The XX Factor

Conan Doesn’t Quite Shed His Victim Image

Last night Conan returned to the airwaves for the first time since his tense departure from NBC as a guest on 60 Minutes , sporting a scraggy, red unemployment beard and a shirt so steely blue it might have been a Zoolander tribute. The impetus for doing the very serious news interview? To restore his rep as an absurdist late-night host rather than a network-victimized sadsack. (As it turns out, victims don’t make good comedians.) Did it work?

Ehhh, sort of.

The interview itself was somewhat of a Catch-22 for Coco: For one thing, it’s pretty difficult to pull off jokes when Steve Kroft is grilling you on whether or not you got screwed. And as much as his loyal fans (me!) wanted to see his comedic character restored, we also wanted some earnest answers about the whole timeslot fiasco. In my opinion, the “I’m still funny!” imperative wasn’t fully realized: At times, Conan was way too insistent that he was “totally fine.” And the particularly awful clip of him performing “I Will Survive” with the Late Night band didn’t help me shuck the feeling that he was still wallowing in his self-pity either. Especially when it came shortly after this passive-aggressive jab: “I know me, I wouldn’t have done that. If I had surrendered The Tonight Show and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well … and then … six months later. But that’s me, you know. Everyone’s got their own, you know, way of doing things.”