Conan O’Brien exits with humility and truth

This week brings an end to the “Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”. The switch from Host Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien seven months ago did not prove fruitful to the already struggling NBC. As such, this month the network decided to move O’Brien back to a later time slot, and return Leno to his 11:35 stead. O’Brien and NBC disagreed on this move, which led him to step down from his post altogether.

This past week America took sides with their favorite stars. What’s a good comedian to do with that? Take the news and make it funny. So laugh at their own circumstances they did. They tried to make the best of an awkward situation.

At the beginning of O’Brien’s final Tonight Show, he joked, “We have exactly one hour to steal everything in this studio.” While many may not agree with the way in which he and Leno poked fun at their circumstances, few could argue with how O’Brien dealt with the issue at the very end. After a week of skits and comments that reflected bitterness and vengeance, O’Brien ironically closed with this:

“All I ask is one thing and this is…I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, it’s just true.”

True. O’Brien claimed something was true. Yet so often we hear Hollywood say that there’s no such thing as truth, that what’s true for one may not be true for another. Yet O’Brien strives to convince his younger audience of something that’s “just true.” And this time, Hollywood was right.

Hard work and kindness are biblical, while cynicism, regardless of the definition you use, is not. Sarcasm, negativity, and scorn do not produce fruit for the kingdom of God. Instead of tearing down from a heart of disdain, we are called to “build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), to “rejoice in hope” (Rom 12:12), and to “live in harmony with one another (Rom 15:5).

Jesus came to heal, not wound. He came to build, not tear down. He came to restore, not destroy. He left with us the ministry of reconciliation, not of division (2 Corinthians 5:18).

There is truth to be seen and heard in this world, even shining forth from our corrupt culture at times, truths so obvious that even Hollywood can’t argue against – kindness, hard work, forgiveness, harmony. If only more people would humble themselves to embrace them…. Perhaps some will take a lesson from a surprisingly humble teacher named Conan O’Brien.

“Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Ps 119:89).

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