Seein' Conan

Conan LiveI'm back! I promised I'd share all the details from my visit this afternoon to the Late Night with Conan O'Brien taping here in Toronto, and here it is. I warn you, it's a long one.

The Wait
I joined the line up to get into the Elgin Theatre at approximately 12:30. By this time I had already blown my first major decision of the day. When leaving my car in a parking lot at Church and Shuter, I had to decide whether I needed my gloves and hat or not. The weather seemed pretty mild, so I went without. Big mistake.

The end of the line at 12:30 was on Victoria Street. It wrapped along Yonge Street outside the Elgin Theatre and along Queen Street before snaking around Victoria Street where I parked myself for over 3 and a half hours. Every ten minutes or so I could feel the temperature drop. At this point I really wished I had taken my comfy gloves and Leafs touque.

Steve joined me in line at about 14:00 and we were finally shuffled into the theatre shortly after 16:00. I secured our tickets earlier in the day by showing a couple of NBC staffers his email stating we had won the lottery and the right to two tix. We entered the theatre, subjected ourselves to a brief pat down by security and a metal detecter surveyance and were led to the balcony.

Finally we were able to thaw in a seat of our very own in the well-heated Elgin Theatre. We were lucky to get the seat. Had I joined the line at 13:00 we'd have missed out. Our seats were in the balcony but fairly centre with a great view of the entire stage. It was time for the show.

The Warm-Up
A gentleman hit the stage to warm us up while we were literally warming up. I felt he did a great job of getting us loose and in the mood. We collectively gave a big F.U. to those who missed out because they didn't line up early enough and proceeded to make fun of those from Oshawa. This guy was pretty funny as he gave us some basic rules. Don't watch yourselves on the monitor, don't scream things at Conan during the show, etc.

At this point Max Weinberg and the Max Weinberg 7 were introduced and began to play for us. For those who don't know, Max Weinberg is the drummer from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. Their jazzy big band style sounded great to my ears and we heard them play for about ten minutes.

The Show
When they say Late Night is live to tape, they mean it. Sitting in the audience you see exactly what makes it to television. We saw the opening credits on the several big screens and heard and saw the announcer introduce this night's guests and host, Conan himself. The reaction to Conan was incredible. I've been to numerous rock concerts and this applause had that feel to it. It was loud and lengthy.

Conan's monologue is funnier in person than it is watching it on television. Everything seems bigger and funnier in person I think. He cracked off a joke about Dalton McGuinty saying Conan's presence made all Ontarioans glad they weren't American like him and we saw a funny visual of our five dollar bill with a gap-toothed Queen Elizabeth sporting a black eye and hockey helmet.

Seeing Conan's monologue live really makes you appreciate the physical aspect to his comedy. The man has a funny facial expression for everything. He was going on about how many Torontonians approach him and say "Go Leafs" and he delivers this information with quite the expression on his face. I agree 100% with his "Go Leafs" observation. It's sort of like "Hi" around these parts. It's become a standard greeting. I often say hello or goodbye by exclaiming "Go Leafs Go".

It was time for a couple of bits. First we saw a few dudes dressed as New York Mets parade out the Stanley Cup because it's the closest they'll get to a championship trophy. I think Conan's writers took the easy way out on this one. It would have been funnier to have Maple Leafs parade the cup around for the same reason considering we haven't won it since 1967 and the Mets have won their championship twice since then. I think they were trying to keep us friendly and on their side. Putting down the blue and white could cause the audience to turn on you in a heartbeat. The second bit involved a race between the CN Tower and the Seattle Space Needle from the lobby of the Elgin Theatre to the stage. We watched as the Space Needle came down the stretch with a healthy lead before a Mountie tripped him up allowing the CN Tower to win. We ate it up. There was also another round of "Canadian Small Talk Moment" which I think was butchered by Max Weinberg but the two proceeded as if nothing had happened. I half expected them to take another shot at it but they didn't.

Then, it was time for Triumph the Comic Insult Dog to take a poop on French Canadians. He visited Quebec City and gave it to Quebecers good. If French Canadians are upset at Don Cherry's comments wait until this segment airs tonight. It's bloody harsh.

It's interesting to watch during commercials. People are talking to Conan and the band is playing while the video screens display the talk show's logo. Then, suddenly the screens show a shot of the audience and we're back from commercial and ready to rock. At this point, Conan introduced the big guest for the evening, Adam Sandler.

Adam Sandler was funny. He made some hilarious comments about having much in common with co-star Drew Barrymore because of their teenage addiction pasts. She with alcohol and he with picking his nose and eating it. He also made some funny remarks about being a newlywed and some sombre remarks about his recently deceased father.

Following a commercial break during which I was enamoured by the passionate conversation Adam Sandler and Conan O'Brien appeared to be having, we were treated to a silly little bit where the announcer came out dressed as a bride with his Asian boy toy whom he had just married. It's legal here, ya know.

The final guest was Canadian legend Stompin' Tom Conners. He pleased the crowd by singing "The Hockey Game", a song we all knew by heart. He did, however, make a statement that's making me doubt his integrity. He said the song was a Stanley Cup game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils. All good Canadians who love their hockey know such a Stanley Cup final is impossible. The two teams share the same conference. Nevertheless, it was a great performance and the whole crowd sang along.

Before saying good night, they showed more of Triumph the Comic Insult Dog's visit to Quebec City. This was the stuff they had to cut because of time contraints. This material was extremely funny and will never be shown on television, so it was nice to get the bonus material in. Following this footage, Conan thanked Stompin' Tom and said goodnight.

Both Steve and I had a blast and waiting in the cold was well worth it. It was a great experience seeing a live taping of a program like this and I'll always have this story to tell. Now I'm going to get a bite to eat.


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