Things You Can Accomplish before Conan Takes Over
“The Tonight Show” in 2009
Will Layman & Chris Osmond
Create Life the Old-Fashioned Way
step one: By Hook or by Crook, Find a Girlfriend
C’mon—you’re not so bad, though maybe you should consider losing a few pounds, getting a new haircut, capping that discolored tooth everybody stares at without you realizing it. And, oh yeah, do you own any jeans? Once you’re gussied up, it’s pretty simple to post an online profile, take polka lessons, or begin visiting the local women’s prison.
[Conservative estimate of time required: 10 months.]
step two: Demonstrate Your Lack of Fear
You’ve got a woman, so get busy with the sweet talkin’. Get tickets to things, spend Sundays taking long walks rather than watching football or cataloguing your collection of X-Men first editions. Suggest that on the next nice weekend you rent a car and visit her mother in New Jersey. Really. No commitment-phobe, you.
[Fifteen months, including the interminable trip to Jersey.]
step three: Get Engaged
You’re on a roll, so this step is simple. Buy the ring, pop the question during a nice dinner, maybe while on a bed-and-breakfast-y weekend, then ante up for some kind of Yo-Yo Ma–level cultural event. Once engaged, wait the requisite year or so and make sure your bachelor party is organized by someone named “Spike” or “Cheese.”
step four: The Wedding Itself
Don’t argue, and say “yes” to everything. Done.
step five: Procreate
Take the whole marriage-thing out for a test run first, sure, but then get down to business. Live through 40 weeks of anticipation, including that last painful month when your wife can’t wait to squeeze the thing out but all your friends who are already parents keep saying stuff like “What’s the rush?” and then shaking their heads. Then — boom — she’s born.
total time: Four years. 11 months and one day; Conan takes over the show the day your kid first spits up on your mother-in-law’s reupholstered couch.
Become a Vicious, Litigating Lawyer
step one: Debate This Dubious Future with All Your Friends
You may be embarrassed at first to bring it up, but (trust us) most of your friends are already contemplating it. Drink with abandon while you all stay up late rationalizing the decision. Convince yourselves that being a lawyer and writing your novel (or becoming an actor, or going into social work) are differences of degree and not kind. Ah, your first deception—you’re halfway there.
[One easy month.]
step two: Prepare for and Take The LSATs
Convince your dad to pay for one of those LSAT prep courses. He will be thrilled, and you don’t really have to go. Your cavalier attitude toward Stanley Kaplan appeases the part of you that knows this law-school thing is a terrible idea. The night before the test itself, go the movies. Do not have sex (no problem, unless you’ve proceeded with Project #1) and rationalize your evening’s abstinence as part of your strategy for acing the test, though you will sleep the uneasy sleep of the self-deceived. Get used to it.
[Four months, and that’s generous.]
step three: Apply for and Get into Law School
This is not a rollicking good time, but you’ve got to do something with the fancy laptop you were going to write the novel on. Some essays on your political aspirations would do—saving the environment and all that. Yeah, it’s good to be able to do something with the sad remnants of your idealism. While you wait for the fat envelope, repeatedly tell your friends that Clarence Darrow is your distant cousin.
[Six anxious months.]
step four: Actually Attend Law School
You want details? Civil procedure, constitutional law, torts, property, contracts, tax
[Two years, nine months.]
step five: Study for and Take the Bar Exam
See, above, on taking the LSATs. Continue to have no sex. This will ensure that you become a genuine barrister, an attorney-of-record in a society that hates you. And, yes, now you will have your revenge for all the subtle ways society wronged you when you were in elementary school.
total time: Three years, 11 months; Conan takes over “Tonight” on the very day you buy your first vacation house based on your unconscionable salary. However, you work such long hours that you never visit the house and often watch Conan while eating dinner in your studio apartment. Alone.
Form the Next Zeitgeist-Shaping Rock Band
step one: Gather Obscure Influences
This is going to mostly require time rifling through used record bins (or “vinyl,” as you will learn to call it). Avoid anything you have heard of; beyond this caveat, it really doesn’t matter who it is. Whoever you choose, herald their EP’s as “way better than the full-lengths.” Consider basing your new band strictly on the incidental music to a 60s sitcom such as “Lost in Space,” in which case you will name the band “Doctor Smith.”
[Fourteen months because you’ll probably waste half that time “listening” to jam bands that no one should emulate.]
step two: Locate the Proper “Scene”
Your band will never inspire a story in Newsweek or a knowing review in NME if it does not spring from a long-neglected local scene that critics can (a) baselessly generalize about and (b) wax nostalgic for after your commercial success “fucks it up.” Again, the old standbys are out (Austin, L.A., Seattle, Detroit), so you’ll have to move around quite a bit. Try Trenton, Sioux City, Utica, or Anchorage.
