Wednesday, June 9, 2010
First, let's recap:
-- Conan O' Brien was a writer for The Simpsons, and Saturday Night Live amongst other less-successful projects.
-- Conan was tapped to replace David Letterman when he left NBC in 1993.
-- Conan hosted "Late Night with Conan O' Brien" for 17 years, successfully earning critical and audience praise along the way, easily defeating all competition (including "Late Late Show" hosts Tom Snyder, Craig Kilborn and Criag Ferguson on CBS).
-- Conan was chosen in 2004 to replace Jay Leno when he planned to leave "The Tonight Show" in 2009.
-- Conan replaced Jay in 2009 and Jay was given a 10 p.m. show on NBC.
-- "The Jay Leno Show" failed miserably. NBC decided to move Jay back to 11:30 rather than fire him...and planned to move Conan back to 12 midnight. Conan said "no," saying that The Tonight Show (which he would still be hosting) would be "ruined" if NBC decided to air the show after midnight. Conan argued that at that point it would no longer be "The Tonight Show" - it would be the "Tomorrow Show". Conan also argued that Jimmy Fallon, who replaced Conan on "Late Night" would be treated unfairly if he were to have to start a show at 1 a.m. NBC said "fine" and put Leno back on "The Tonight Show" and kicked Conan to the curb.
Fast forward a few months and we have the "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour". I have a bit of extra insight on late night television -- I hosted a local late night talk show for a little more than 3 years and have "studied" (if you can call it that) late night TV for as long as I have been old enough to do so. I hope to write more about late night TV in the months ahead. But, among the things I've learned, you must be a great COMMUNICATOR as well as an engaging, funny personality to have a successful late night talk show for 17 years (although Jay Leno is the exception that proves this rule). Only four people have had this kind of staying power: Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Conan O' Brien, and the afore-mentioned Jay Leno.
I went to see Conan's "Prohibited" tour earlier this month. Conan O' Brien took to the stage in Boston for two hours and communicated with the audience personally, candidly, and brilliantly. He had us in the palm of his hand from the moment he walked on stage wearing a jersey from his hometown Boston Celtics. He began his monologue by talking about his family, many of whom were in the audience that evening -- 4 of them were sitting right in front of me. He talked about staying in the bedroom he grew up in while the tour was in Boston, and then he continued with a frank discussion about his life after losing the Tonight Show. He told the story with a perfect blend of honesty and self-humiliation. Conan sang songs, he energized his crowd, he brought out fan favorites Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (on video), the "Walker Texas Ranger Lever," and a bear who's name I refuse to mention on this blog even made a surprise cameo appearance at the end of the show. Some "friends" showed up to join in the fun - Ed Helms of "The Office" and "The Hangover" made Conan laugh with delight, and Boston favorites the Dropkick Murphys allowed Conan to sit in on what is arguably their most recognizable son, "Shipping Up to Boston."
I don't know if it was because he was performing in his old stomping grounds for the first time since taking late night by storm, or if it was because he is like this all the time, but Conan appeared genuinely touched by the outpouring of support at the Wang Theater, and across the country, as his tour is coming to an end. Conan let us into his life. There were inside jokes that we felt like we were a part of -- such as a cuss word being immediately followed by the words, "I'm sorry Mrs. O' Brien," by Conan's sidekick, Andy Richter. Conan responded with a gut-busting laugh, saying, "You don't know how funny that really is..." as he continued to laugh -- and somehow, I think everyone in the audience developed a vivid picture of Mrs. O' Brien sitting in the audience with arms folded and pursed lips, wondering why her son had to resort to using "naughty language." Conan also told the story of the "8 steps of recovery" from losing the Tonight Show...ending with "coming home to Boston". The 8 steps were filled with comedy, but one has to think that there was plenty of reality in it as well.
What I took away from the show is that Conan is just like many of us...but in some ways, better at showing it. He's funny. He's witty. He's sophmoric. He's personable. He's engaging. He's appreciative. He's sensative. He's forgiving. He's a guitar player. He's self-depricating. He's freakishly tall. He loves his family. He loves his heritage. He loves a good joke - no matter who it comes from, or who it's directed toward. He loves "Walker, Texas Ranger." He loves his fans. He loves Boston. He loves late night television and appreciates its history.
I have often said that the reason that David Letterman is the current King of Late Night (and Johnny Carson before Letterman) not just because he's funny, but because he is a good communicator. I now realize that Conan O' Brien was not heir apparent to Jay Leno after all. He's better than that. Conan should be heir apparent to David Letterman, following in the mold of excellent communicators, and innovative personalities.
Go get 'em, Conan. We can't wait until you're back on television.
(Conan returns to late night beginning Nov. 8 at 11 p.m. on TBS.)
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
As anyone who studies it will tell you, communication takes on many different forms and there is sometimes a hidden message not so visible to the naked eye.
For example, late last year my brother and I began kicking the idea around to throw our parents a surprise birthday party for their 60th – they happen to celebrate a birthday only 12 days apart from one-another. After a few ideas were generated, we decided that our best option would be to have this party upstairs at Bangor’s Whig & Courier.
Between my brother, myself, and our wives, we got the invites together, the decorations, the food, and the logistics. Somewhere along the way, our dad told us that a surprise party isn’t his cup of tea…and he hoped that we weren’t planning one. Regardless of the warning, we pushed forward, figuring that we couldn’t turn back at that point.
