Conan O’Brien actually has a shot at making this newest version of “The Tonight Show” a success.
I think it was Johnny Carson who said, “It’s all about the host.” If that were true, I don’t know why Jay Leno lasted for 17 years. Leno always cracked me up with his stand-up. I saw him do his stand-up routine 20 years ago at the most unlikely of places: Busch Gardens Williamsburg. He killed.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was the exact opposite, always delivering the same homogenized material for his older viewership. It never had an edge. And Leno was the worst interviewer I’ve ever seen. He never dared to ask a dangerous question that might have an unforeseen answer.
Jay was safe.
Carson was rarely safe.
Conan has a younger crowd watching him. I don’t know if the old timers will stay with him, or migrate to Letterman, or just watch Leno’s new prime time show at 10, then go to bed after the 11:00 news, as though their old way of thinking is gone.
Sad. Conan is funny. And the funniest of all the late night hosts is one who gets the least ratings: Craig Ferguson. I hear his stand-up is funny, too — never seen it. But if he’s as funny doing a routine as he is on his show . . . then, damn, let him host the Tonight Show.
It really is all about the host.
Good luck, Conan! Personally, I know you’re funny as hell.