NSFW: Conan Online ? From Rising Star to Just Another Ginger Cat on a Roomba

Paul Carr
Sunday, January 24, 2010; 4:20 AM

As a transplanted Brit in America, I'm having something of a hard time getting my head around this whole Late Night debacle.

Unlike most American television, late night talk shows ¿ the Conans, the Lettermans, the Carsons (he's the one who's dead, right?) ¿ never really made it out to the rest of the world.

The first, and biggest, reason for this is that the shows tend to be vehicles for movie stars to promote their latest project: movies that probably have different release dates outside the US. Watching Ben Stiller talk about a movie that we won't be able to see for six months isn't so much entertaining as annoying.

The second reason is that, to my eye and ear at least, most of the shows are astonishingly unfunny. I mean, really. The men are paid millions ¿ tens of millions ¿ of dollars and given armies of writers to be hilarious and yet they still have to hire a sidekick to laugh at their punchlines. Hell, one of them ¿ is it Leno? ¿ even has a drum rimshot to telegraph when we're supposed to laugh. It's about as pathetic as me hiring some guy to add a 'LOL' comment to all of my posts on TechCrunch. Which come to think of it isn't a bad idea.

I'm sure I'm missing the joke somewhere, but I suspect the real reason these shows are so popular to you Americans is that they're institutions. And what was it Groucho Marx asked? "Who wants to live in an institution?"

Amiright folks? Badoom-tish!

But still, I live in America now, and I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the most important cultural rift in the country's history since the great Cheersquake of '83. In particular I'd be doing the world a disservice if I didn't respond to the growing number of apparently sane commentators who are urging Conan O'Brien to take his act online.

Nick Summers at Newsweek began the Siren call:

"The new comedy prestige?to be the material that dominates Twitter's trending topics list, to create the clips embedded on a million blogs?has nothing to do with airing on a certain network at a certain time."

Nick Bilton at the New York Times joined in:

"Mr. O?Brien?s youthful supporters won?t crowd around the television at a specific time, instead they go to YouTube and Gawker to watch their late-night television, and share their own commentary around each clip. So here?s my advice to Mr. O?Brien: After he leaves NBC and spends a few months healing his wounds and pulling the troops back together, he should come back and make the Internet his time slot."

But it wasn't just people called Nick. Jim Louderback from Revision3 went as far making Conan a formal ¿ if attention-seeking ¿ offer: "I'm willing to give him a substantial ownership stake in Revision3, if he makes the jump here."

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