By JAMES GREENE, JR.
It may not have lasted as long as Britney and Justin or the Ford presidency, but the seven-month stretch Conan O'Brien had at The Tonight Show was still long enough to produce some excellent material. Here now, a fond remembrance of the show's finest moments.
1. Conan Shops For A Guitar
A known guitar freak, Conan made a bit out of his Craigslist search for a new instrument in June of 2009. Accompanying him was Guns N' Roses legend Slash. The two stars went from house to house in California looking at various secondhand axes, eventually landing at the sketchy home of a shirtless junk collector who had actually sold his guitar right before Conan and Slash showed up. The visit was not a failure, though, as much humor was mined from this homeowner's general serial-killer vibe. Conan also managed to purchase a fancy bicycle for a less-than-enthused Slash.
2. Snoop's Lakers Caddy
Snoop Dogg always acts like he's too cool for school, but a visit to The Tonight Show last summer proved the O.G. is actually a huge L.A. Lakers nerd. How huge? The man owns a yellow Pontiac with an airbrushed hood mural featuring himself and numerous famed Lakers. As if that weren't dorky enough, the car''s trunk boasts an image of Snoop dunking over more basketball greats in a custom yellow-and-purple Superman jersey. Anyone else silly enough to own this stuff would probably be laughed off the Internet. Snoop just barely squeaks by on this one because, well, he's Snoop Doggy Dogg. Without Conan, we might never have discovered this goldmine of comedy.
3. Triumph At Bonnaroo
When Conan dispatches Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to cover pop-culture events, the results are usually hilarious. The mean little puppet's report on the 2009 Bonnaroo festival was no different. Triumph mercilessly ridiculed the "pungent hippies" he encountered ("It's expensive to come [here]…did you have to sell your entire meth lab?"); cracked up the Beastie Boys by comparing them to a Pep Boys logo; discovered Tonight Show drummer Max Weinberg naked in some poor girl's tent; and managed to work in jabs at New Jersey, the Black Eyed Peas, Flavor Flav, and even his boss ("Conan O'Donnell").
4. The Destruction Of Wax Fonzie And Wax Tom Cruise
Early in his Tonight Show run, Conan visited a warehouse full of less-than-stellar wax figures of celebrities. The two most disturbing were Tom Cruise and Henry Winkler in his "Fonzie" attire. Of course, Conan adopted these two wax rejects as his new mascots and sent them on a series of adventures (including a spooky appearance in a Universal Studios bathroom). Finally, Wax Tom & Wax Fonz were stuffed into Ringling Brothers Circus cannons and blasted across the studio parking lot. Both figures broke apart upon impact, but Fonzie had it the worst; the greaser hit the pavement face first, forever scarring his hunky wax visage.
5. Norm's Moth Joke
Norm Macdonald visited The Tonight Show on August 31st and repeated a joke about a moth his limo driver told him. This was no ordinary moth joke, though; Norm spent over three minutes detailing the trials and tribulations of this depressed bug, a listless soul unhappy in all aspects of his life. This moth hated his job, felt no passion for his marriage or surviving children (one of this moth's children was already dead), wrestled constantly with suicidal thoughts, and even dealt with confusing spider-related identity issues. The audience and Conan grew restless as Norm plowed forward, before eventually sticking the awesome punchline. Another genius moment from one of Conan's most reliable foils.
6. Twitter Tracker
In this recurring bit, The Tonight Show poked fun at the banality of Twitter by attempting to make it "extreme." Conan staple Brian McCann would read celebrity tweets in a booming rock-star voice ("HERE'S ONE FROM JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT: 'IT'S BEAUTIFUL OUT TONIGHT!'") while on-screen graphics violently murdered Twitter's cute-little-bird mascot. It's always hilarious when adorable cartoons are engulfed in fiery explosions.
7. Conan Concussed
In September, guest Teri Hatcher challenged Conan to a studio triathlon to prove who was the more iron celeb. On the home stretch across the slick studio floor, Conan (in form-fitting track suit) attempted to slide across the finish line, subsequently losing his balance and cracking the back of his head on the ground. The impact left his speech slurred as he called for an instant replay; despite a valiant effort to carry on the show, he was rushed to a hospital where it was determined he'd suffered a mild concussion. The decision was made after an on-set nurse asked O'Brien what year it was, and the host replied, "I know it's not 2011. That's too high." Coco recovered quickly and was able to joke about his injury the following Monday.
8. Shatner Recites Palin/Palin Recites Shatner
Famed song-clown William Shatner occasionally popped up on Conan's Tonight Show to read various tweets by Sarah Palin in his patented post-bebop style. This eventually led to the Shat Man reading passages from Palin's infamous memoirs, Going Rogue. In December, the tables were turned when Palin herself strolled out from behind the Tonight Show curtains and presented a passage from Shatner's autobiography Up Till Now ("I glanced over at Johnny Carson, who had a look vaguely similar to the look on Spock's face when his brain was missing.").
9. The Cory Booker Feud
Coco joked that Newark mayor Cory Booker's health-care plan boiled down to giving every resident a bus ticket out of the city. A seemingly furious Booker took to YouTube demanding an apology and banned O'Brien from Newark Liberty International Airport. In response, Conan banned Booker from Burbank's airport. The feud intensified when Booker banned Conan from the entirety of the Garden State, prompting mayors from several other Jersey cities to take sides. Eventually, Hillary Clinton herself called for an end to the Booker/Conan "war" and blamed Coco's recent concussion for the craziness. The hatchet was buried when Booker finally came on Tonight on October 16.
10. The Bugatti Veyron Mouse
As Conan's late-night demise turned very public and ugly, the host capped three days of vicious shots at NBC with the most expensive comedy bit he could dream up — dressing up the priciest sports car in the world with giant mouse ears and whiskers and accompanying its on-camera appearance with "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones — solely to stick his soon-to-be-former employer with the bill. Final cost of this stunt? $1.5 million. A grumpy NBC excised the Bugatti Veyron Mouse from online episodes of the program the next day, which only served to sweeten Conan's victory.