By Eric Ditzian
In the days since it became clear that Conan O’Brien’s ride on the “Tonight Show” merry-go-round would be screeching to a halt only seven months after he first hopped aboard, Coco and sidekick Andy Richter have been taking a look back at classic moments from their brief time fooling around with the most cherished institution in late-night TV.
While we appreciate what Conan and his team have highlighted — everything from a duet with Eddie Murphy to launching a wax Tom Cruise out of a giant cannon — MTV News has got a couple nominations for the show’s greatest bits, interviews and unscripted happenings. In honor of the self-declared whitest man on television’s seven months on-air, here are our seven picks for the very best moments on “The Tonight Show.”
Sometimes the biggest laughs come via the physical pain of others. So it was when Conan did a mini-triathlon with Teri Hatcher that ended with the host slipping across the stage and slamming the back of his skull hard off the concrete floor. The incident contained everything we love about Conan: Slapsticky physical comedy, a willingness to utterly embarrass himself and a keen understanding — even whilst concussed — of what’s funny.
Early on in the craze over “Jersey Shore,” Conan invited Snooki and the Situation onto the show to get a little insight into their lifestyle. The two reality stars suggested Conan spike his hair, tweeze his eyebrows and throw on a little bit of bronzer. Then the Situation hit his host with a suggestion for a nickname nearly as good as Coco: “The Solution.” Conan loved it. “Ladies, if you have a problem, I am the Solution!” he declared.
The Vampire Assistant
Don’t say Conan hasn’t had an eye on the Nielsen ratings, nor that he’s adverse to a shameless stunt to boost viewership. To capitalize on the “Twilight” phenomenon, the host hired his very own sexy, brooding vampire assistant. Meet Cody Devereaux, whose sole job responsibility seemed to be looking distraught while not wearing a shirt. Cody had a great run until a new blue Na’vi assistant joined the ranks and the vampire ran screaming into the sunlight and burst into flames. We hardly knew ye, Mr. Devereaux.
The Captain Meets the Governor
Conan has often invited “master thespian” William Shatner onto the show for dramatic readings of literary works with suspect intellectual moorings. So it was that the actor, backed by a free jazz duo, arrived to read an excerpt from Sarah Palin’s memoir, “Going Rogue.” Just as he finished, though, who appeared on stage but Palin herself! She proceeded to read a page out of Shatner’s own autobiography and won applause from both ends of the political spectrum. That’s Conan O’Brien: Bringing people together.
Puppies Dressed as Cats
What else is there to add? All the Paxil in the world can’t bring forth a smile like the sight of these little pups in their furry costumes.
2009 was the year of Twitter, and rather than join in the 140-character-at-a-time gabfest, Conan chose to shine a light on the tendency of celebrities to shoot out banality after banality. With the help of some fun animation and a voiceover from a monster truck-style announcer, Twitter Tracker might count as the best new bit Conan has introduced to “The Tonight Show.”
Triumph at Bonaroo
The crass insult comic dog + hippies + music festival = So many giggles. The two-part investigation mixed band interviews with man-on-the-street meetings; all involved walked away looking pretty silly. “Is there anything you Phish fans can’t make out of hemp,” he asked two concertgoers, “besides deodorant?” The second segment ended with the discovery of a naked Max Weinberg laying in a tent, as gross as it was hilarious. Wherever Conan goes after “Tonight,” let’s hope he can take Triumph along with him.