As Triumph the Insult Comic Dog might say, it’s a fine gig…for him to poop on. Confirming what had been rumored for days, NBC announced Tuesday that ”Late Night” host Conan O’Brien will host the 54th annual Emmy Awards show on Sept. 22. ”Conan is one of the sharpest original voices in television comedy, I can’t imagine a better choice,” said NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker in a statement.
Zucker’s endorsement aside, the gig is a mark of NBC’s increased support for O’Brien, whose contracts NBC renewed for only 13 weeks at a time during his early days as David Letterman’s replacement. But the Emmy show will coincide with the start of O’Brien’s 10th season, as well as the beginning of NBC’s deal to give him additional exposure by licensing reruns of the previous evening’s ”Late Night” to Comedy Central. In February, NBC deflected Fox’s effort to court him for its own potential late-night show and signed O’Brien to an additional four years at a reported $8 million per year.
Still, Conan will have a tough act to follow on the Emmys. Last year’s ceremony, twice-delayed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, earned acclaim for host Ellen DeGeneres for her deft balancing of seriousness and levity. But O’Brien could have a memorable moment of his own if he picks up an Emmy himself. This year, as in every year since 1996, he and his ”Late Night” writing staff are up for the trophy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program. (”Late Night”’s competitors this year are ”The Late Show with David Letterman,” ”The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” ”Saturday Night Live,” and the celebrity telethon ”America: A Tribute to Heroes.”) A win for ”Late Night” would be the show’s first Emmy. And it would make a fine trophy for Triumph to — well, you know.