Even though O'Brien's departure has looked like a done deal for days, supporters such as Feldman have continued to mobilize, online and off. On Wednesday night, hours before O'Brien finalized that $45 million buyout agreement, the number of members of the Facebook page "I'm With COCO" -- dubbed in honor of O'Brien's nickname and categorized cheekily as a religious organization -- swelled past the half-million mark. And online chatter suggests that Team Conan is organizing more rallies -- farewell parties, really -- to take place Thursday outside TV stations and on college campuses in Los Angeles, Austin, Minneapolis and other cities. Not to be left out of a social movement, the District will host its own "I'm With Coco" event Friday night at Tattoo Bar; attendees who wear an "I'm With Coco" T-shirt, a Conanesque wig or all orange -- a color that pays homage to O'Brien's flaming beacon of a hairdo -- receive free admission.BTW, knowing that there are quite a few things of greater importance this week mainly the election of Scott Brown, Republican US Senator-elect from Massachusetts and what that means for the health-care debate. And the continuing saga regarding the earthquake in Haiti. I want you to know that while I followed a lot of this story about Conan since it first broke, the relief efforts of Haiti is one dollar richer thanks to a purchase at Whole Foods. ;)
Social-networking crazes tend to come and go with the swiftness of a Twitter trending topic, but the pro-Coco campaign seems to have touched a genuine nerve, one that goes beyond mere loyalty to a man and his Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. So what, exactly, has gotten an entire O'Brien brigade fired up and ready to go?
Some say NBC's treatment of O'Brien -- coupled with the host's heartfelt "People of Earth" letter -- has tapped into latent rage toward corporate America.
"The reason this is as big as it is is that everybody can relate to this," says Feldman, a member of the Facebook groups "I'm With COCO," "Team Conan" and "Boycott The Tonight Show with Jay Leno!" "Everybody has been in a job and been put in a position and then been kicked to the curb because [the bosses] decide 'I like this guy better.' "
Others view the O'Brien-Leno conflict as more evidence of the marginalization of Generation X, all those children of the '60s and '70s sandwiched between the demographic behemoths that are the baby boomers and Generation Y. (O'Brien is 46, but his audience skews younger; Leno is 59.)
Jennifer James, an O'Brien supporter in Oklahoma City who writes a blog called "are you there God? it's me, generation X," says the situation -- which happens to involve an Xer (O'Brien) losing his gig to a boomer (Leno) who won't let go of it -- reminds her of stories she's heard from people in their 30s and early 40s who can't advance in their careers because their baby-boomer bosses refuse to retire.
"It's an irresistible metaphor for Gen X and the baby boomers, and the conflicts that do exist in the workplace," she says.
[Penny] Bitner [homemaker from suburban Detroit], on the other hand, thinks the late-night situation further proves that NBC and other networks underestimate the value of viewers from her age group. (Bitner is 30.)
"Gen X has been the redheaded stepchild of all the generations, but I think we've just been ignored," she says. "We were ignored in the '90s when people weren't taking us seriously. And we're being ignored now." (Redheaded, huh? Who does that remind you of?)
The next question is to see if Conan will eventually end up at FOX. Perhaps he can create a new sketch comedy series since MAD TV is off the air now!