TV Throwdown: Conan O'Brien vs. Jon Stewart

Conan never mentioned Jon Stewart in the first week.

But Stewart gave his competition a nod when the two went head-to-head for the first time, saying "Now I'll never be able to watch me!"

Conan hasn't brought anything new to the late night party even with the more lax atmosphere of basic cable. He's still stuck in the monologue-guest couch-musical guest/stand-up comic mode. Even his jump at the end of the band's musical intro is still there, as is his puppet routine where he pulls invisible strings attached to him and gives 'em a pull.

Conan may have some misses, but he generally pounds out some clear hits. He's up against one of the best and the brightest talk shows on the air, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, using the same format as Those Other Two broadcast talk show guys. In that trio, he was the hippest guy on the block. Now, he's just rather comfortable.

Although his ratings have slipped from the initial tune-in numbers, Team CoCo's off to a great start. Stewart, however, limped to the finish line after a bout with something that had him coughing up his cookies. Look, he told viewers, still haven't vomited yet. Quite the triumph, Stewart.

At the end of round one, how did the basic broadcast talk show compare when up against the iconic basic cable chat-and-run style? Here's how we see them stacking up after premiere week:


Conan has his dippy faces, but no one can mug the way Stewart does. It's the way he puts the final punch in the gag line. Stewart doesn't have to say a word, he just has to put up a picture of a couple of guys on TV talking about the mysterious sky trail that ends with an on-air graphic that looks very much like it should be attached to a guy's nether region. And Stewart just puts on that face, and away we go. Mary Richards might have turned the world on with her smile, but Stewart can grab a belly laugh with just a look.

Conan O'Brien: 0

Jon Stewart: 1


Stewart shot out some good ones this week such as his comment on Keith Olbermann's brief suspension from MSNBC, "It's a stupid rule, but at least it was enforced poorly." Conan just kept getting better. On the second night, he chided Tom Hanks for getting everyone to call him Coco through Hanks' popular Twitter feed: "You ruined my life," he told Hanks. Who got a good shot back by saying finally Conan had someone else to blame besides Jay Leno. "You got people chanting (CoCo) and now my kids call me CoCo instead of Daddy and that enrages me." And Coco brought it home in his interview with Julie Bowen, told him about how one 18-month-old-twin put his twin brother in the dryer. "A dryer is like an oven that moves," he said, shocked when she ran to get a camera instead of plucking the boy out of the danger zone.

Conan O'Brien: 1

Jon Stewart: 1


Jon has some impressive bench strength with Wyatt Cenac, John Oliver and Aasif Mandvi and others, but no one comes close to Andy Richter. Conan-Richter is an unbeatable pair when it comes to completing each other. In fact, Richter should have gotten the one-liner of the week award after he put on the Halloween guest mask of "Ex-Talk Show Host," which looked just like Sir Conan and said, "Inside, it smells like tears."

Conan O'Brien: 2

Jon Stewart: 1


Let's be honest. Conan has never been much of an interviewer, and unless he gets a guest like Tom Hanks, who can make the dullest pencil look sharp, he's totally out of his element. Conan's first guest was a quirky woman from a nutcracker museum. Johnny Carson could have done a whole show around that. Instead, C-man squandered her and spent way too much time with Seth Rogen. Rogen attempted to use every dirty word he could to push the cable envelope. Meanwhile, Stewart showed he could make even a conservative Texas politician with a boring agenda a fascinating interview. And he was able to get something out of Harrison Ford, who has the reputation of being a tough guy to interview.

Conan O'Brien: 2

Jon Stewart: 2


Stewart just couldn't stop himself from going all middle school gym class with the mysterious rocket routine, but it was Conan's double whammy on the first night that took the prize. Between the Masturbating Bear pulling lottery balls out of his sack and Seth Rogen talking about proposing to his naked girlfriend, and slipping the ring on to her nipple, we knew who would win this category, hand's down.

Conan O'Brien: 3

Jon Stewart: 2

While CoCo seems to have triumphed in the early going, we'll see if there's a come-from-behind Zenyatta style runner who ends up taking the race.