Michael Ian Black weighs in on Conan O’Brien situation

By | January 25, 2010 at 11:44 am | 4 comments | News, TV/Movies | Tags: ,

Michael Ian BlackWhile some members of Team Coco are undoubtedly going to be out for the blood of Black, comedian/professional pitchman Michael Ian Black does raise some pretty decent (and certainly thought-provoking) questions with his blog post on the whole late night debacle. Taking a politically charged stance, Black posits that the cultural intrigue surrounding Conan and NBC’s public squabbles may have more to do with a general dissatisfaction and outrage surrounding looming lay-off rates and corporate muckracking by recession robber barons:

I think the deeper reason people are so inflamed by this petty war is that Conan in his own way has come to represent the aggrieved, the injured, the wrongly terminated. I think there is a sense in this country that giant corporations are ruining everything, even late night talk shows. Something so insignificant takes on greater importance because I think on some level, “The Tonight Show” actually has become a very flawed stand-in for all the jobs lost to corporate greed, arrogance, and stupidity. We see Conan as a victim because we feel as though, like us, he wasn’t given a fair shot. If a guy like that, a guy who has everything, can be downsized and demoted, what hope do the rest of us have?

In a move that might have the unintended consequences of infuriating the millions of Team Coco pledge-ees, Black then goes on to chastise the masses gathered to rally on Conan’s behalf. (Not entirely wrongly, in this author’s humble opinion.)

Sure it’s a shame it didn’t work out for Conan, the most creative talk show host since David Letterman, and I think it’s great he took a principled stand against NBC, but is this really the stuff of rallies? Is this really where we want to spend our political capital? If you have the energy to protest Conan O’Brien’s departure in Burbank, shouldn’t you maybe think about spending some time chanting outside General Motors or Goldman Sachs? Or Congress? This is the cause you want to get involved with? Instead of holding up placards with the Masturbating Bear on them, maybe donate a pint of blood. It’ll be a lot more helpful to somebody.

strike-conan-obrien_lI must admit – until I read Black’s post, considering this a political issue hadn’t crossed my mind. But as my roommate said, rhetoric like this may serve to shed light upon the real reasons why so many feel so up-in-arms about Conan’s mistreatment at the cold, corporate digits of NBC. Granted, much of the public outcry can be directly attributed to Conan’s unshakeable and unwaveringly committed fan-base, but I think Black touches on a very relevant – if unexplored – cause; that being a general, ongoing seething resentment for what Fortune 500 demons have done to this country, our jobs, our families, and our livelihood.

What do you think about Black’s opinion? Leave your comments below – we’re eager to hear from you regarding the biggest entertainment uproar of 2010.

About the Author

Emma Kat Richardson

Emma Kat Richardson is a Detroit native and freelance writer living in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in xoJane.com, Bitch, Alternative Press, Real Detroit Weekly, 944, and Bust.com. She’s enough of a comedy nerd and cat lady to have named her Maine Coon Michael Ian Cat. Follow her on twitter: @emmakat.

  • http://HermezeHernandez.com Hermeze Hernandez

    Dear Michael:

    How very arrogant and elitist of you to call into question Conan O’Brien’s suitability as OUR hero simply because he’s not Proletarian enough to fit into YOUR programme.

    “I think the deeper reason [you] are so inflamed by this petty war” is that you’re unable to imagine a hero who is more than a mere reification of your own socio-political agenda.

    There is no political capital being wasted here because there is none being spent. For US, this is not a political issue. When you assume otherwise, you’re simply projecting YOUR schema onto OUR actions

    WE are rallying behind Conan because we LIKE him, riches and all. If that chain of causality is hard for you to fathom, then you’re really the last person who should be waxing all preachy about what is and what is not truly important.

  • http://worldhero3000.com bonnie boden

    I like Jay and Conan – but I LOVE CONAN. I think that Jay handled this horribly. I recall that he did not thank Johnny Carson for all of his help in making Jay a “name”. His lame excuse? “It is out of my hands”. That show’s no spine, backbone or honour to me. He couldn’t make that call on his own? What a class boy.

