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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two Scoops of Nothing

Today it's all about the Emmy Awards. If your life is so empty that you actually get excited about moderately talented actors and badly written t.v. shows showering themselves with trophies of narcissism, that is. And all the entertainment writers are excitedly flogging their privates with the question of "What will Conan O'Brien do if he wins?". Oh god, what might he do? Continue to embarrass himself like a spoiled child on national television by taking barely disguised potshots at all those who have wronged him? Good god. Last night we watched "Hard Candy", a disturbing movie about the horrific lengths an unbalanced teen, (Ellen Page), went to to wreak revenge on her persecutor, (Patrick Wilson). It was a very scary movie, and we couldn't help think about how Conan O'Brien should have played the part of the teen girl; his simmering rage lurking just behind the spectre of his tightly pursed lips is scarier than Ellen Page holding a knife to Patrick Wilson's balls ever thought about being..And then we thought about the Emmy show itself. Someone actually hired Jimmy Fallon to host? Really? What about Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan? Can you imagine how much funnier the show would have been with the two "30 Rock" stars hosting? But you have to remember that awards show producers are specifically looking for someone who is "safe", and who can bridge the gap between the young and old generation, and in that regard, Jimmy Fallon is perfect. He's not funny or dangerous enough to potentially offend anyone over 50, but being under 40, himself, gives the show a younger skewering. Jimmy Fallon is like vanilla ice cream; boring as hell, but at least it's ice cream.
And then, of course, with all the talk of Conan O'Brien comes inevitably the discussion and comments on thousands of blogs across the country as to "who is funnier: Conan or Jay?". Let's get real, are either one of them actually that funny? And that question led us to our next thought: just like Jimmy Fallon can be compared to vanilla ice cream, all of the current late night t.v. talk show hosts are like some sort of ice cream.

After all the dust of the late night wars has settled, David Letterman is, after all these years, still the funniest and most satisfying late night t.v. talk show host. Yes, at times, he's obnoxious, some of his comedic bits are stale, (The Top Ten), but pound for pound, you're more likely to get more real laughs and enjoy fresher, wittier writing on his show than any other late night offering. Letterman is like Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream; his ingredients are familiar, which gives him "comfort food" status, but he's still capable of coming up with new, original and unexpected flavors which always delight.

Jay Leno is like Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream. He's the most expensive, he's the premium brand with the reputation of offering the richest flavor; "The Tonight Show" is still the "gold standard" for late night t.v. talk shows. But like Haagen-Dazs, Leno is sometimes bland and unoriginal. Yes, Haagen-Dazs makes good chocolate ice cream, but at the end of the day, it's just choclate ice cream. Where are the crumbled cookies, the bits of pretzels, the chocolate chips? Leno is at times lazy, just coasting on the historical reputation and built-in ratings of "The Tonight Show", cranking out his factory-made comedy like Haagen-Dazs cranks out its ice cream, on an assembly line.

And now for something completely different. Jimmy Kimmel is so original, that he's not like ice cream at all. Kimmel is more like gelato, something that's almost ice cream, but not quite. Jimmy Kimmel is sarcastic and ironic, and almost seems as if he's giving the finger to late night t.v., while at the same time managing to create hilariously funny comedy within the boundaries of a conventional late night formula. Kimmel turns the very idea of what late night talk can be on its head much like gelato invented the idea of eating ice cream without having to eat actual ice cream. Kimmel's wry cynical comedy is not everyone's taste, but like gelato, if one can't get the best tasting ice cream, then gelato is a very satisfying second choice.

Not being able to find a good ice cream brings us to Craig Ferguson. Oh, lord, where do we begin? It's hard for us to fairly judge Craig Ferguson, we've never been able to get past his opening monologue. Ferguson practically invented the terms, "mugging for the camera", "hamming it up", "self-indulgent comedy". We often joke about how we wonder how Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon got their own t.v. shows, but in Craig Ferguson's case, we're not joking. How did this guy get his own t.v. show? Let's put it this way, Craig Ferguson is so painfully unfunny, he's not like any kind of ice cream, or even gelato, he's like yogurt. Yogurt is that treat you'd only buy if the grocery store shelves were completely empty of ice cream, and you were absolutely desperate for some sort of dairy treat. And then after eating the yogurt, you'd still have a craving for ice cream, just like watching Craig Ferguson makes one hungry for anything other than his show.


Jimmy Fallon is not particularly funny, but he's not obnoxious or controversial, either. He's safe, middle of the road, he's like your local, small-town brand ice cream that's not popular enough or tasty enough to make it on the national market, but tastes good enough to satisfy some. He'll never be able to compete with the bigger brands, and just like his local brand of ice cream gets pushed to the back of the shelves by Ben and Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs, as other funnier performers continue to emerge, Jimmy Fallon will just keep getting pushed back later and later at night on the t.v. schedule. Finally, he'll be on so late at night that the only people who will watch him are those people who wake up in the middle of the night with an ice cream craving and will put anything in their mouths to satisfy that craving..


And finally, we arrive at the Irish red headed wonder, Conan O'Brien. O'Brien took a once promising career as a writer and somewhat adequate performer, and in the last year let his ego and spoiled personality almost completely run it off the rails. O'Brien is like a dropped ice cream cone who someone dropped on the sidewalk and then walked away from, letting it melt and stankify in the hot day's sun. O'Brien was once that brash young writer who made a name for himself writing for "Saturday Night Live", (1987-91), and "The Simpson's". And then, in 1993, he started appearing on his own t.v. show, and at first, he was fresh and amusing, much like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. But as time went on, his comedy grated on the nerves, trying a little bit too hard to be "wacky" and irreverent. And he never did learn how to interview a guest; he was that obnoxious friend who constantly interrupts your stories by finding a way to make your story about him. And then came the disaster of his "Tonight Show" gig, where instead of realizing that maybe his talent was, in the end, pretty limited, he took his firing like a petulant child who has his ice cream cone taken away, passive-aggressively lashing out at everyone who ever offended him. And finally, his talent as a comedian became like that ice cream cone who the frustrated mother finally just lets drop on the ground as she pulls her screaming brat down the sidewalk. And much like Conan's comedic abilities, that ice cream cone melted away on the hot, putrid sidewalk, turning a once delicious treat into something that eventually needed to be cleaned up and swept away.

But are we hoping that Conan wins an Emmy tonight? Hell, yes. Because just like the rest of America who secretly enjoys train-wreck television, we can't wait to see how far he'll go to continue to embarrass himself.

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