I'm what I think can be called a "lapsed Conan fan." I haven't really been keeping up with his new show since moving to TBS, despite following the entire fallout of The Tonight Show with bated breath and traveling to Colorado to see his live show. That's not because I don't like him, or his humor; he's great, some of the best talent around. I'm just not great at keeping up on TV.
Anyway, I simply had to take a look at the so-called Beardpocalypse event that went down last night. The background is that Will Ferrell has been threatening to shave Conan's beard for weeks. The beard in question began about the time the Tonight Show ended, and has been somewhat symbolic of this new chapter in Conan's career.
That said, it has started to make him look like Wolf Blitzer. Time for it to go
While this clip has some great comedy by Conan and Ferrell, what I really like about it is how it's almost like a critique on the whole late-night talk show formula. They even suggest that this is the case when Ferrell shirks the traditional handshake, and goes straight for the chair. Ferrell, as the guest, then runs the show with Conan in the passenger seat.
The two play off each other brilliantly, with Ferrell paying lip service to the guest's role. "Sure, let's plug my movie," he says. "Would you like to hear a funny story about my children?" This last one is especially biting, since Conan's next guest does exactly that.
Finally, instead of a "dressing down" by the host, Ferrell corners Conan and forcibly shaves him. This kind of self-deprecating humor is what sets Conan apart from his contemporaries, and it's a style that he's had since his earliest days on The Late Show. He's not perfect and untouchable behind his desk. He doesn't call the shots, and he freely acknowledges that his gags sometimes fall short (see: opening monologue, which he always manages to somehow make work, simply by being silly about it). It's a humble approach to comedy that is very funny, while being utterly charming.
A last point before you enjoy this lovely clip: it has taken me my entire life to start enjoying will Ferrell. He's a funny guy.