All in all, pleasant, if a bit underwhelming. Agree? Disagree?

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (320 total) Add your comment
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  • chattypatra

    To be fair, which one of the late night shows is a laugh fest? Even the best network hosts – Fallon, Kimmel, and Ferguson – when they have brilliant segments, are not able to sustain that quality for an entire hour. If they ever do, it’s an exception because it’s very hard to be that funny for an entire hour of television. Having Seth Rogan as his first real guest and letting the nice old lady walk away without interviewing her about her job as a curator didn’t help. I like Conan, and I’ll stick with his show. Tomorrow, with Tom Hanks as his guest, it should be great.

    • Gary Middleton

      Agree, chatty. Shows that are on 160 times a year are not meant to have individual episodes put under the microscope like this.

      • Harry Schmidt

        I think Conan left it intenitonally underwhelming. Its a job where youre in it for the long haul, first shows mean nothing yada yada. And Fallon best host? WTF

      • AlysabethInAustin

        Word,Chatty. I loved it. I’m thrilled to have him back. Ken Tucker, Why do you need to paint it “tired”? Nothing is more tired than Leno and Letterman…I even tire of the brilliant Daily Show and Colbert if I’m not in the mood. Viva, Conan! I have missed him.

      • Big Nose

        AlysabethInAustin – “Word” is old and ghetto…find another way to call attention to yourself.

      • Aly

        Ken’s just trying to fire up Conan fans to get more hits…and we played right into his hand. He’s becoming the kind of writer who would call a cute puppy ugly just because he knows it will get more hits/ad revenue as people come in to tell him how wrong he is.

      • blaaaake!

        I would like this show more if Obama wasn’t president.

      • Dough

        Yeah but the problem, Gary Middleton, was that this wasn’t episode 160. This was episode #1. And it WAS underwhelming.
        But only because the interviews stunk. Tom Hanks should make things a whole lot better tonight.

      • Jam

        People last night was one of the best nights in late night tv — in the Central time zone..Conan came on @ 10 pm our time .. the first 30 – 40 minutes were gold ..then during commercials..switched to Leno and his headlines ..back to Conan till 11 pm …then I switched to Leno to see his Arnold Schwarznegger interview..then switched to Letterman to catch the Harrison Ford interview..so I was able to catch the main things from these 3 late night shows…than at 11:37 pm was able to catch the funny opening of Jimmy Kimmel & Adam Carolla …so for me this is great! .. however, in the ratings game..where do I fit ? I watched them all!

      • to Jam

        Unless you have a nielson box or a comparable ratings measuring device you don’t fit anywhere.

    • Josie

      I lasted 15 minutes before I switched it to the Daily Show. Jon Stewart is consistently funny. Conan……not so much.

      • Ashley

        I agree, however I didn’t even watch any of the show because all the commercials were such a turn off. I felt like they were on every break while I was watching family guy.

      • sammy

        I agree, I have never liked Conan, not very funny, and he continues his
        Glad Leno and Stewart are on the air

      • Byron

        I like all the late night guys but Leno – he has the worst writers, i mean really? Is his bit with the misspelled paper clippings really that funny? How creative is that?

      • Allison

        Bryon – when you’ve worked at a paper “Headlines” becomes really funny. As is noticing random “and”(s) in sentences like: “Glee‘s Lea Michele and burbled, “I’m so happy for you! This is so awesome!”

      • Rick C

        I like Conan and his humble personality. Leno and Letterman’s shows always seems more about their big egos and less about their guests. Jimmy Fallon is still green but he’s improving. Lopez is underrated and improves with each show. Conan is humorous and down to earth which means he’s very human. Not lackluster or low key at all. You want laugh-out-loud funny? Forget it. It’s a talk show NOT a sit-com with laugh track. And I stopped watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart a couple of years ago. Sure, I’ve missed a few good episodes but it’s a small sacrifice NOT having to watch the mostly dull, crappy, same as ever, stagnant humor that has been the fanboy’s delight for far too long now. Goodluck Conan.

      • saywhat

        Byron you’ve got to be kidding. Leno’s newspaper clippings are one of the funniest things. If you don’t like the man, then you just don’t like the man, and say so, and don’t watch him. But something that isn’t funny to you, might be very funny to others. And Ken Tucker, yes, why do you have to say “tired”? BTW, I like both Leno and Conan and will watch them whenever I get the time.

