A ‘Conan’ Writer Went Off About The State Of Late Night Comedy — Is He Right?

Andrés du Bouchet has been putting words in Conan O’Brien’s mouth as a writer on Conan, The Tonight Show, and Late Night for seven years, but on his Twitter account Thursday night, he let his own voice be heard while weighing in on the state of comedy. And to put it succinctly, du Bouchet isn’t happy.

Here are the relevant, NSFW-language filled tweets:

As is the case with almost all great rants, du Bouchet soon dialed things back a little bit after some time had passed.

Before tweeting out one more comment about late night…

Which was followed by an apology.

Now, is du Bouchet right? Does comedy need a “severe expletive deleted shakeup” right now?

Based on these tweets, I think its fair to say that my late night comedy tastes are probably in line with what du Bouchet’s are and I’m sometimes annoyed by some of the same things that he railed against. But the bottom line is, Jimmy Fallon (with his lip sync battles and his penchant for nostalgia), Jimmy Kimmel (the pranks), James Corden (karaoke), and Chris Hardwick (the king of late night hashtags) are a big part of why late night still matters. On Twitter and on the internet, people are talking about these shows, and while that’s not the same as people watching them in droves, it’s not nothing. Especially as we re-calibrate the way we define success on television. And by the way, the stuff that they’re putting out is fun. And that matters even if it isn’t what some, including me, would say is the “right kind” of comedy.

Fallon — whom I’ll single out since he’s the ratings leader — is a populist, not an edgy innovator. That’s disappointing to those of us who came up watching Letterman and Conan O’Brien. But in the same way that Letterman did his own thing and became the opposite of what Johnny Carson had become, so too has Fallon when you consider the state of The Tonight Show during Jay Leno’s reign. And now, what Fallon is doing is providing a standard for someone else to stylistically rally against much in the same way that Carson did.

du Bouchet mentioned on Twitter that he’s excited to see what Stephen Colbert will do when he goes to CBS, and I am too. Stephen Colbert has the built-in audience, the battle armor, and the hunger to be more than just popular. Maybe he’s the next network late night comedy trailblazer and someone who is going to push the limit and make the people come to him as opposed to him going to the people when it comes to his comedic sensibilities — I don’t know.

What I do know is, we’re caught in a moment where Letterman and Jon Stewart are about to leave us behind and Craig Ferguson already has. But if Fallon gives Colbert something to zag to (and Colbert responds in kind), then all will be well, because there is nothing wrong with there being a version of late night that exists for the masses (Prom King Comedy and all) and one that exists for the cool kids. It worked like that for a long time and it can work again. But if Colbert can’t live up to that awesome responsibility and all late night is left to sound and look alike with only minor variations, then all late night (and comedy) fans will suffer, even though only some of us will realize what we’re missing.