I've been watching Conan for as long as I can remember. From 12:30, to 11:30, to TBS, to Youtube and Netflix, to the podcast app, and I will undoubtedly be following him to HBO Max. Mostly because I believe the freedom from structure which HBO Max will allow him is exciting as fuck. Conan's always described himself as "vaudevillian." He wants to give you music, sketches, interviews, some standup, all of it packed into one show. The restraints of time blocks and segments made sense in 1993. From where I'm sitting, it looks like once Conan started traveling for longer episodes, and doing a podcast with guests he actually wanted to talk to, something clicked. As if he said, "I don't have to do this shit anymore."
You see what Jimmy Fallon and James Corden have been doing, they're not all too concerned with hosting traditional late night talk shows, either. They're constantly hunting viral moments to be shared by your aunt on Facebook three weeks after they aired live. The Beatles aren't making their American debut on Jimmy Kimmel, you know? That's dead, and has been dead for some time. David Letterman's original show was groundbreaking for its era, his modern counterpart isn't on ABC, CBS, or NBC. It's Eric Andre on Adult Swim, openly mocking the entire genre. It's Joe Rogan, only talking to people he wants to talk to for three hours at a time on his schedule in his studio. In an era where authenticity is being used as a selling point, a seven minute interview between perfect strangers in an attempt to sell something isn't cutting it anymore.
Yet podcasts, which are more than ever leaning on video components, don't have time limits. They can, and people will begin to format them in ways that make them more clean cut and far less organic because we can't have nice things. But for someone who has been mired by structure for 30 years, it must be nice to have a good conversation and not have a producer in your ear telling you to send it to commercial. Put that shit in in post. I'm actually surprised it took Conan as long as it did to get into podcasting given the Serious Jibber-Jabber interviews he did on Youtube eight years ago.
The allure of hosting a late night talk show on one of the major networks isn't what it once was. Seeing Conan accept that and wade into the waters of diversifying content should be a green light for everyone else traversing that same path. In my eyes, Conan is the youngest member of Old Hollywood, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. This is someone who wrote on prime "SNL" before graduating to the early years of "The Simpsons" before replacing Letterman at 12:30. All massive accomplishments, a resumé few can contend with. But, to modernize that comparison, it would be like writing for "SNL Digital," then joining the writer's room of "Bob's Burgers" before replacing Seth Meyers. Doesn't have quite the same umph to it. Conan becoming a podcaster with another show behind a paywall should only be viewed as a win for anyone else grinding away making content in a similar fashion. If a vaudevillian can adapt to the times, an entire industry can shift in this direction.
As for the HBO Max show, how could you not be excited? That could be literally anything, different every single episode. As long as he doesn't proclaim that billionaires should pay for their own fucking stadiums I think he'll be ok. The late night talk show is dead, and if NBC didn't bow down to Jay Leno who knows how these dominos tumble. But we're here now and I, for one, am stoked to see how this all plays out.