February 19, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 78  

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Yays & boos: the aftermath of Conan-mania

Mark Polishuk

Opinions Editor

The biggest story in Canadian TV over the past month has been the provincial government shelling out a cool $1 million to bring Late Night With Conan O’Brien to Toronto for a week, as yet another step in helping the city refine its image in the wake of SARS.

Now that the week has past, we can look back and ask if the money was worth it. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights after a week in the Cone Zone.

• The CN Tower’s domination of the Seattle Space Needle. The Tower won the speed and wrestling challenges, while the Needle took the limbo challenge — clearly, they had to give the Needle a token win to save face. In other Toronto/Seattle rivalry news, the Blue Jays have two more world titles than the Mariners, but Frasier is still infinitely better than Train 48.

• The guests. Top Canadian stars like Michael J. Fox, Jim Carrey and Mike Myers were booked and all of them had funny and interesting stories to tell. Carrey’s “Canadian posse” of Kreskin, Peter Puck and Bonhomme is a gang that would put even the Crips and Bloods to shame.

• Stompin’ Tom Connors, whose rendition of “The Hockey Song” was riotously received by the Toronto crowd, especially a lyric change that had the Leafs beating the Devils to win the Stanley Cup. Not sure how this could happen seeing as they’re both in the same conference, but hey, Stompin’ Tom is a legend so we’ll cut him a break. The only problem was that Connors was barely tapping his foot on the stage; come on, Tom, we want some classic stomping!

• Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s bit in Quebec City. My problem is not with the “racist” anti-French sentiment of the piece, since I think that was an issue overblown by publicity-hungry politicians. My problem is that the bit just wasn’t very funny; it didn’t hold a candle to Triumph’s legendary routines at the Star Wars premiere or the American Idol audition. Where’s the challenge in insulting people that don’t understand you? It’s like making fun of a desk calendar: “Hey desk calendar, way to keep the dates... NOT! Ha ha, stupid desk calendar.”

The best bit of the week, by the way, was Conan’s tour of Toronto with former Kid in the Hall Scott Thompson. Why CityTV hasn’t given Thompson his own late-night talk show is beyond me.

• The audience. The sold-out crowds were enthusiastic, sure, but perhaps they got lost on the way to the Air Canada Centre. “Go Leafs Go!” chants dominated the shows, even to the point where Conan was joking about it. If Toronto was supposed to get an image boost from this, it may have backfired. Now tourists will avoid Toronto not because of SARS, but because they’re afraid of getting high-sticked on the street by a crazed guy in a Darcy Tucker sweater.

Overall, the shows were entertaining enough to justify our tax dollars at work. The big con of the week, however, goes to NBC Media Relations, who refused to provide The Gazette (and more specifically, me) with a media pass for any of the shows. Their reasoning? They only provide passes to “adult newspapers.” I should send Bonhomme over to NBC to bust some heads, or, as the French say, bustez les têtes.



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