The Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien thing is all over the place, with Leno being invited to move his underwatched show from 10 to 11 p.m. and Tonight Show host O’Brien, facing a later start and feeling the squeeze, reportedly in talks with Fox. Should O’Brien jump ship? Or sit tight, and pick up whatever lead-in audience Leno might give him?
Are those his only alternatives? Not at all. Conan’s still a young man, and has many resources at his disposal. We have five suggestions that might make both him and the rest of us much happier than we would be if he duked it out over a stupid talk show:
5. Manual labor. Daniel Day-Lewis took off to be a cobbler and returned to stardom with his batteries recharged. Why not Conan? He could become a carpenter; planing wood may work off some of his evident nervous energy; alternatively, he could embark on a new career as a janitor, in which his height would serve him well as he changed light bulbs. This sort of thing would enfold him in mystery, piquing interest in his eventual return to show biz, and even give him new material for the monologue (“Lady GaGa’s new outfit reminds me of something that happened to me when I was a stevedore…”)
4. Politics. Disaffection with traditional politicians has reached an all-time high. Why not take this opportunity to pull a Jesse Ventura? He can move back to Massachusetts, where he is revered, and run for anything, or break in by guest-serving in the Senate when Al Franken is on vacation.
3. Street performance. With his privileged Ivy-League-to-TV background, O’Brien may secretly feel as if he’s missed a crucial step in his comedy development. He could take a page from Chaplin in Limelight, and take his act to The People, perhaps on subway platforms. If the crowds grow restive, Conan can do the robot — they always love when he does that!
And he’ll probably still make more than Craig Ferguson.
2. Write his memoirs. Every public figure seems to resort to this sooner or later; now may be an opportune moment for Conan to repair to a writer’s colony, grow a beard and pen his life story. Even if the exigencies of the market demand that he concentrate on his years as a producer on The Simpsons, and that the product be profusely illustrated by Matt Groening, he’d still be an author, dammit, a worthy achievement for any Harvard man.
1. Form a support group with Craig Kilborn. The former Late Late host is reportedly doing great since dropping out of TV altogether. O’Brien could partner with him and tell the world: The late-night ratings chase is obviously bad for your health; it gave David Letterman a heart attack and turned Leno into an obsessive-compulsive collector of sports cars — who needs it? The two refuseniks could co-host a fishing show on the internet funded by PayPal donations, do PSAs, and accept lucrative speaking engagements at medical schools.
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