Sunday, February 22, 2009

He'll Be Fine

Ben Mathis-Lilley isn't concerned about Conan O'Brien succeeding on the Tonight Show.

After watching Conan's last week of shows with a careful eye, I've become convinced: He should have no problem replacing Jay Leno and maintaining NBC's record of late-night dominance. And he's going to do it without abandoning the style that made him a success in the first place.

I haven't watched Conan for a long time, but I was working at KEVN when he took over for Letterman. It's worth remembering that he had been a writer for Saturday Night Live and the Simpsons, not a comedian, when NBC surprised everyone by giving him the gig. I recall his first shows; his stage presence was as bad as you would expect from anyone who had never done anything like that. But I also recall that his actual material - the jokes and skit ideas - was pretty funny. I knew he'd grow into the job if NBC let him (which wasn't a given; there were calls to pull the plug). I think he'll do the same on the bigger stage.