Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In a dry late-night week, Patton Oswalt and Guy Branum make Conan a comedy oasis

Patton Oswalt, Conan O’Brien
Screenshot: Conan

While it’s understandable that late-night hosts need to take a few weeks off and recharge their satirical batteries in the summer (or, in Jimmy Fallon’s case, think up new ways to fart around with movie stars and Silly String or whatever), that leaves the rest of us looking for some comedic relief from the daily crush of White House horrors high and dry. (Hey, the government is targeting one non-white group of American citizens for deportation—make us laugh about ethnic cleansing, funny boys!) Anyway, Conan O’Brien has our backs, having staggered his hiatus earlier in the summer in order to bring in some funny people to at least carry us over until Stephen Colbert, Sam Bee, John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, and the rest return with cleverly worded variations of “We are so, so fucked, you guys.” Ha ha haaaaa ... yeah.

So, anyway, Conan. On Thursday, O’Brien called on two stellar stand-ups for sit-downs, as Patton Oswalt and Guy Branum were unsurprisingly but mercifully hilarious. Oswalt, not really there to promote anything but his upcoming 50th birthday, mined his newfound and thoroughly earned domestic near-bliss with daughter Alice and wife Meredith Salenger for some killer anecdotes.


“Near-bliss” is fruitful territory for any comedian, but, Oswalt brought his tip-top observational powers to bear on an inadvertently terrifying conciliatory note from Salenger (left on his car windshield for that added serial killer vibe), his new health-conscious eating habits (which have transformed his cereal cupboard from a meth-fueled carnival of fruit-scented animal mascots to “cardboard that committed suicide”), and the begrudgingly loving sacrifices of fatherhood. Telling Conan about skipping his VIP invite to the Solo premiere in order to attend Alice’s grade school art fair segued into a callback to Oswalt’s famous bit about going back in time to his own Star Wars-obsessed fan infancy, only with a perfect final twist that incorporated the more complex enthusiasms of his current reality.

Branum, on the other hand, was in a full-court press promoting his new comic—or, as his anecdotes imply, tragicomic—memoir My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir Through (Un)Popular Culture. Coming out garlanded with roses, the comic told Conan about his predictably difficult childhood growing up gay in the “horrible,” prune-growing mecca of Yuba City, California. Asked if he’s going to have an even more difficult time visiting his home town now that he’s immortalized it in print as such an unwelcoming, anti-intellectual place, Branum assured Conan that no one there reads books, and that they’re unlikely to watch the sort of “niche, effete, intellectual Harvard guy television” on which he traditionally appears. (Cue expertly timed slow burn from O’Brien.)


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.