You can rip off The Tonight Show, but you can’t rip off Conan

Because it’s Conan who makes Conan great. It’s why he lends his name to the show.

Conan O’Brien is a master of improv comedy. He weighs in with the funniest possible response to every situation he finds himself in. His wit is acerbic and self-deprecating, which means it doesn’t come at the expense of the people around him. Being your joke’s biggest victim is a great asset in an increasingly sensitive world.

Apart from being a marvellous interviewer, Conan enjoys great respect and admiration from his contemporaries. It does wonders to the quality of conversation on the show.

On the flipside, Jimmy Fallon is the anti-thesis of Conan. He isn’t witty. Neither is he insightful. His greatest contribution to the show is his uproarious laughter which, despite being fake, makes his guests feel comfortable.

Jimmy’s instinctive response to something is to laugh. But it robs him of the ability to counter-question his guests, effectively breaking the volley of conversation. However, he makes up for it by moving to the next cue on his script.

Fun and games are really what keeps The Tonight Show going. The show-runners do a commendable job of identifying activities that get the best out of their guests, accomplishing through format what they don’t through the host.

The format here is the duplicable entity. It took all of one season for Abish Mathew to adapt the show to an Indian setting. He ran with it because it’s a format that’s paper-cut for him. Abish is an all-around good guy but, like Fallon, is more performer and less improv genius.

Someday, I’d like to watch a Conan-esque guy host a late night show in India. In a country with personality cults and inflated egos, we really need some deprecating humour. Now I dunno how long that’ll take. What I do know is that we’ll all know when that day comes. Because the name of the show will be the name of the host.

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