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The Masturbating Bear... who loves ya baby? - VIDEO

by Danny Gallagher, posted Feb 20th 2009 6:03PM
Masturbating Bear in Carbonite
The last week ever of Late Night with Conan O'Brien was bound to include a few shockers. And while I'm still hoping that one of them won't be the failure to launch of Andy Richter's homecoming, another bigger staple came to an end and was probably followed by a long nap and an anthill of shame and loneliness.

Conan held a going away sketch for one of the show's most popular and least marketable characters, the Masturbating Bear.

If you haven't seen this infamous character "in action," feel yourself (not that way sicko) among the fortunate because it's one of the most hilarious and personally shameful moments you will ever experience in your life. Greater even than your prom, your cousin's drunken wedding and your first college beer party where you woke up with one less eyebrow combined.

But if you must, here is the Masturbating Bear's final (?) moment on Late Night.



Now why am I dedicating a whole "Who Loves Ya Baby" to this self-gratifying Grizzly? It represents the show better than any other character. The Conan haters are probably saying, "Well hell yeah, a bear that masturbates? What a better way to represent Conan's audience, a group of hibernating loners!" If you are, let me be the first to say just how stupid that is because that means you're talking to a computer. Who is the loner now?

It's also because it's a perfect archetype for Conan's comedy. It's bold, silly, unafraid with its humor and originality and damn funny. And as the character lives on in late night limbo after Conan moves to 11:30, it also represents some of the changes that may or may not occur when Conan lands in L.A. Or will it? The only way to know is to find out just what the Masturbating Bear is thinking and if you're that kind of person, I feel will do something that isn't remotely sexual or masturbatory in any possible way but expresses my deepest sympathy for you.

Let's look at some of the winners and losers in the debate over the Masturbating Bear's absence. (And I promise that's the last time I'll say his full name. Between this and my FBI "probe" story, I'm worried AOL won't let me write copy for their Help & Feedback section.)

Loves Ya: The Tonight Show audience - The 11:30 audience is a very different beast, even though there is only an hour difference between them and Late Night. It's a slightly more family-oriented audience and while some of the jokes bleed over the risqué side, they rarely go all balls out for the edgiest closer possible. If Conan wants to keep his new audience watching, he'll have to scale back at first for those parents who don't believe their kids should get a healthy night's sleep or run meth labs out of the nursery.

Hates Ya: Conan's writers - The Late Night staff entered an awkward situation when they took over David Letterman's spot, but they turned it into something they could call their own. They borrowed a page from Steve Allen's late night show by featuring a tons of crazy characters that have endured and are well known to people who don't even watch the show. Now as they move to a new studio, a new time and a new audience, they have to reinvent their comedy almost all over again and not having the Bear in their arsenal will make it harder to hit their target.

Hates Ya: Conan's Late Night audience - As hard as it will be for the writers to adjust to a new audience, it will be twice as hard to balance that with Conan's original audience who have spent 16 years getting to know and love his brand of puppet and violence humor. The good news is Conan has one of the most loyal and dedicated comedy followings in recent memory, even as he was getting his Irish ass kicked by a Scotsman. If he can convince the new audience to lighten up a bit over stuff like the Bear as he eases his old viewers into an earlier time slot, he is destined for greatness. The rest will just have to wait until Saturday night to get stoned and watch Talkshow with Spike Feresten for the kind of humor that will keep them laughing at something other than their own hand for more than an hour.

Loves Ya: The guy in the Bear suit - The amount of work it takes to get on the staff of a major late night show must be staggering, whether you're the head writer or the guy who has to phonetically write the cue cards for the monologue so the host doesn't say the wrong syllable in "Rod Blagojevich". But if you're the guy who has to wear that suit in the name of a joke that never gets old, your Id must be on permanent self-destruct. I can just imagine the dream they have about the NYU literature professor who mentored them in college. He spots him backstage in the suit just as they remove that smirking, goofy head. Their eyes meet. A flame of shame washes over the writer. The professor just smiles, pats him on his shoulder, says something about firehoses and then the writer wake up screaming.

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John D\'arc

I think I remember hearing somewhere that a lot of the NBC shows have characters that make use the same bear suit so they could get their money's worth. The Masturbating Bear just came naturally from that restriction.

February 20 2009 at 10:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John D\'arc's comment
KIrsch

The Masturbating Bear just came naturally from that restriction.

Was there a pun intended?

February 21 2009 at 4:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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