Conan, Listen Up

I doubt Conan O’Brien is reading mamawhelming. Just in case, I offer this: Conan, you must change your show, and fast. As in, a new format next week, or those opening-night jokes about the Food Network and Univision might not seem so funny in a few weeks.

When you were on late night, and late-late night, you had the luxury of coming out, spinning around and doing the stringy-hip dance. You do not have that luxury now. You do not have the luxury of schmoozing with the audience.

This is a fan, talking, Conan. Not a rabid, Coco Fan Club fan, rather someone who watched you for years, was glad to see you go to late night and was sorry to see “The Tonight Show” taken from you.

When you were on at 11:30 and later, I often chose your show over others. I could quickly tell if I wanted to watch you or Letterman or “Nightline.” Your energy and kooky rituals and comedy bits were fun.

Now, at 11 p.m., after I see the top story on the local news, I want to give your show a chance. Yet I also know that Jon Stewart is on and he’s funny, amd he’s got something fresh happening right out of the gate. I can see who Jon Stewart is taking on, or I can watch (a now bearded, slightly dejected looking) Conan going through what seem like the joyless motions of the spin and the stringy hip dance — and schmoozing casually with the audience like he’s at a college party. None of that is interesting. It’s not as funny as say, the “Seinfeld” rerun I also can view at 11 p.m.

When you have a  show at 11 p.m., with strong competition, you simply do not have the time to do an old schtick and schmooze. You need an opening sketch or taped bit that’s different every night, from the moment the show starts — not after several minutes of introductory stuff that take a chunk of your show. You have to grab the viewer by the collar the second you’re on the air.

If you haven’t done that, the viewers aren’t likely to come back at 11:30 for the second half of your show, when they can watch Letterman. ( Most of your fans probably won’t be watching Leno.)

Tonight, I switched back and forth a few times between your show, “The Daily Show” and “Seinfeld.” When I switched to yours and saw the dance, I switched away. Then I switched back and heard you say who was on the show, and switched away. I switched back and you were talking about how nice the network was being to you and how much fun you and Andy are having doing the show. (Really? You don’t look like you’re having fun, and the pure fun you were having on the old shows was what drew people to them.) I switched away again, as you were launching into some bit about a show staffer who’s unhappy with the TBS promotions for “Conan.”

You can’t putter at your opening or waste time with long, self-referential yarns.  A new time slot calls for a new format. Good luck, Conan. Hope you get back on your game.

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