Last Night I Dreamed Conan O'Brien Came Back (Sort Of)


I had the weirdest dream last night. I really wanted a new Conan O'Brien show, and I thought I was about to get it. I don't even know what it was called. It wasn't The Tonight Show, it wasn't Late Night, it may not have even been a show. It seemed like just some environment, Pandora without the towering blue Species That Shall Not Be Named or those six-legged horses or the floating iridescent mollusks tumbling out of the sky, but you know. That kind of stage-lit extraterrestrial space. Halogen and hairspray, a desk, and there was Triumph, chomping, chomping.

Conan was almost incidental by now, but the dream persisted. Andy Richter wasn't there, and now, awake, I almost want to apologize. Nothing personal, Andy. But a roar came up into the dark, post-midnight vacuum, and the past burst alive. The claustrophobia of it all, some supernatural catacomb above 50th Street, but it could have been anywhere. It could have been a prop shop, a warehouse, a Universal trolley ride. It was funny before it even started -- not my funny, God no, but the promise of spirit and looseness and anything-can-happen.

In the dream, though, I thrashed against nostalgia, because really I just wanted to laugh. I don't even know if a crowd ever materialized. I heard music, but not Max Weinberg, that dervish. Sirens, ethereal, some Patsy Cline B-side writ broadcast, reverb-naked, composed on principle. A spot glowed on the stage.

It was the weirdest thing. I'd been watching Leno, too, in this dream, and he wasn't terrible. He just kind of slouched in that blobby, silvery, absorbent languor of his, and Burbank inhaled one soul from New York, then another and another. Their memories painted cue cards, their fingernails drew coil by coil down the strings of Kevin Eubanks's guitar, some custom model I hadn't seen before. It was red, and another empty studio shuddered, went white at the dissonance. NBC's stomach groaned in the distance and I heard that fucking laughter again. Terrified, I thrashed back East.

Triumph chomped and chomped and made jokes at nobody's expense in particular, just did his contractual duty while the Boss sorted out his airtime. And I turned over in a bed that felt like 250 cold, dark seats and felt more desperation to laugh again, to really laugh, maybe without even knowing what I was laughing about until four or five seconds later, when the genius of the whole enterprise and all the work and apparatus shivered into focus and something felt like it might actually begin.

You know that dull sense before a curtain rises, those murmurs in the half-second before a TV screen alights? It was like that, but for hours upon helpless hours. In the meticulous minutes of this dream, something was always about to happen. It didn't even have to be good in the end, just familiar, way up there in the Manhattan fog that always swaggers in before the rain, in the atomized light that announces it. I must have thrown a pillow over my head, because the alarm went off and I hit snooze seven times before awakening to the early spring foot-soldiers outside and thinking, "Holy shit, I just had the weirdest dream." Am I the only one?