Bonner's Blog: My Conan Experience
Dec. 11, 2007
NEW YORK -- This summer, my super-awesome-sister-who-is-the-best-person-in-the-world-ever-and-will-someday-be-ranked-by-People-Magazine-as-the-#1-overall-person-in-the-Universe got me two VIP tickets to "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." I contacted my teammate, Matt Pennie to see if he would be interested in making the road trip to NYC with me. Both of us looked up to Conan with the utmost respect. We considered Conan to be a New England hero. Pennie and I had a tradition last year on road trips of leaving Conan on until we fell asleep. We WERE big time fans of Conan, and being able to see the show filmed live seemed like an outstanding opportunity. So, Pennie and I decided to drive down to NYC for the day, catch the show, and drive back the same night. We were very excited about going to the show.
Pennie and I are both amateurs when it comes to NYC. We settled by parking in a garage that cost $7.50 per half hour. We realized this was a ridiculous amount of money, but it was worth it for Conan. After hanging around Rockefeller Plaza for a couple of hours, we made our way to the NBC building to pick up our tickets. One of my sister's college friends used to be an intern for Conan, so she was able to get us on the VIP list. We met in the lobby of the NBC building to receive our wristbands for the show. The girl that gave us our wristbands instructed us to remain in our seats after the filming, and she would give us a private tour of Saturday Night Live. We were so pumped to have the opportunity to view Conan live and tour the SNL studio.
So, we entered into the studio and happened to be seated next to the brother of one of the band members that was going to be on the show that day. We hit it off with him, and our trip was off to a great start. We did not think that the day could get any better. Unfortunately, we were right in that thought.
One of the main appeals of Conan O'Brien is that he seems like the "common man" of late night television. The crowd always cheers and hollers during Conan's introduction, and he works with them which makes the show funny. The comedian that warmed up the crowd instructed us to make sure that we were enthusiastic, and not to hold back as the show is meant to be an interactive experience.
So, Conan was introduced and everyone was cheering for him. As the cheers began to die down, I yelled out "CONAAN!!!" He responded by making some funny jokes about my enthusiasm. I thought it was funny, good intentioned, and good humored. However, as he continued I noticed that there was a group of people in suits angrily starring at me. Apparently, yelling "Conan!" is a big no-no, even though it occurs in practically every episode.
As Conan continued with his monologue, he made a joke that completely bombed. He then commented on the silent reaction of the crowd referring to us as the "British Parliament." The band member's brother who was sitting next to me responded to this comment by whistling and clapping. Conan then told him to "shut up!" and there was an uncomfortable silence (during the broadcast of the show they dubbed in laughter after Conan said "shut up"). The man was just trying to be supportive and have a good time, and Conan decided to belittle him. Conan then started a joke about Rudy Giuliani, when some guy behind us made a loud remark. It was at this point when a man in a suit proceeded to tap Matt Pennie on the shoulder and told him to "shut-up" or get kicked out. Pennie had not said a word the whole night.
Then, during the first commercial break, Conan started to walk into the crowd. He had a strange look on his face. He proceeded to walk up to where we were sitting and yelled at us in front of the whole studio. It was very embarrassing. The rest of the show was incredibly uncomfortable (there was a group of people in suits glaring at us the entire show), and when the show ended we booked it out of the studio. We had no desire to see SNL at that point; we just wanted to get out of there. The band member's brother was really uncomfortable as well and left with out seeing the band.
Pennie and I were distraught following the show. Conan was our hero, and he turned out to be very rude and disrespectful. We did nothing wrong. Even so, I would like to offer an apology to Conan. There was no malice involved when we were cheering for him. One would think that even if I was heckling him, as a comedian he would be able respond with wit and intelligence. But, he did not.
Conan grossly overreacted, and if this blog somehow reaches him, I would like to ask for an apology. It was terribly disheartening to have such a negative encounter with someone that I held in such high regard. Conan lost two of his biggest fans that day. I have not watched "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" since. I understand that Conan has recently done some great things for his staff during the writers' strike (including paying 80 staff members out of his own pocket), and this helps to restore some faith in Conan. However, I have not yet been able to get over my negative experience as a member of the studio audience. I would love to be able to watch Conan again, but I don't think I will ever be able to until I receive an apology.
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