      • saywhat

        Good one Allison. I noticed the “and” too and found it disturbing. lol

      • Jean Guy Levesque

        What’s with the awful hair style?!? He looks like a drunk rooster molested by his sick uncle. Vive la Quebec!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Chuck

        Allsion and Say What, what’s wrong with the sentence, “Glee‘s Lea Michele came out and burbled, “I’m so happy for you! This is so awesome!” She came and and burbled something. How is this not proper English? How do you want it to read,;Glee‘s Lea Michele came out burbled “I’m so happy for you!”This is so awesome!”? That doesn’t make sense. What are you talking about???

      • Cam

        The fact Headlines is Leno’s funniest bit shows how unfunny he truly is. It takes no effort. He literally has his audience send him in typos and then he points out the obvious and everybody chuckles. It’s pretty weak actually. Want to talk about tired?…watch his show.

      • Jeremy DC

        I like Jon Stewart but he is not consistent at all. He has about 5 to 10 great episodes per year and the rest of the time I’m left rather bored. The correspondents he has right now aren’t nearly as good as the ones he’s had in the past. I pretty much know what to expect from Conan and he always delivers.

      • JC

        Hey, Jean. Coco’s hair is better than your French. It’s “le Quebec,” not “la Quebec.” Persons can be either (le) quebecois or (la) quebecoise, depending on their gender. But the province itself is masculine. Why would you go about using a French moniker and shouting a French phrase but not know French, eh?

    • LOL

      I’m with Coco!

      • Titia

        I’m ipmrseesd! You’ve managed the almost impossible.

    • Christine McGee

      That would apply if this were his 20th episode or something. But this was the premiere of his show, the writers has MONTHS to prepare, there was no excuse for tonight’s episode to be so tepid. It isn’t asking too much to expect a memorable 1st show. And it’s not like he’s new to the talk show circuit, either. He’s been on television for 17 years now, and this is his third show.

      • WasACoCofan

        I have waited all year for this moment and …….I was so disappointed! Conan, what the F happened? I was so BORED that I actually looked forward to Leno’s show. Leno has a new fan, you just lost one. Get over the fact about your PAST job, you were, I repeat WERE too good for The Tonight Show anyways. But because you can’t seem to get over it, I am now OVER YOU!

      • TVGord

        You have unrealistic expectations. It’s a talk show. What more did you expect?

      • blueorchid

        Wow, “wasacocofan,” you must have been quite the fan for you to give up on Conan within a day and go to Leno (I always forget how innovative and hilarious he is, thanks for the reminder). I think most Conan fans will say, “good riddance. I’m sure you and the rest of the folks at the nursing home will enjoy Jaywalking.”

      • Big Walt

        Right because only old people like Leno and only young hip people like Conan. I get it. That’s funny. You should write for Conan.

      • Sally

        WasACoCofan – I would expect Conan to riff about the Tonight Show stupidity on his first new show. He’s been limited on speaking about it on tv since leaving the Tonight show (except for the serious 60 Minutes interview). Now if he continues to harp about it, it might get old quick.

      • Andie

        You’re about as much a “CoCofan” as Sarah Palin is a liberal Democrat. Troll.

      • Disappointed

        I expected funny.

      • TVGord

        I expected funny, too. And I got it. I don’t know why you wouldn’t. There was some funny stuff on his first show. Oh well, your loss.

      • Ian

        Big Walt is right. There are plenty of actual cool old folks who like Conan, and plenty of young people without a sense of humor who like Leno and his tired old act.

      • @ WasACoCofan

        I’m sure you haven’t been a fan long. I’d say you became a fan when the who Tonight Show flap began, and it became the “in” thing. An actual fan of ANYTHING wouldn’t ditch said THING after 40 minutes of television. If you were a fan longer than that, then it just means you’re a moron. So take your pick. Are you a moron, or are you a douchebag? Take your pick, and enjoy Leno. He could use a few more moronic douchebags in his audience.

    • In Your Pants!

      Craig Ferguson.

      • Wil Stuart


      • Mark

        You said it! Conan is great but Ferguson is fantastic.

      • Sue1

        He’s the only one I watch (or DVR), the only one I find consistently funny. I did watch Conan last night and Meh sums it up.

      • MK

        Is wonderful. I now Tivo Conan, Jon and Craig and watch them the next evening instead of that drivel the nets try to pass off as “news.”

      • Angela

        I wholeheartedly agree. More people need to be talking about Craig. His talk show is my favorite out of all the late night ones (I love Jon and Stephen, too, and yes, they’re on late at night, but I don’t see them as “talk shows” in the sense that Craig, Dave, Jay, Conan, etc. are).

