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The serious business of comedy

The day was buzzing with excitement, the birds were chirping, the sun was shining...it was Conan Day! Before I knew it, it was game time. My old friend from elementary school and I hopped into her car and we were on our way to Burbank, where most television shows are held, of course. After a quick (not really) lunch at the fancy (not really) Hollywood McDonald’s, our destination was Warner Brother’s Studios, Gate 8.

Feeling like VIPs, my friend Victoria and I graciously accepted our parking pass at the gate and waltzed in. In the waiting area, we followed the crowd through the mandatory check- in station where semi-kind looking burly police officers manhandled my purse, despite the NIV pocket Bible gently nestled in there. (Remember folks, the worst kind of terrorist is the sweet-looking, twenty something college female whose biggest fear is of the mascots at Disneyland.)

After receiving a nifty Conan show wrist band (not the durable ones like at the hospital), we were organized according to group number and led across the street into the actual Studio Grounds, two by two. I couldn’t help but feel like a school girl again taking yet another field trip and looking forward to the sack lunch with my name on it. Only this time I suspected there would be Conan O’Brien wigs in the bag instead of a squished PB&J sandwich.

The anticipation builds

Nearly an hour went by before we even entered the holy studio of the Pale Ginger Haired One. Interns were rushing to and fro politely harassing audience members to put their phones away or else be tazed by the Warner Brother’s Studio Task Force. The energy was high as every flutter of the curtain stirred excitement in the crowd. “Was that Coco?! Oh, never mind - that was just the stage producer....”

Before we knew it, Andy Richter walked on stage and addressed the crowd in light conversation. They read the legal restrictions to us explaining what would happen in case of an earthquake or bomb scare. And then, finally, announced the start of the show!

Let the show begin!

Camera operators, stage managers, and audio assistants were all buzzing behind the cameras as the Basic Cable Band roared the intro to the show. Lights blazing, “applause” sign flashing, people screaming...it was time. Seeing Conan O’Brien walk through the pale blue curtain couldn’t help but bring back fuzzy memories of this pale middle-aged man from my childhood when I used to watch him on the station that must not be named...otherwise known as NBC.

I was genuinely surprised at how much Conan did not even look at his audience. Since the majority of his fans are on the other side of a television, I guess this makes sense. The monologue was decent. Nothing like his good ol’ stuff, of course, since a certain local network took all of his writers’ jokes as intellectual property. It was apparent that Conan and his team are, once again, in new territory, much like after a messy break-up from what was thought a long term relationship.

One interview funny, the other a flop

The show and interviews were good, though not as hilarious as I had hoped. Jon Ham, the star of AMC’s Mad Men, was a wonderful guest who helped prove to everyone that you can indeed say “what” in a hundred different ways (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9DCafQqHJA).

Charlyne Yi, however, was probably the most obscure interview that I’ve ever seen. After explaining how she almost peed behind the curtain before going on stage, she then proceeded to sing a spontaneous song, dedicated to the audience called “Coyote”. (http://www.tbs.com/video/conan.jsp?oid=234132&eref=sharethisUrl) ...so yeah.

Nevertheless, it was an extremely enlightening experience to see the hustle and bustle of show business. There were over thirty people behind six high definition cameras and even though Conan and Andy make their show look improvisational, the majority of their lines are still on reading cards placed over the camera. So any teacher who says that reading cards for a presentation or show isn’t professional is lying to you.

Conan as human as the rest of us

As I listened to the Basic Cable Band play a short song in between takes, I watched Conan’s body language. He looked extremely focused and almost never looked up from the floor except when cameras were rolling. It was then that I realized that despite his face being so famous, he is just like one of us. I know that sounds really silly, but it’s true. I wonder how nervous he gets before each show or if he criticizes himself too much if he feels the show fell flat? It was humbling to remember that celebrities, no matter how much fame or “illusion” to power that are given, are mere humans too.

All in all, the show is brand-spankin’ new with not much to fill in the time. But I have a feeling that it will only get better with time.

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