Some Midwinter Fireworks

Some Midwinter Fireworks

James Lipton reflects on January's amazing roster of guests.

The month of January, 2009 has been the most exciting of the past fifteen years: Five consecutive premieres! Josh Brolin (Golden Globe winner, Oscar nominee), Laura Linney (Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and everything else winner), Conan O'Brien (saying farewell to "Late Night" and hello to "The Tonight Show" on our stage), Ricky Gervais (I remember the order of the interviews with an acronym: the first letter of each of those last names comes out B.L.O.G.), and Anthony LaPaglia (February 2).


The night with Conan was, of course, historic, so I tried to think of a way we could make it as memorable for him as it was for us. About a week before his appearance, it came to me.  As I said to him on stage, and on the air: "For twelve years, I wrote a lyric to Bob Hope's signature song at the end of each of his birthday specials.  As I prepared for tonight, I felt something stirring, and I thought, well, maybe I've got one more left in me. And so, if our students will join me here on stage, we'd like to present you with this."

Ten young women from the Actors Studio Drama School and from the Musical Theater program of Pace University gathered around me, and this is what we sang to Conan:

Thanks for the memory
Of watching bleary-eyed,
Laughing till we cried.
You didn't always kill us,
Though God knows you always tried.
We thank you so much.

Thanks for the memory
Of lofty Conan hair,
A masturbating bear,
La Bamba's hat, enchanting chat
And Max's stony stare.
We thank you so much.

We thought you'd be with us forever.
Could Conan desert us?  No, never!
But NBC's bosses are clever.
Oh, what the hell.  We wish you well.

Thanks for the memory
Of sixteen awesome years,
Triumph's raunchy sneers,
Ingenious quips, and talking lips,
And sometimes even tears.
We thank you so much.

Who knew you would love us and leave us?
Your 12:30 absence will grieve us
Till Fallon shows up to retrieve us.
We'll let it be. C'est la T.V.

So here's to new memories.
Go get 'em in L.A.
In your own Conan way.
No matter where fate takes you, you will always have your say.
May your brand new dominion last forever and a day,
So all the world can join us with a final, fond bouquet
To thank you so much.

Conan walked out on our stage at eight p.m. and delivered four hours of hilarity, interspersed with moments of deeply thoughtful introspection and sharp perception.  Listen to Conan on the subject of David Letterman, the man he'll be competing with when he takes over "The Tonight Show" in June:

"Historically, Johnny Carson is around for thirty years and he invents the talk show.  Dave comes along twenty years into Johnny's reign, and he invents the anti-talk show.  It's kind of like Johnny Carson discovered Europe, and David Letterman got in a boat and discovered North America - and the rest of us are like, 'I found a piece of Newfoundland that hasn't been claimed!'  We're carving out little territories here and there.  But what Dave found was so huge, so fundamentally giant. His sense of humor was completely his, and it was different than anything we had seen."

How's that for generous respect toward the guy you'll soon be challenging for every 11:30 viewer?

When our evening ended at midnight, we were both so wired - and, frankly, exhilarated by what had transpired - that Conan, his Executive Producer Jeff Ross, the Pace University Provost Dr. Geoff Brackett, his wife Danyelle, my wife Kedakai and I headed for New York's favorite literary watering hole, Elaine's - and just kept going 'til we closed the place at nearly three a.m.  By then, even Elaine had gone home.  To my knowledge, we're the first customers who have ever outlasted Elaine.  We're checking the Guinness Book of World Records.

For the past month we've been casting our Spring shows, and I think my next blog will contain some blockbuster announcements. Stay tuned. It's getting more exciting by the minute.

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