        Missed Conan’s first show last night, but I’ll definitely check it out because I am curious how it’s working out for him. He wouldn’t have won either way with the NBC thing-he talks about it, people complain, he doesn’t talk about it, people will be like, “OMG he’s not saying anything about it! Why?” I do agree that it’d ultimately be best to put the whole thing behind him and just move on, though. But yeah. I do like the guy, though, and I do wish him luck with the show-nobody’s first show is ever perfect, people.

        And as for the insults towards the reviewer-it’s called an OPINION. You don’t have to agree, but he’s entitled to have one just like you are.

    • Brit

      I don’t know, Fallon keeps me laughing more than he doesn’t.

    • me

      Anyone that calls Jimmy Fallon one of the “best” hasn’t been watching TV that long.

    • cheryl

      Ken Tucker is the lamest reviewer ever. I like just about every other reviewer on EW. But he is terrible. How does he keep his job??

      • VJA

        as a previous poster responded, “WORD!”
        He’s way out of touch.

    • MaryJane

      Didn’t watch, not a Conan fan. But this sounds like about what I expected from him, no talent. Stick with Stewart, he never disappoints.

      • jp

        MaryJane, if you didn’t tune in, why waste everyone’s time here with your insipid comment? Piss off.

    • jules

      Your words are comforting, chatty, because I was disappointed–something is missing. I hope it comes back. But the presence of Seth Rogan didn’t help. UGH.

      • wrigs

        I have always been a Conan fan and have been waiting for his return…but jules, it did seem like something was missing. I will be there tonite though to watch!

      • pastafarian

        Rogen needed to bring a Green Hornet clip with him.

      • MaryJane

        jp, your initials match the size of your intellect, 2.

    • sam

      Ferguson has been funny for the entire hour more times than I can count.

    • gobigbaby

      Conan is a horrible comic and host…it’s not like anything changed by moving to TBS.

  • Bill

    Are you a professional writer? haha
    This is a pretty terrible summary.

    • Dwight Schrute

      I agree!

    • Lauren


    • jackson

      Yeh, why did he even bother? After so much fellating of Conan’s debut show by Tucker, now he’s underwhelmed? Wow. Your column gets worse every day, old man. Might be time to retire and take those old, archaic, goody-two-shoes opinions with you when you go.

      • AlysabethInAustin

        fellating. ha! i’m loving you.

      • jackson

        I’d prefer it if you were fellating me.

      • jackson

        @jackson above (Tue 11/09/10 9:12 AM)

        What the hell, dude? Internet name stealing? And is that how you talk to women? Have you ever seen, much less be in the presence of, one that is naked? F**kin’ geek.

      • Chappel

        I don’t think “fellating” means what you think it means.

      • @ Jackson

        So you regret writing that and now you’re trying to pretend it wasn’t you. Nice try perv.

  • Jennifer

    Thank goodness Conan is back!! Can’t wait to see Tom Hanks tomorrow. Funny I thought the worst part of the hour was the old stand by bear.I think having Seth was an Ok choice – understandable since everyone tuned in tonight to see his first night and we all will tune in tomorrow for Tom Hanks if it was reversed he may have dropped some viewers. Overall a good show.

    • Garry

      What does it say when you have to rely on a GUEST to get you excited about the show, and not Conan himself?

      • Ian

        Which Guestless Talk Shows do you like? Personally, I can’t think of any…….because they don’t exist. If they didn’t need guests on a talk show, they wouldn’t have them.

  • Jeff

    I wasn’t expecting the show to reach for the stratosphere. Once they settle in I hope they get back to doing the random, off-the-wall kind of humor they did so well with “Late Night”. It was just nice to have Conan back on TV again.

    • M

      Yes, they had some things they had to get in for their first show. I am looking forward to their new re-curring segments. I’m just glad he’s back!

      • Touch Me

        I agree, .. I love Conan and look forward to his shows. Are you the same M that hangs out on Rickey? A very ‘curious’ person would like to know. :)

  • Dylan

    I was excited to see Conan, I thought the opening segment was hilarious. Props.

    • Kate

      I totally agree! I would have found it very odd had he *not* joked about NBC and the Tonight Show. I can’t believe people were annoyed by it. And I agree with Jennifer…I also though the masturbating bear was the worst part. Ken Tucker must have no sense of humour if he thought that was the funniest part of the show!

  • Jk-n-Jl

    The first show is always gonna be different. That opening bit about his time away from tv took up a bunch of airtime in the first 30 minutes which are normally alotted to other things. I imagine that his on-stage bits and comedy will show up more starting tomorrow.

