No. I'm beyond bummed. I'm sad. I'm...disturbed? I need to unpack this.
I'll start with the basics. I'm a fan. In the nineties, my oldest sister introduced me to his show. I was just a kid. A night owl. I wandered into her bedroom and saw her laughing face illuminated by the glow of her tiny, boxy camping tv. He was doing a remote about truck driving and I was instantaneously hooked. In my house, we were raised on Danny Kaye, so there was an sense of familiarity about this tall, witty goofball.
My husband and I went to a friend's house last Friday to watch his final episode. As he bid us adieu, Conan himself said the work he does is just comedy. The Tonight Show is just another television show. He shared other wise words. He was frustratingly mature.
With everything happening in the world right now, especially in Haiti, there really are better causes. I can't argue with that. We've been riveted by Haiti coverage and are definitely doing what we can...though it's not much. Certainly not enough.
But it's also possible to have two feelings simultaneously. Concern for world matters and bittersweet feelings about The Tonight Show are not mutually exclusive. And here I am, up past midnight, feeling...sad. Whether I should or shouldn't is a moot point. There's that pregnant pause around feelings again. That mysterious ellipsis.
I've been trying to put my finger on why exactly. Why is important. Why always matters. So let's catalogue:
- Conan is hilarious.
- His writers are great.
- He really does have the best band in the history of television...
- ...and Andy is the icing on the comedy cake. (I still stand firm on my opinion that Andy Barker P.I. was canceled WAY too soon.)
No. There's still something else.
Since the dawn of television, every generation has its own version of The Tonight Show, a time to steer the cultural ship. Conan is the host of my generation...of our generation. His humor has the trademark irreverence of our youth. I was eleven when he took over Late Night. As mentioned, my oldest sister encouraged me to watch his show. So I did. Conan was a presence in my life through jr. high, high school, college, and into my early adulthood.
Sitcoms and dramas go on hiatus, films are only in theaters for a fleeting amount of time. But the late shows, ah, they're on almost every night, give or take a few weeks throughout the year. They're sharing current events with you, they're along for the ride. A shared common experience.
For me, Conan was something of a test. I almost hate to say something like this, because it makes me sound like I take all my emotional cues from a TV show. That's not it at all. I'm a big consumer of news, and a careful one at that. I'm invested in world and current events. But there was something relaxing about knowing that you could turn your TV on every night at 12:30 (and 11:30 for the past seven months) and have a kind of a gauge in Conan.
If Conan could still be making jokes, there was almost a sense that everything was going to be okay. Through wars and economic crises, if Conan was showed up onscreen and made jokes, it felt like things were going to be okay.
And if he took a moment to stop and be serious, then maybe it was time to panic and loot.
Conan will land on his feet. I have no doubt about that. In the meantime, we'll wait and see what he does next. But now that all the hysteria is over, all the buzz, the final Tonight Show...there's a new kind of sadness I'm feeling.
Silly as it sounds, my generation was robbed of our version of The Tonight Show. I know NBC is a big private company. They can do what they please. I'm not as entitled as I sound. I'm making a commitment not to be cynical about it. But there's a surprising grieving process happening that, quite frankly, has taken me by surprise.
There's something that feels personally offensive about Conan's cancellation. As a twenty-seven year old woman ready to build a career for myself and finally start living life as an adult...it almost feels like they canceled me. Ridiculous as this sounds, I hope it's not a harbinger of things to come. An old guard who will refuse to go.
For anyone out there who doesn't understand all the fuss over Conan, that's okay. You don't have to. But there's more going on here than millions of whiners and malcontents. There's a cultural shift. We lost something we thought we were going to have for years and years to come, a Tonight Show that appealed to our sense of humor, our world view, fronted by our host. All those years we spent having to go to bed early while the grown-ups watched Carson, and now we're finally old enough to stay up, and...
That mysterious ellipsis.
Edited on 5-31-18