Did Conan O'Brien Go Gay for Sheriff Joe Arpaio? Well, Not Exactly (Update: Video Link Added)
Fortunately, things didn't get quite this bad. At least they kept their clothes on...
UPDATE 1/9/09: If you missed it, and are a glutton for punishment, you can watch Arpaio's appearance on O'Brien's show, here. Arpaio's segment starts about 28:38 in, or if you hit the "Chapters" button below the video, you can click on Arpaio's mug (Chapter 4) to go directly to it.
Last night on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Maricopa County's Sheriff Joe Arpaio looked worse than one of the petty criminals he supposedly wants to corral on his Fox Reality show, Smile...You're Under Arrest. Unlike in the mock-up above, he was pale and pot-bellied, his beady raccoon eyes shifting in the harsh glare of stage lights. His gray pate -- slicked down with something Crisco-ish.
As for O'Brien, he squirmed through Joe's segment, which came after the show's first guest, actor Chris Meloni. The ginger-haired host appeared embarrassed by Arpaio's very presence, as if afraid Joe's metaphysical unhipness might rub off on him.
At one point, O'Brien mentioned that during the day NBC had anti-Joe protesters handing out leaflets in Rockefeller Center, where the talk show is filmed.
"That has not happened since Howie Mandel was here several years ago," cracked Conan in the evening's best line.
To his credit, Conan pretended to be aghast after showing a clip of Joe's show where some schmuck with an outstanding warrant is arrested after being given a free facial and wrapped in a terrycloth bathrobe with prison stripes.
"This is Punk'd, I guess, meets Cops," said Conan, parroting the show's PR shills. "It's either a brilliant idea or the true sign of the apocalypse."
That sounded a little strained coming from a guy who'd earlier done a skit involving lactating rats, asbestos fire logs, and a half-male Cuban prostitute. Indeed, O'Brien's big jokes of the night involved bees on cocaine and the tiny manhood of his in-house band's trombone player.
Still, Joe was put on the defensive, telling O'Brien the show wasn't his idea, but Fox's. All the same, he asserted it was "a great merge of entertainment along with law enforcement." He claimed the filming of the episodes had nabbed "about 400 fugitives." If true, that means Joe's got 36,600 felony warrants left to go.
As I predicted in Tuesday's post previewing this bit of grotesquerie, O'Brien tried playing Frost to Joe's Nixon, but all he could come up with is, you guessed it, pink underwear, chain gangs, and sucky jail TV. I'm guessing that the protesters and all the angry phone calls NBC got made Conan feel like he had to ask Joe a couple of semi-serious questions.
No inquiries about illegal aliens or all the dead people in Joe's gulags, though. O'Brien's writers probably didn't read that far in Arpaio's Wikipedia article.
O'Brien did pick up on Arpaio's sadism. Arpaio mentioned the oft-repeated refrain that the meals for his inmates cost .60 cents a day, and that one of the few TV shows shown in his jails is the Food Channel. Joe said this was to "show 'em how to cook, show 'em what they're missing, really."
Replied Conan, "So which is it, to actually teach them a skill or to torture them with what they're not getting?"
"Well, the official reason is to teach them a skill," said Joe. "OK?"
"Remember this is being recorded," kidded Conan, to some laughter at the lawman's expense. "But between you and me, it's to torture them."
"Don't give the FBI more work, OK?" Joe shot back.
The FBI line fell flat. See, Joe, the New Yorkers don't know you as well as we know you. They don't know you're being investigated by the feds, and that many think that investigation will pick up steam under soon-to-be Attorney General Eric Holder. That little brain fart from Joe about the FBI gives you a window into what the Sheriff's worrying about.
After hearing about Joe's female chain gangs, O'Brien concluded by stating, "I really don't know what's happening to America." In the final few seconds, O'Brien belittled our corrupt top cop a tad when Joe told the audience what channels they could watch his show on.
"Let's not get that specific," Conan told him.
For the rest of the show, Arpaio sat there and glowered, his arms crossed. A bitter, spiteful presence to the end. You know, just like in real life.