    • blueorchid

      Agreed. I know most people have the attention span of a 3 year old, but can you give the show a little time? Tomorrow and in the future he won’t have to spend his monologue talking about the new show and such. I’m sure we will see some new, obscure characters and sketches. But giving it a little time would take away the opportunity for crotchety old cynics to take a dump on something right away. We wouldn’t want to do that.

      • Lay Jeno

        You think he’s done talking about “the new show and such”? Are you new to Conan? That’s going to be a reoccurring theme for at least 3 months.

  • Funback Joe

    I too noticed how cheap the set looked. I wasn’t feeling it. The show itself though was a good start.

    • pastafarian

      It’s TBS. And Conan signed for “Much Less”.

  • Caitlin

    I was so happy to be watching Conan again. It was a good show. And Tom Hanks will be fun to watch tomorrow night.

  • No

    Did we see the same show?

    • Ashley

      That’s what I was wondering… the show was incredible!

      • Lauren


      • AlysabethInAustin

        I loved IT!!! …and, Jack White!? What a coup!

    • juju

      I was only a sometimes Conan viewer (never, ever watched lame-O Leno) but I tuned in for the first show and I thought it was hilarious. I loved the opening bit about where he’s been (Jon Hamm sighting!) and the nutcracker lady and getting to see Andy Richter again. And I loved the Godfather gag, too. It made me laugh every time. Although I only remember it happening twice, so maybe I’ve forgotten one and if I remembered that third one, maybe that would be enough to put me over the top into hatin’ on it like Ken “The New Andy Rooney” Tucker.

      • pastafarian

        it happened at the very end post-credits, but pretty sure it was a repeated clip of the second shoot-em-up.

  • conanfan

    personally i thought opening segment was hilarious! especially the bit with jon hamm. it’s so good to have conan back on the air. i thoroughly enjoyed it.

    • Michelle

      I agree. I laughed really hard in the first half hour. I didn’t really enjoy Seth Rogan though. I was kinda horrified at how he shared about how he proposed. I hope his fiance was ok with that. If I were her, I wouldn’t be too happy with him. But I’m guessing she knew what she got herself into.

      Go Conan!

    • Krystal

      I loved it too. It was great. I love Conan and to have him back and with him singing and playing the guitar… It just seemed like a lot of fun. It was the first episode and he has to get a feel for the NEWness. I think it’s just going to keep getting better and better.

  • john

    The first half of the show was better than the second half. It was great to see Conan back though!

  • Steve

    The NBC joke was hilarious!

    • Hollie

      Real brain power on display. Thanks for that awnsre!

  • Mark

    Seemed pretty accurate to me. I’m still not sold on the beard, though.

    • Gary Middleton

      I’m shocked if he keeps it much longer, Mark.

      • Susan

        I agree. Just not funny. Never has been…I’m in the right demographic
        just want to watch someone who’s creative and smart/Craig Ferguson’s rather interesting

      • juju

        You can watch Conan and Craig both. They’re not on at the same time.

  • Jim

    Conan is awesome! I can’t wait for him to show more of that quirky awkward humor we know him for like the Walker Texas Ranger Lever!

  • Bee

    I wasn’t feeling the gun-down joke, but other than that, I LOVED the show! I’m a big fan of Seth Rogan, and I thought he was a great choice to start off the show – he sort of embodies that laid-back, underdog feel that Conan fans can relate to. The jokes were great, Conan seemed to warm up as the show progressed, and the song with Jack Black was just rad. I loved it. I’m SO GLAD Conan is back!! :-)

    • Ladida

      You mean Jack White

      • Jack

        you mean jack crimson

      • ger

        Jack (off) White?

    • Lay Jeno

      Jack African-American?

    • JC

      I love the White Stripes, but it would be rad if it was Jack Black (with Kyle Gass). TENACIOUS D! THE GREATEST BAND IN THE HISTORY OF ROCK!

      • mw

        You’re kidding, right?

    • Brian

      I been looking to oactcnt you, you might be correct on. I clicked on your write-up from an other website and am heavily fascinated by this topic and learning this. Do you thoughts if I comment to this post from my newsletter?

      • Walter

        Sorry to say that I’m definitely one of them But I guess it’s just a ispsang phase. At the moment we’re all enjoying the fact that we CAN interact. In the future I think it’ll be easier But I must admit that it sometimes look awful when a big gruop of people getting together and everyone just stares at the phones

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