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    Posted January 22, 2010 by
    Universal City, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Conan leaves NBC

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    Last VIP passes to The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     TommyYune has attended momentous events in the past such as the memorial service for Michael Jackson on CNN iReport.
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    My co-worker recently took up an invitation by a staffer of The Tonight Show when the plight of the late night hosts just hit the headlines.  We received VIP reservations to the January 22nd taping, which we did not at first realize would be the very last Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien at the helm.  Then it hit home as we were given last-minute notice that all of the January 22nd VIP passes were either being cancelled or bumped to January 21st.  Based on past traditions of late night host transitions, the final show would rightfully be attended by the families of the cast and crew.


    At the January 21st taping, a standup comic first warmed up the crowd before introducing Andy Richter and the Max Weinberg band.  The crew were all wearing "Team Conan" shirts in a show of solidarity; their professionalism hid any hint of the acrimony surrounding the contract negotiations that were being reported by the news media.  When the band started playing The Tonight Show theme, the crowd exploded into applause.  Conan was received by a standing ovation.  The crowd frequently broke out into chants of "Conan! Conan! Conan!" (and occasionally "Coco!")  It was interesting to observe in person what's not seen in the broadcast: the luxurious expanse of The Tonight Show stage floor suddenly became a crowded zoo of high-definition cameras zipping around one another as a red light bounced among them, indicating which one had "the shot."  This was a well-oiled machine that did not seem only 7 months old.


    There was a great sense of reverance from this crowd.  Knowing that this would be the final week of the show made the experience that much more special.  In return, the audience was treated to appearances by surprise guests Ben Stiller and Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reuben.  Pee Wee's interpretation of Conan's protracted negotiations with stuffed animals was by itself worth the entire trip.  Then came featured guest Robin Williams who noticeably did not rely on cue cards to draw forth from a seemingly bottomless pit of gags, some of which must have been bleeped.  The audience was in stiches.  The juvenile chemistry between Robin and Conan was so amazing that they easily could have made a 2-hour supersized special out of this.  Finally, musical guest Barry Manilow closed the show and marveled to Conan about the devotion and loyalty of his crew.  In one last surprise, Conan grabbed the mic and serenaded the audience himself.


    Alas, all good things must come to an end.



    Image captions:

    1. VIP reservation and actual tickets to The Tonight Show on January 22nd and 21st, respectively.

    2. Signs guiding visiting audience members to the NBC Universal Studios gate.
    3. Gate 5 of NBC Universal Studios is located just across the street from Campo de Cahuenga, the historic site where the treaty passing California from Mexico to the United States was signed.  On January 21st, it was also the site of a torrential rain and hail storm.
    4. Horrible weather did not keep out hopeful fans who gathered just inside Gate 5 for a chance at a coveted few last-minute standby spots.

    5. This young fan traveled here all the way from San Antonio to wait for a standby tickets after hearing that Conan O'Brien may be leaving The Tonight Show.

    6. An NBC vendor brings a cart of memorabilia as the line for The Tonight Show snakes into the NBC Universal Studios lot.

    7. An employee noted that some of these items were already sold out in the studio store.

    8. No doubt that some of this stuff is going to end up on eBay. (like Conan did with his show on Craigslist)

    9. This is as close as I could get for a shot outside The Tonight Show soundstage as there was a strict no camera policy inside, enforced by airport-style security.

    10. Near the studio exit, a sign pointing to a souvenir kiosk is a sad reminder of an era that has gone by too soon.


    Related iReports:

    Video from the event (SD)

    More video from the event (HD)


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