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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Late night turns into Leno bash-a-thon

Normally we're in bed by 10:30 p.m., but a curious mind got the better of us as we stayed up Tuesday to see how NBC's late night gore fest would shape up.

After all, while NBC knew it wouldn't be able to stop competitors from piling on the smoldering wreckage, it probably figured the airing of grievances wouldn't become so public among its own network talent. But of course, these are comedians -- and nothing is off limits, especially not their own plight as it pertains to the very company that employs them.

Either way, Jay Leno came out on the losing end, with Conan O'Brien, David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel all taking veiled and not-so-veiled (as you can see by Kimmel's protruding chin, above) jabs during last night's round robin.

O'Brien kept it the most professional, making lighter, funny digs at Leno's expense, but none that came across as too personal. He saved a bit of restrained anger for the network itself, at one point snidely telling guest Tom Brokaw to stop referring to NBC during a personal story he was trying to tell. For the most part, it was self-deprecating -- as you'd expect of ol' Coco -- with O'Brien weighing his options and potential unemployment in the coming days. Here's a "Deal or No Deal"-style bit with Howie Mandel that sums up the evening's sentiments nicely.

Letterman, on the other hand, was involved in a particularly vicious tug-of-war for Johnny Carson's old "Tonight Show" seat, leading to his new home and show at CBS. Obviously, that story has been covered to death, particularly during HBO's "The Late Shift" movie in 1996. So needless to say, Letterman and Leno have some shaky history, which led to some funny advice for "Big Jaw" Jay and Carson "Pluto" Daly. Oh, there was also a bit of gloating.

Finally, Kimmel took up the torch for Conan (perhaps inadvertently) by not only mocking Leno's slight lisp, but dressing up in character for the entire show. During the monologue (which went much longer than the following clip), you could sense that the audience thought Kimmel would drop the shtick after awhile. But he kept going -- earning laughs by continually repeating flat, unfunny jokes, engaging the band leader in cheeseball-style comedy and mimicking Leno's "did you hear about this one?" segue approach. Kimmel also returned from the commercial break with a "Headlines" parody.

Again, Kimmel kept up this scathing routine for the entire show, even when first guest Chevy Chase (interestingly, a cast member of NBC's "Community") sat down. Chase showed up in a red Conan wig to play along, but seemed to want to abandon the bit after awhile and engage in a real interview. Either that, or he just didn't know how to keep responding, because while not contentious, there was certainly an awkwardness that permeated the exchange. That's probably Kimmel's fault since he was still trying to be Leno, but also attempting to ask real questions about Chase's new show and career. One of Kimmel's many deficiencies as perhaps the worst late night host on air, and perhaps a case of taking the Leno joke too far.

So, what did you think of everything? Have any opinions on Conan and Leno going forward? Leave us a comment!

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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