Last night 4.2 million people tuned in to see the premiere of Conan on TBS. But before actress Lea Michele or actor Seth Rogen could take to the guest spots and before those at home could bask in the orange glow of the bearded one, the studio audience — 250 strong — needed to be warmed up. Kind of.
I say “kind of” because, really, for the last nine months, Coco fans have been warmed up quite well, as is evidenced by Team Coco’s online presence; commercials, trailers, a five-minute version of the actual show, social media outreaches were, and still are, unstoppable.
And comedian Jimmy Pardo, Conan’s official show opener (not to mention a veteran stand-up comedian and host of long-running podcast Never Not Funny) will admit that his job last night — to get the crowd in the mood — wasn’t all that challenging. “It’s cliche, I know. But it was like shooting fish in a barrel,” Pardo, who also warmed up Conan’s Tonight Show crowds, told me today.
“Yesterday’s energy was unlike anything,” he says. “They were the most excited, pumped up crowd I’ve ever seen– and in a classy, respectful way. It wasn’t like going to Madison Square Garden to see Andrew Dice Clay in 1986. It was like, ‘Oh my God, they’re excited to be here, they’ve been waiting for hours to be here;’ the warm up went so smooth. They wanted to be entertained; they were there for a reason. These weren’t tourists; these were people who were waiting nine months to see Conan back on television.”
“The response Andy [Richter] got when I introduced him, sent chills down my spine,” Pardo says. “I actually got goosebumps. I was like, ‘This is exciting. This is something that’s real and exciting.’”
And how did Pardo think the actual taping went last night?
“I thought it went great,” he says. “There was a looseness to it and I imagine that will continue in this new format. And the vibe backstage was one of, ‘Holy shit, we have a hit on our hands.’”
Time — and ratings — will tell if that’s true. But there’s no arguing that Conan and co. are off to a great start.
Note: Keep your eyes on the press tomorrow. Tom Hanks is one of the guests on tonight’s show and Jimmy has made a promise: “I’m going to take a swing at him.”
Sadly, Pardo is joking. I think we need a little random Hanks punching every now and again.