Conan O'Brien made his return to the late-night scene Monday with, as he put it, his "second annual first show"--or, the premiere of Conan on TBS.
Now, he's not going to be able to mock his bizarre exit from NBC and the limbo of finding himself in between jobs forever.
But tonight...it was game on.
After he was gunned down and informed, while in a full-body cast, that he couldn't work in late-night anymore, Conan had a bit of an existential crisis--as the ensuing montage of him unsuccessfully trying to get a job in advertising ("You're very good-looking," he quietly whispered to interviewer Jon Hamm), depressing kids as a birthday clown and holding up the line behind the register at a fast-food restaurant soon proved.
He was apparently on the verge of ending it all when guardian angel Larry King told him to try basic cable.
And buoyed by TBS' offer of "much less" money, here he is--same old Conan, same big "Hello!" leap, same old string dance...plus a basic-cable beard.
Seth Rogen, Lea Michele and Jack White were all on hand to help O'Brien ring in the new late-night era. But the guests were obviously beside the point. It was all about vibe and timing for Conan, Episode No. 1.
"That lasted longer than my last job," he quipped in response to the audience's lengthy standing ovation.
"People asked me why I named the show Conan. I did it so I'd be harder to replace."
"A lot's happened in the news since I went off the air, and I was hoping I could cover it all in one joke," O'Brien continued. "But then I realized that's like trying to keep an Icelandic volcano from wearing Lady Gaga's meat dress while a trapped Chilean miner cleans up the BP oil spill, comma, Brett Favre's penis."
He also recounted how NBC has stolen some of O'Brien's Late Night characters, showing how the Masturbating Bear is now helping local newscasters pull lottery numbers.
"Surprised it hasn't happened earlier," chimed in the ever loyal Andy Richter.
Ricky Gervais was kind enough to tape a welcome message for his old pal, as well.
"I'm really sorry things didn't work out at your last gig," the Brit said. "But I just want to wish you the very best of luck with your new show on TBS. I've got a really good feeling about this one." Then he proceeded to go right into the next message.
"I'm a huge fan of the Food Network, and I know you're going to be a great fit there," Gervais offered encouragingly.
Welcome back, CoCo.