A ‘Late Night’ to remember: O’Brien entertains in New York City

Andrew Gaug

For more than 12 years, “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” has been popular because of its knack for irreverent humor and unpredictability. And when I saw a taping of the show over Spring Break, it was just that.

The first thing visitors notice about the studio is that it has excellent cameramen who make the show’s set seem bigger than it actually is. It was surprising how compact everything was after seeing it on television for years.

After the audience was seated, comedian and character actor Brian McCann, better known for characters such as Preparation H. Raymond and the Fed-Ex Pope, came out and warmed up the crowd with jokes about how stupid NBC’s security system is and poked fun at where some of the audience members were from.

Once the Max Weinberg 7 finished the show’s warm-up, McCann brought out the man everyone was waiting for: host Conan O’Brien. O’Brien came out and shook hands and hugged some of the audience members and then made one of them hug another. After mentioning the ladies that were in the audience, he got right up in one of the female audience members’ face and noticed she wouldn’t look him in the eye. He joked with her saying how she came to see Conan O’Brien, but she didn’t really want to “see” him. Although the studio was smaller than it seemed on television, O’Brien is just as towering as he appears. His 6’4″ stature makes him well-known for being one of the tallest hosts of late night television and this was obvious when viewing him from the studio audience.

O’Brien told us about that night’s guests and then went to the back for wardrobe. The familiar beginning bass notes to the theme for “Late Night” began and it was a surreal experience. After seeing the show, episode after episode, it’s hard to take in that you’re actually seeing it all happen in person instead of on your Magnavox at home.

As usual, O’Brien began the show with his usual monologue, but hit a rut when two jokes weren’t well received by the crowd. Much like Johnny Carson, O’Brien doesn’t falter when his jokes fall flat, he pokes fun at how silent the audience was. In this case he mentioned how the silence he heard after a joke was one that could only be heard in deep space and that he could hear the hum of the air conditioners. But, as always, he came back with jokes about Britney Spears’ husband, Kevin Federline, and model Kate Moss.

Guests Ray Romano and Sue Johanson, “Sunday Night Sex Show” host, were both entertaining in different ways. Romano mainly joked about having children and growing older while Johanson made wisecracks of a more explicit sexual nature involving various aspects of male and female genitalia. After Romano and Johanson finished talking with O’Brien, acoustic guitarist Jose Gonzalez gave a sobering performance of his song “Heartbeats,” a song I had never heard before but thoroughly enjoyed.

Since the show was already running over its time constraints, they filmed a quick send-off and O’Brien wrapped the taping by performing his “End of the Show Song” for the audience. After O’Brien waved a final goodbye to the audience, he left and the lights came up.

The magic of a taping such as “Late Night” was phenomenal. Jokes that were funny on television were even funnier live due to the energy of the crowd and the laid-back feel of the show. “Late Night” is one of the most entertaining and cost-effective ways to have fun in New York City.

Contact ALL correspondent Andrew Gaug at [email protected].