Conan was absolutely terrible in the beginning. His first monologue on Late Night was a jumble of bad timing, tripping over words, and almost visible trembling. It's burned into my memory like one of those bad dreams you just can't shake.
But he got better. It took a while, but he got better.
Well, you don't have to rely on your recollections. You can view the full first episode right here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x14...de-9-13-93_fun
I see a lot of what I like about Conan in that first episode. He's definitely a bit hyper and not quite settled into his own skin. The goofy hyper short laugh he does is a little distracting. But for a guy who hadn't really performed on stage before, I can't say it was bad.
And compared to fucking Leno... I mean, after reading "The War for Late Night" I really tried to give a random episode of his show a chance. The book makes an effort to explain the appeal of all the late night talk show hosts. "Oh, Leno's strength is his monologue. Leno crafts so many great jokes and shoots 'em rapid fire at the audience" Nope, a bunch of shitty jokes delivered as lamely as possible. In truth, I think most late night jokes are shitty, and it's all in the delivery. Then he went into a dreadfully unfunny bit where he dragged some woman out to show footage of people in a fake photo booth where she was doing a voice pretending to be some kind of photo booth computer, and taping the reactions to the things she said. Gave up halfway through it. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog it ain't.