    Conan went out with class and style and I sure hope that when he is back – he blows Jay right out of the water! I hope that people are not fickle and those of us who are not supporting Jay – continue to be strong – and not provide ratings based on curiosity on how Jay will emerge – as he always seems to – on top. I do not wish Jay bad luck – I just believe he could have handled this with more dignity, empathy and integrity.

    Conan’s humour is fresh, original and the guy is just a gem. Personally, I think that Conan should have taken Jay’s 10pm time slot (just during this 7 months where he is unable to do interviews – OR have a show) – and go nuts with it.

    I also think that Jay should do a 10am show – much like the old talk show hosts like Merv Griffin. I believe Jay belongs in morning televison now.

    And one other thing that is mystifying to me (off topic – but far more relevant). The world is devastated, clearly and rightfully over the tragedy in Haiti. How could we not be. What I do not understand is that New Orleans is still in shambles. I do not recall this much effort from the entertainment, government, social and personal industries to help assist this major city to recover. I am always for helping any country when a disaster strikes. It is the right thing to do, naturally. But, we should also be taking care of our own significant disasters first -or at least equally? Perhaps I am missing something.

  • Bullplop

    Black is seriously overrated and has a simplistic opinion. It doesn’t take much common sense to realize that the same people who rally for Conan are the same who go to tea parties, rally for health care, protest the IMF, listen to rush limbaugh, are members of peta, etc.

    Just because they join for a populist cause that doesn’t fit the elephant-or-ass dichotomy upsets some people.

    As a former elected official and campaign manager, I say, WTF? Why worry?

    The “speak against power” letter that preceded the rallies is the trigger. The “People of Earth” responded.

    One big shared feeling is if Leno was let go, he’d go do shows in Vegas (his tickets are now 50% off, by the way!), Conan fought and will do a show elsewhere.

    But he’s a writer, not some degenerate comic (as my degenerate comedian friends would say). Maybe writers have ethics.

  • http://zachzmind.blogspot.com ZachsMind

    I think perhaps both Conan and Michael miss the point. Many people who are rallying behind Conan in this tumultuous time ALSO give blood & donate to causes like Haiti, but many of us do not. For thos of us who do not, the reason why we do not is due to something Conan insulted in his final moments on The Tonight Show: cynicism.

    Classical cynicism is not only a general negative distrust towards unchallenged social conventions & authority, but also a positive attitude towards virtue & kindness. True cynics live in accordance of nature. We aspire only to do things which make us happy, and frown upon being told to do things that make us unhappy. We’re like wild dogs, in a way. Only, we bathe slightly more often.

    I don’t see Conan as a symbol of the wrongly terminated. I see Conan as torn between his desire to achieve happiness in being true to himself, while also clinging to this monstrous artifice of being a talk show host. What makes Conan funny as a talk show host isn’t that he can do it, but that it’s he was trying to do it when he truly belongs elsewhere. David Letterman’s the same way. It’s like trying to stick a foot in a glove. Sure you can perhaps, but WHY? Why? Because it’s FUNNY!

    Jay Leno’s not funny, because he’s a trained chimp. He slides into the mold of what network executives want a talk show host to be. Letterman & O’Brien look at the convention of talk show host as a playground within which to be silly and have fun, and as any cynic will tell you, corporate mentality never figured out what it means to be happy and have a sense of humor.

    That’s why we love O’Brien. Not cuz they fired him, but because he got away with getting a paycheck from them for almost twenty years. Like a court jester in a medieval king’s court, O’Brien made fun of his masters to their faces, and didn’t get hanged for it. So, he got exiled. Now he can go find some other idiots to insult and cajole on their own dime. Isn’t that REALLY what comedy is all about? …Probably not, but I gotta end this somehow.

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