Conan O’Brien Plays Charlie Rose, Talks Presidential History with Edmund Morris

“This is my dream job,” Conan O’Brien says while in con­ver­sa­tion with pres­i­den­tial biog­ra­ph­er Edmund Mor­ris. He did­n’t say it when he brought Mor­ris onto Conan, his late-night talk show on TBS. He says it on Seri­ous Jib­ber-Jab­ber, an alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent oper­a­tion. On Conan, he talked to Mor­ris for sev­en min­utes; on Seri­ous Jib­ber-Jab­ber, they talk for 47 min­utes. Offi­cial­ly described as a web series where­in “Conan O’Brien has lengthy, unin­ter­rupt­ed con­ver­sa­tions with inter­est­ing peo­ple on top­ics which fas­ci­nate him,” the show casts the icon of Gen‑X irrev­er­ence not as a pur­vey­or of intel­li­gent silli­ness, but as a con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist in the mold of Char­lie Rose. In any case, he does it prac­ti­cal­ly on the set of Char­lie Rose: a table, chairs, a back­ground of purest black, and no fur­ther dis­trac­tions. (If you’re going to bor­row, they say, bor­row from the best.) O’Brien’s fol­low­ers may not know he has a fer­vent inter­est in pres­i­den­tial his­to­ry, but after watch­ing his inter­view with the man who wrote three vol­umes on Theodore Roo­sevelt and one on Ronald Rea­gan, they’ll cer­tain­ly have found out.

Though the show’s title con­tains the word Seri­ous and O’Brien speaks with gen­uine curios­i­ty through­out, it also con­tains the words Jib­ber-Jab­ber, and I doubt he has it in him not to crack jokes. This is wel­come, and a rea­son why I’d like to see him direct all of Team Coco’s con­sid­er­able resources to these inter­views from now on. He even gets into the sub­ject of pres­i­den­tial sens­es of humor — evi­dent­ly pres­i­dents aren’t allowed to have them any­more — which he picks up again in the show’s sec­ond inter­view, with com­e­dy writer and film­mak­er Judd Apa­tow. Though we get a warn­ing that O’Brien will only tape more of these con­ver­sa­tions “when­ev­er time and fate allow,” I per­son­al­ly await the next one with bat­ed breath. Some­how, the man who gave the world the Horny Man­a­tee, the Coked-Up Were­wolf, and the immor­tal Mas­tur­bat­ing Bear real­ized the most impor­tant thing about view­ers like you and me: we’d much rather watch two peo­ple dis­cuss enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly and at length sub­jects that inter­est them rather than swift­ly man­gle sub­jects they guess might inter­est us.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Conan O’Brien Writes Chica­go Blues Songs With School Kids

Conan O’Brien @ Google

Conan O’Brien Kills It at Dart­mouth Grad­u­a­tion

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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