When we finally got to the week of the party, we decided that we would go out to eat first, then convince them that we should go to the Whig afterward. We decided to go to the Muddy Rudder in Brewer – another fine local establishment – for dinner.
Before the six of us left for dinner (mom & dad, my brother, his wife, my wife and myself), our parents asked us – point blank – if there would be anyone “joining us” at the Muddy Rudder. We said “no.” They said, “So there won’t be a surprise when we get there?” We said, “no.” I said, “How stupid do you think we are??!!??” We arrived at the Muddy Rudder, and I believe there was still a sense of skepticism from our parents, but once we were seated and had placed our orders for dinner that skepticism vanished.
Dad told us that we didn’t have to take them out for dinner for their birthdays, but it was very nice. Mom proceeded to thank us as well. Dad then told us how happy he was that we didn’t plan a surprise party…because that’s not their style. My brother and I looked each other right in the eye…and if “synchronized heart sinking” was an Olympic sport, we would have taken the gold.
But we ate dinner, had some laughs, talked about a range of topics, and carried on with our plan. I mentioned that I had stopped in to the Whig earlier in the day to look at the room and it was in use, so the restaurant’s owner had asked me to come back later in the day. Dad, not suspecting such a laid-back plan at this point, immediately suggested that we go to the Whig following dinner for a drink and to see the room. We all agreed.
I can say with certainty that our parents didn’t suspect a thing at this point. They definitely didn’t suspect that the Whig’s owner Chris Geaghan was in on the plan as well. When we walked into the Whig, I approached Chris and he performed his role perfectly, saying, “Oh, that’s right – you wanted to see the upstairs room, didn’t you?” I said yes, and the six of us followed Chris up the stairs. Dad was first in line, followed by me, then my wife, then my brother, then my mom, then my brother’s wife.
The anticipation was nerve-wrecking…so much so, I nearly got sick on the way there. But as Chris opened the doors to the upstairs room at the Whig and my dad walked in to the sounds of our parents’ friends and family applauding their arrival, it was all worthwhile. My dad froze. I turned around and mom looked just as shocked, despite not having entered the room yet. They say there are specific moments in life when you will always remember how you felt when they happened, and you will always be able to vividly see the expressions on the faces around you – and this was most certainly one of them.
As mom and dad made their way around the room talking and laughing with family and friends, it felt darn good to stand there and watch so many people having fun. Friends from all over the state were there, and many of their sibling’s families were able to make it as well.
What does this have to do with communication? Lots. It took a good number of people being able to keep a secret, play a part (thanks to everyone who did!), and follow directions to a tee. It took me, my brother, and our wives coming up with a creative plan and meticulously executing the plan. Sure, maybe the directions were a bit too detailed; and maybe I got a little too nervous about the surprise on the way to the Whig…but it was all worth it to see the end result and our genuinely surprised parents.The next day, mom told me that the first thing dad said in the morning was, “How did they pull that off?” He later followed that up by saying to my brother and I, “You are out of the will.” (He was joking…)
There is a lot of communication necessary to successfully pull off a surprise party. While that’s important, it’s not the point of this posting. Rather, the point is to wish our parents a very happy 60 th birthday and send them happiness and love from the entire family.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
By: Jaclyn Silk- Associate
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Heart-shaped candy boxes are appearing on the shelves of stores, flower shops are advertising bouquets of red roses, and romantic cards fill the card shelves. People will try to show their loved ones their feelings through such gestures as the ones mentioned. They will spend hours trying to figure out exactly what to say to their significant other but they don’t realize what they are saying through unconscious nonverbal communication such as body language.
Body language can tell someone a lot about how another person is feeling. Nonverbal communication cues are the most frequent communication method and can be conscious or unconscious. This Valentine’s Day when you are out with that special someone, take note of the following nonverbal messages and see what messages they are sending without actually communicating them to you!
- Eye Contact: Whether you are having a quiet night in or you are out to dinner, eye contact during conversation is the key. Establishing and maintaining eye contact usually means that the person is interested and involved in the conversation.
-Body Position: Where someone’s body is positioned during conversation is important. For example, if someone is leaning towards you, this shows interest in the conversation and you. If their posture is relaxed then they are having a good time. If they are stiff, this usually means they are tense.
-Facial Expressions: The human face is extremely expressive. If the person is showing expressions of happiness or excitement, they are most likely having a good time!
-Space: Whether or not a person stays in their “own space” can tell a lot about how comfortable they are feeling. If someone stays within their own “bubble” with their gestures and the placement of their body, this is a good sign that they are nervous or not as comfortable. If they are moving into your “space” then this is a sure sign that they are comfortable around you!
-Physical Contact: Touching and embracing are always sure signs that a person is comfortable around you. An example of this is while someone is laughing, they touch your arm or leg.
Communication is so much more than conversation. Bosses, employees, teachers, students, husbands and wives take note of their fellow communicator's nonverbal communication nearly everyday. This Sunday is a good benchmark date for all communicators to take note of what nonverbal communications and cues are being expressed and -because it's Valentine's Day- amplified. Down the road, it could be the difference between a good job interview or a bad one; a good oral presentation or a bad one; or a good first impression or a bad one. More immediately, it could be the different between a good Valentine's Day--or a great one!
Monday, February 1, 2010
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