“The whitest man in show business is back on the second blackest channel on TV,” he joked about TBS, after heeding a request from the audience for “a lock of beard” and just yanked a hair off of his face to hand out. He also teased his new network for their immense wave of ‘Conan’ promos they’ve been running, saying now that they’ve stopped, “that leaves an 18-hour hole in their schedule.” Then, after a forced segue into a bit of topical humor, he brought out the night’s best bit – heading to the TBS Standards & Practices guy to find out exactly what he can get away with. It’s worth it for the fish-tank underpants.
Tom Hanks was his first guest on his second show, just as he was for ‘The Tonight Show,’ and he got in the first direct mention of Jay Leno. Conan blamed that appearance for making the nickname “Coco” stick so hard that even his own children call him that. “You ruined my life,” O’Brien said, to which Hanks responded “Finally, he’ll blame something on someone other than Jay.” As usual, he was also game for ridiculous comedy bits. On that ‘Tonight Show’ he got hit with a giant fake meteor, and last night, they had fun whale-watching in the ocean behind Conan’s desk, until one of them breached and doused the Academy Award winning actor in a big splash.
Old friend of the new show Jack McBrayer of ’30 Rock’ also stopped by, seeming very subdued while playing with being disappointed in Conan for every off-color bit of humor or mockery. With the help of Tina Fey, O’Brien was able to show an image of McBrayer’s Kenneth dressed as a pole dancer that was cut from the season premiere of ’30 Rock.’ “You are the happiest stripper I’ve ever seen,” O’Brien joked. “You make an attractive woman.”
In another, less auspicious tradition, a legendary 90s rock band appeared on his first week and had some significantly off-putting audio mix problems. On ‘The Tonight Show’ it was Pearl Jam on his first night, and tonight it was Soundgarden on his second.
As the hype surrounding O’Brien’s return dies down, the differences between the dapper young man bucking for Johnny Carson’s old chair and the bearded older guy who’s been kicked out of it are starting to come into a little more focus, and what’s changed is his general energy. He used to be wound tightly with barely contained energy, and now he’s seeming a lot more relaxed and low-key, wandering freely around the stage during his monologue and almost shrugging comedy at us at times. He’s not without his manic outbursts, but there’s definitely a bit of a mood shift. It could just be part of his adjustment to his new surroundings, or it could be that this is how he is when he’s got nothing higher to aspire to, but this version of Conan will certainly take some getting used to on our part as well. Or maybe that perception is all from the beard.