The Daily Stream: I've Thought About This 'War Horse' Bit From 'Conan' Once a Week For the Past Decade
(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching, why it’s worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)
The Clip: Conan, “The War Horse Score Does NOT Deserve an Oscar”
Where You Can Stream It: YouTube
The Pitch: In the midst of the 2012 Oscar season, talk show host Conan O’Brien points out that the Steven Spielberg film War Horse was nominated for both Best Picture and Best Original Score. But when he played a clip from the film, the score did not sound like something composer John Williams would have come up with.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: Conan went off the air last week as his TBS series came to an end (don’t worry, he’ll be coming to HBO Max soon), which made me reflect on some of my favorite comedic bits of his during the show’s 11-year run. One clip immediately came to mind – but if I’m being honest, it didn’t have to travel very far to get there, since this thing has been hovering around the edge of my very consciousness every single day since it first aired. Check it out below.
This is probably not anyone else’s favorite Conan clip, which speaks to the truly wild amount of comedy O’Brien and his team produced over the years. He did dumb stuff like this every single night. But for some reason, the combination of ridiculousness and catchiness in that music stuck in my head and never fully left, and I literally sing it aloud at least once a week. I don’t think it’ll ever be out of my brain.
But aside from the funky music and its purely nonsensical lyrics (“charge-y, gallop-y, goo!”), everything around the bit is quintessentially Conan to me, too. There’s the pre-bit schtick where he adopts his old-timey voice to talk about “Oscar fever,” and where other hosts might let that go after the first reference, Conan makes a meal out of it, getting a genuine laugh from his pal Andy Richter at the :16 mark. But he’s not done – he massages it around and does two more versions of the joke, before acknowledging that he should stop and move on. In classic Conan fashion, he lets viewers into his headspace rather than keeping us at a remove.
And afterwards, you can tell he’s really having fun dancing to that tune, getting the band involved and doing his classic “string dance.” And then, the pièce de résistance comes when Conan brings the whole thing to a stop and calls it the “dumbest thing [they’ve] ever done,” which is just another way to acknowledge that they’re not trying to make high art, but just aiming for something that gets a laugh out of people. And almost ten full years later, I’m still laughing.
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