I recently read an article on the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno war called, “Leno takes it on the chin”. The author makes the argument that anger towards Leno is misplaced and should be placed squarely on Conan O’Brien.
He mentions the low ratings Conan was receiving, Conan was the one who asked to take over Jay’s slot and that Jay did not want to leave.
Though his points are well thought out, it saddens me to know there are people out there who don’t understand why I have a passionate dislike for Leno.
First off as a viewer I do not care who has the higher ratings. I do not care who is winning that war. What I care about is the art of professional comedy. The art of it, not which artist sells more paintings.
Leno is the Bob Ross of comedy. He used to not be. He used to be a pretty decent comic. So imagine that Bob Ross used to be known as one of the best painters in the world, but then he decided to paint happy little trees because he made more money doing it. Leno in his desire to not lose to Letterman, “simplified” his comedy. He buried what he was capable of and with no integrity of the art of comedy made a decision to be mediocre.
It did not take this late night war with Conan to change my opinion. I have disliked Leno in The Tonight Show role. Instead of seeking to match wits with fellow comedians and to keep a high level of comedy that can still appeal to a lot of people, he chose the low road.
I knew he would beat out Letterman eventually with this tactic and that was his reasoning behind doing it and that bothers me. It shows a complete lack of respect for his fellow comedians. A group that works together. He separated himself (even though he still does stand up) from the world of comedians.
Conan did not get ratings because though he had to leave some of his most daring work behind, he refused to a point to sell out his artistic integrity. The problem is, people who now watch that time slot, are expecting white bread comedy. They don’t want to really be entertained, they just need something on for background noise. It is because of Leno that mindset exists today. That mindset did not exist before Leno made it exist.
The reason I joined the “I’m with Coco” movement is because Conan drew a line and would not cross it. It cost him his dream job. He then refused to disrespect The Tonight Show by moving his time slot back an hour. Sure the only reason they asked him to was so that he would quit, but he could have sold out and called their bluff, but he did not. He respects his profession. He maintained a level of integrity and for that I am a big fan.