If Max Weinberg Splits, Who Should Be Conan O’Brien’s Band Leader?

Conan O’Brien’s Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television tour continues to deliver big laughs and tons of surprises as it makes its way across the country. The gang is all there, from O’Brien sideman Andy Richter and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to trombonist Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg and the Masturbating Bear (though he had to change his name to “Self-Pleasuring Panda,” just in case the lawyers were watching).

But there is one notable name absent from the festivities: Longtime bandleader Max Weinberg, who lead the Max Weinberg Seven (and later the Tonight Show Band) for 17 years. While it made sense that Weinberg would sit out the tour (it’s a big commitment), it looks like the relationship between O’Brien and the only band leader he has ever known is coming to a close. Rumor has it that Weinberg will not be joining O’Brien when the host’s new show premieres on TBS in November. It would be a great blow to the show, as Weinberg is not only a stellar, versatile musician but also acted as an incredible foil for O’Brien, often playing the deadpan straight man to Conan’s manic jokester.

While it’s not certain that O’Brien’s new show will even have a band, it’s reasonable to suggest that it probably will. Conan has a profound commitment to music, which has come out on his song-heavy tour. (And remember that his final night on “The Tonight Show” featured an all-star jam on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird.”) So who should take Weinberg’s place as the czar of music on O’Brien’s new show?

Travis Barker
Since it’s not certain when this Blink-182 album will ever be finished, perhaps their skinsman would do well to hop on board the O’Brien laugh train. Barker is a versatile drummer who has teamed-up with all types of musicians, from DJs to punk rockers to rappers. Plus, he already lives in Los Angeles (making it an easy commute) and has a lively personality that would allow him to goof around with O’Brien when the show called for that.

Janet Weiss
If he really wants to put his show on the map, O’Brien should hire the first female bandleader on a late night show, and the former Sleater-Kinney drummer fits the bill. She’s a versatile musician and would bring some much-needed estrogen to the after-hours comedy scene. And hey, maybe it would lead to a Sleater-Kinney reunion.

Wale
He did such an excellent job leading the band at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards that the Washington, D.C. MC should relocate to Los Angeles for O’Brien’s nightly party. The rapper has proven that he can handle straight pop, rock, hip-hop, R&B and anything in between, and his connections would lead to many excellent collaborations and guest appearances.

Ben Folds
He has received the bandleader endorsement before, but it’s worth repeating. Folds is an excellent musician, has a sharp with and a natural television charisma. He’s a TV legend waiting to happen, and it would be madness if he wasn’t getting offers.

Bootsy Collins
The longtime Parliament-Funkadelic bass player has everything necessary to be a killer musical director: He is a great musician, has a phenomenal pedigree, dresses like a superstar and can match wits with just about anybody. As a bonus, he would be great around Christmas.

Sly Stone
It’ll totally go well, right? Right?

Who do you think should take over as bandleader of Conan O’Brien’s new late night show? Let us know in the comments!