The Conan O'Brien fan revolution continues to be televised as the late-night hosting heavyweights and NBC spar publicly over network plans to rescue Jay Leno at the expense of his "Tonight Show" replacement.
But the villagers are sharpening pitchforks and lighting their torches in this mess, too, as Conan's fans prepare to march on various NBC affiliates nationwide to voice displeasure over the network's treatment of their favorite pasty redhead. The grassroots protest makes its way to Chicago Monday evening for a 4:30-9 p.m. event outside the NBC5 studios at Pioneer Court, thanks in large part to the 300,000-strong I'm with Coco Facebook page that has sprung up to capture and focus the angst of O'Brien's masses who love his off-the-wall brand of humor. Protesters carried signs, spray painted their hair orange and wore Conan masks in support of the pale, gangly 6-foot-4-inch host.
The group was created by Los Angeles illustrator Mike Mitchell (he made the Conan image up top) who characterizes the push as a protest against bad management by an everyman's fans. He tells the Trib that this is a chance for like-minded Conan-backers to make their collective voice hear, but acknowledges the long odds:
"NBC, I think, has already made their mind up. Maybe (the protest) is more of a thing to show that there's a lot of Conan fans."
Will the 485 voices outside NBC tonight mean anything in the long run? Probably not. But in a way the almost comical futility suits the ethos of O'Brien, a man who's comedic talent has frequently eluded mainstream explanation and popularity.
But like the slogan says on the page, "Cause we're with him, no matter what," so some long odds are hardly worth shutting down the movement - just war some orange and play nice if you plan to attend. Let the network execs stoop to the name calling and vitriol.