[Two years, because once you’ve been to Anchorage in November it’s really hard to leave.]
step three: Recruit Bandmates
You can’t play an instrument yet? Exactly. Recruit bandmates who kick ass. They join you because your clarity of vision (“ ‘Lost in Space’ was the left turn rock ’n’ roll wasn’t yet smart enough to take.”) and knowledge of the local scene (i.e., which clubs provide the band free beer) are impeccable. Insist that people audition while wearing culottes. Hint: At least one band member must be super-hot. (See step six.)
[Three months, ten weeks of which are spent finding a drummer with BOTH a set AND a car.]
step four: Choose a Band Name
If you don’t go with “Doctor Smith,” you’re making a mistake. But if you insist on being original, consider combining two unrelated nouns into a single arresting term: “Beverage Scissors,” “Cuticle Hubcap,” or “Temptation Crevice.” Another possibility: “Moist.” Oooh, that’s a good one.
[One long night.]
step five (part i): Book Gigs
Invariably tell the clubs you are kind of like the White Stripes. Since the White Stripes have only two members, one of whom is a chick, the club will think it can rip you off more easily and will book you immediately.
step five (part ii): Learn to Play Guitar
As we’ve said before, look at the other schnooks who do it.
[One month, concurrent with booking gigs.]
step six: Have the Bass Player Seduce Someone at Rolling Stone
Remember our advice on auditions?
[One month, only because it couldn’t hurt to create a critical buzz coming from more than one writer.]
total time: Three years, 7 months, and one long night. By the time Conan first hits the 11:30 time slot you will be booked on his show. On your “comeback tour.”
Open a Wildly Profitable, High-End Smoked-Meat Exporting Concern
step one: Become a Canadian
This process is far easier and quicker than becoming, say, Jewish, and is really a prerequisite for any professional-grade meat-smoking activities. Contact your local consulate for details, but between clearing Tom Ridge, getting out from under your parking tickets, and submitting your change of address form you should be in and out in less time than it takes to convict a pop star of pederasty.
[Eighteen months. In case of quarantine or difficulty expunging Canadian police record as “Molson Golden Bandit” from misguided college prank, add 60 days.]
step two (part i): Learn to Trap, Fish, and Hunt Small, Medium-sized, and Improbably Large Game
For what you’re going to charge, you’ll have to know the quality of your stock, and if you want it done right, do it yourself. Get yourself some flannels, snowshoes, and ordnance. Befriend an Eskimo, sparing neither firewater nor wampum. Spend several seasons engaged in vaguely kung fu-like rituals with your Eskimo, including “Smelling the Snow,” “Hearing the Bark of the Tree,” and “Beseeching the Great Spirit Not to Take Your Last Three Toes.” Learn to clean everything you catch, then never ever do it again.
[One very cold year]
step two (part ii): Assemble Global Network of Cronies
Purchase a satellite-enabled laptop, solar powered generator, and some serious bandwidth. Nights, get your frozen ass online and chat up some food wholesalers, crooked customs officials, and F.D.A. insiders while Nanook slumbers beside you. (Recommended—Earthlink; AOL filters this shit.) Use a Nordic screen name and misplace pronouns to boost your authenticity.
[One year, concurrent with learning to trap, fish, and hunt game.]
step three: Marry Rich Widow of Condiment Magnate
Our research has turned up only one of these at present, and she’s currently involved with a tall, dour statesman with an iffy war record. Of course, he’s not getting any younger. In the meantime, peruse N.Y., L.A., Paris, and London phonebooks for women with the surnames Vlasic, Guldens, Hellmann, and French. Buy some tattersall and spread around some bonhomie; this is no time to look cheap. Think of the cross-marketing possibilities! Get out there!
[Eighteen months, depending on present levels of bonhomie.]
step four: Build Smoking and Packing Plant Somewhere on the Remote Island of Mauritania
Wifey’s money will come in mighty handy here, and the cash you hemorrhage packing refrigerated moose meat across the equator will be doubly covered by the tax advantages of incorporating offshore. Fuel costs be damned: This is smoked meat we are talking about. Maintain global network of cronies through frequent mailings of smoked meat “teasers” as holiday gifts.
[One year, if you yell at the contractors every day. Besides, as we’ve said repeatedly—How hard can it be? Just look at the schnooks who do it.]
total time: Five years, give or take. By the time Conan assumes the helm of “The Tonight Show,” you should be seeing the first wave of tax-sheltered profits rush toward you like salmon heading upstream. You will first see his slightly sagging jowls chuckle from your silk-sheeted African maple four-poster bed, framed by the expensively manicured toes of your sugar momma while Sabu, your servile yet astonishingly hirsute Mauritanian butler, brings you another bowl of Double Stuf Oreos. It’s good being you.