As a kid, consuming comedy-related content was how I spent much of my downtime. Now, as a slightly older young woman (or kid, depending on which parent you ask) who has unfiltered access to the world of everything entertainment-related, I still find myself coming back to—and thoroughly enjoying—the indulgent sins of my childhood.
And at the top of the list of sins is none other than consuming the content of the red-headed and sharp-shooting devil himself: Conan O’Brien.
Like any addiction story, I can’t tell you when the obsession began. However, I think I’ve pinpointed a few reasons, listed below, why out of every other female, male, and non-binary performer/activist/functioning adult, I relate the most to this long-legged, middle-aged comedian.
TALL & PALE
Probably the most obvious of this entire list, our similarities start right on the outside layer of the proverbial onion—we’re both incredibly tall, lanky, and have terribly translucent skin. And while his 6‘ 4“ inch frame very much out-heights my still impressive 5’ 10”, we both understand what it’s like to stand out in a crowd of people (even when we’re sitting down).
JOURNEY WITH MENTAL ILLNESS
O’Brien frequently references his need to be liked by others both on his podcast Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend and on his talk show Conan, in addition to his outstanding interviews on The Howard Stern Show and Armchair Expert. He talks openly about how it affects his work and how he’s constantly trying to work on letting go.
It’s rare for a male entertainer—especially a comedian—to openly speak about the sometimes painful underbelly of what drives his need to perform. The life of the male entertainer is often marked by drugs, alcohol, sex, and undiagnosed (or at the very least, un-talked-about-in-a-serious-manner) mental illness.
Not only does O’Brien not fall prey to any of those vices (even though in an interview with Dax Shepherd, he mentions that friends told him he would be a lot less “wound up” if he did drugs), he’s also been quite open about his journey with depression.
“I go to a psychiatrist, and I’m somewhat medicated… I [got to the point where] I used to think I needed to be incredibly unhappy to be funny. And then you get to a point where you…don’t care if it’s true or not. You really don’t. You think: I’d rather be happy.”
Being honest with yourself about where you are when it comes to mental health can be extremely difficult, let alone being able to get to the point where you feel comfortable discussing it in front of thousands, if not millions, of viewers or listeners. It takes guts to be open about it, and I really admire someone of his relevance and importance speaking up about something that affects millions around the country.
Around ten years ago, O’Brien was kicked off The Tonight Show after only seven months on the job. He doesn’t reference it specifically often. That’s not his style. But he failed, and failed quite publicly.
And yet, that didn’t stop him from pushing through to the next project. He didn’t let that stop him from going on a nationwide comedy tour after he was legally not allowed to perform on network television for months after his departure, and it didn’t stop him from starting a brand new show on TBS from scratch or starting a wildly successful podcast that allows him to make friends with insanely famous people every week.
He has an uncanny ability to not let the things that he can’t control affect the work he creates—an ability I want to emulate as I get older.
To be honest, there are times when I feel guilty that my hero isn’t some strong, badass woman who shattered the glass ceiling and sacrificed her life so I could enjoy the luxuries I do now. And I know that there are many women who easily fit into the descriptions I’ve listed above.
And yet, is that not part of why those women paved the way in the first place? So young women like me can live our truths and feel free enough to say, think, and feel what we want?
So my hero is a 56-year-old white man who could literally be my dad. Is it weird? Yes. If I had the option, would I choose differently? Absolutely. Is it really melodramatic to be overthinking the feminist implications of my idolization of a powerful white man? The jury is still out on that!
All I can say is that white guy or not, rich guy or not, comedian or not, I can’t help but to feel that this guy somehow really fucking gets me, and I think listening to him and watching him truly makes me feel represented and seen in a way I haven’t felt in other public figures. And I guess it’s not really a big deal that I’m announcing that I’m okay with that.
By Logan Cross
Illustration: Getty Images/Ringer illustration