Conan O’Brien’s debut as ‘The Tonight Show’ host


Staff Reporter

After hosting NBC’s “The Late Show with Conan O’Brien” for 17 years, O’Brien debuted as host of “The Tonight Show” on Monday, replacing Jay Leno, who handed the show to O’Brien after hosting it himself for 18 years.

In addition to moving to the 11:35 p.m. timeslot, the switch also required O’Brien to move to Los Angeles from New York, a transition that served as the show’s cold open.

Set to “Surrender” by Cheap Trick, the opening showed O’Brien, unable to hail a taxicab in New York and running across the country to Los Angeles. O’Brien finally arrived only to discover he had left his studio keys in his East Coast apartment, but that didn’t stop him as he proceeded to bulldoze through the wall.

The monologue featured very little topical humor aside from O’Brien poking fun of his move to “The Tonight Show.”

I have to admit it, I think I’ve timed this moment perfectly,” said O’Brien. “Think about it. I’m on a last-place network, I moved to a state that’s bankrupt and ‘The Tonight Show’ is sponsored by General Motors.”

Still alongside O’Brien is drummer Max Weinberg, who now fronts The Tonight Show Band. Andy Richter, who used to be O’Brien’s sidekick on The Late Show, has teamed up with O’Brien again, this time as an announcer.

It’s like a Backstreet Boys reunion here,” remarked O’Brien. “Only not as good.”

The debut featured some skits, including one where O’Brien helped out with one of the Universal Studios tram tours and another showing his 1992 Ford Taurus that he’s owned for a long time.

Will Ferrell was the show’s first-ever guest and the only for the night. Ferrell, sarcastically claiming he didn’t want to upstage O’Brien, came out in a human-powered sedan.

He jokingly told O’Brien how no one thought he’d ever become host of “The Tonight Show.” “Don’t get me wrong,” said Ferrell. “I’m pulling for you, but this whole thing’s a crapshoot at best.”

He also gave O’Brien phony tips for living in Los Angeles and showed a clip of his upcoming film, “Land of the Lost.”

Pearl Jam was the musical guest, performing “Got Some,” a new track off their forthcoming album, “Backspacer.”