Louis C.K. wonders why Conan wanted The Tonight Show to begin with - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 17th 2010 4:37PM
Louis C.K. at the 2010 Winter TCAsThis morning, FX was in the house here at the Langham Huntington, with panels for Damages, Justified -- a show based on an Elmore Leonard character, starting Tim Olyphant -- and Louie. The last show stars Louis C.K. as himself, as it intersperses scripted vignettes about a newly-single dad stand-up comic in New York with bits of new stand-up material.

I got a chance to speak to Louis after his panel, and we had a great talk, highlighted by the list of words he could and couldn't say on FX; it'll probably be the dirtiest thing we've ever published, but it'll be worth it.

During his panel, however, one of the last questions was about the whole Conan/Leno debate. You'd think Louis would have sided with Conan, who gave him his first shot as a comedy writer. He did, but he had an interesting take on the matter: Why would Conan want the old moldy Tonight Show instead of a show with his name on it?

After saying that "Conan will be fine," C.K. said that when he was watching late night TV as a teenager, he felt The Tonight Show was more of a show for parents and grandparents and that David Letterman was doing a great comedy in a show that was closely identified with him. When he got bypassed for Tonight by NBC, he went to CBS and continued to do a "Letterman"-centric show.

"I don't know why you'd give up [your own show] to host The Tonight Show, which is just this old shitty thing," C.K. mused. He thinks "Conan will be able to be Conan" on whatever new show he's on and not have to conform with whatever being the host of The Tonight Show means.

"It's a little presumptuous of me to tell Conan that his dreams are misguided. But they are," he said.

After he said this, he talked about how, even though Jeff Zucker (he used a much dirtier phrasing of his name, though) might be a good guy, he makes a great villain.

Huh, a unique take on what's becoming a very tired debate. So it seems like Louis C.K. is on Team Conan, but just wonders why this whole mess was even an issue to begin with.

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Louis makes an interesting point and one I hadn't really thought of. Since 2004 when it was announced that COB would be getting the Tonight Show I have been excited to see what he would do with it... not really thinking that he wouldn't be given any freedom and that he'd have to "cater to the man."

January 18 2010 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I was Conan I would want that timeslot too. But I think I would have tried to find a way to stay in New York.

January 18 2010 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I kind of agree with him. Conan was so blinded by his dream of doing the tonight show he couldn't see what he would have to give up-his creative freedom. I do feel the ratings would be better if he was alowed to be himself. Yes, the probably would have fell from what Jay was doing, but he would of brought in even more younger viewers. In the long run I think this will be better for Consn and his fans. It's just messed up he had to move across the country first.

January 18 2010 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is an interesting thought. I think Conan like anyone who has a "dream job" they work towards, thought this was his and wanted the opportunity to be a part of the Tonight Shows history. I guess now he's wishing he didn't take it (or not considering the payout he'll get). I also agree that it was probably partly NBCs micro-managing that did him in. I think through this whole mess that NBC has really damaged the "Tonight Show" brand and it's gonna be hard to recover even when Jay comes back. I remember the Carson years and it's kinda sad to see such a great show come to this.

January 17 2010 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Professor Zed

Hmmmm. You know. He's right. "The Tonight Show" is absolutely nothing like what it used to be. Not for about 17 years now. Carson was a Master, and had Letterman taken "Tonight", he would have ran with it and carried on the tradition of brilliance. Leno grabbed the show and brought it down to his own dirty level with constant sex jokes and an inability to do a proper interview.

I believe Conan O'Brien thought he could have brought the show back to it's glory days. Had Conan been given the opportunity to do the show his own creative way - instead of being told how to do it by TV Execs who haven't got a single creative cell amongst them - he would have succeeded.

I wonder if Stephen Colbert would be willing to move his show back an hour on Comedy Central. "Daily Show With Jon Stewart" followed by "The Conan O'Brien Show" and then "The Colbert Report" would make a pretty good line up.

January 17 2010 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Professor Zed's comment

I agree I think if Conan could have been given the space he could have created a great show at 11:35 with the Tonight Show name. Problem is I think the NBC execs are micro-managing the creativity out of their programming. I don't think they would have ever given Conan that space. I also don't know what Tommy is talking about there has been multiple blogs on TV Squad every day updating on this issue. Get a life Tommy and ready another blog if you don't like this one.
On a similar note I am calling for a boycott of NBC during February sweeps. If we can get enough people to not watch and it really hits their pocket books in advertising prices for the next quarter maybe they will realize that people don't like their business model. You would think the crazily declining ratings would give them that picture but it seems like it is going over their head. Anyone want to join me and stop watching NBC for February?

January 17 2010 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"...a unique take on what's becoming a very tired debate."

It's really refreshing to hear the writer of a television blog mention the Leno/Conan story as a "tired debate". TV Squad has really solidified its place as a television blog by randomly mentioning the story. When Gawker and other blogs/tabloids are reporting on this daily -- the biggest TV-related story in years (and specifically, since this last happened to Letterman/Leno), a blog that discusses television related news has posted more reviews of random shows than this.

You'll randomly post a blog if someone farts and it sounded like the theme from Mad Men -- you've solidified it's a great show, maybe one of the best in a long time. We get it -- how about posting about other stories in the TV realm. How is it that PopEater.com is following this story over TV Squad (a god damn TELEVISION BLOG!).

Maybe the fact that the story was one of the most commented on your site this week -- imagine how many page-views it would drive if you posted more?

January 17 2010 at 6:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Tommy's comment

I agree with Louis. I can't wait to see his new show! IS this list of stuff he could and couldn't say going to be printed? I'm curious how edgy FX is going to let him be.

January 17 2010 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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