When he walks out, Mr. O’Brien said, his fans may be surprised. “I think the overwhelming feeling at first will be: ‘Oh, he’s got real lighting now.’ ” He said he had one word for what he wanted in a new set (besides better lighting): elegant.
“And they did that,” he said. “It’s very elegant.” But his fans shouldn’t worry: “You can still be a jackass in an elegant space.”
Mr. O’Brien expects to mine his personal dislocation for comedy. “I can’t go anywhere without people saying, ‘Good luck in L.A.’ Or, ‘What’s it like in L.A.?’ Osama Bin Laden is in a cave somewhere saying, ‘I wonder how Conan will be in L.A.’ ”
Mr. O’Brien said the move would definitely affect the show. “It should be different,” he said. “The only way to survive in television is to reinvent yourself.”
He added, “I can’t radically remake my personality, but this should change me in ways that I changed during the ‘Late Night’ show — in ’93, and ’96 and ’98. What’s nice is there does seem to be something funny about me being in L.A. It’s almost like a sight gag that I’m in L.A.”
Troy Patterson of Slate revealed (to me) that Andy Richter will be rejoining Conan for his Tonight Show debut. And suddenly I am looking forward to the Tonight Show with anticipation rather than mild interest. Patterson explains Richter’s challenge:
So now it’s left to Richter, coming in from the cold, to revive the dying art of the late-night-show sidekick…Richter, meanwhile, has been and should be the deferential Robin to Conan’s absurdist Batman, a Boy Wonder with a Wonderbread deportment. Holy subordinate!
There’s no one so brave and wise as the politician who’s not running for office and who’s not going to be…
Yet it is almost as likely that former Governor Eliot Spitzer is following an alternate path that seems similar but has a different conclusion. Let me propose a corollary to Weld’s statement:
A bit braver and a little less wise than the politician who’s not running for office and who’s not going to be is the chastened politician who seeks redemption in the form of speaking truth to power from his exile until he has established his moral bona fides enough to be allowed back in.
A bit less snappy though. Meanwhile, Jay Leno has his own suggestion for how to deal with the AIG bonus issue (the one that Spitzer points out is a side issue):
You have to appreciate the subtle balance Jay manages here – and the craft and delicate political sensibility that goes into a joke like this. Aiming for a mass audience, he can’t offend either Democrats or Republicans. Yet a political joke that is offensive to no one just isn’t funny. So Jay manages to cram two alternate jokes into one – with one interpretation for Democrats and the other for Republicans, and a certain cognitive dissonance allowing both interpretations.
On a superficial level, Leno is chastising the Obama administration and saying that it should emulate the Bush administration.
But he undermines this suggestion by invoking as a fact – which it is, even if the mainstream media does not often acknowledge it – the lawlessness of the Bush administration – and perhaps even mocking their oft-used Jack Bauerdefense.
Yet on another level, what he is proposing – that Obama just forget the law and go after AIG – has a certain elemental satisfaction to it – and would probably be a popular move. There would be a catharsis there, instead of the interminable responsibility of the Obama administration.
As I mentioned above – there is a certain craft to this. Often, Leno’s monologues are seen as without edge but when they work, they allow multiple edges such as this joke does.
As a side note to all of this – once something becomes the premise of a joke by Jay Leno, you know it has been popularly accepted as true – or true enough. The fact that the premise of this joke was Bush administration lawlessness is pretty significant in that regard.