As many late night hosts did Monday night, Conan O’Brien took time at the top of his show to address Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.
But perhaps most saliently, he discussed the strange, sad ritual that’s become commonplace for late night hosts in this violent era of domestic terrorism—a ritual that didn’t exist when O’Brien began his late night career in 1993.
O’Brien describes coming into work on Monday to find his head writer in his office, holding printouts of the top-of-show remarks he’d made after previous mass shootings:
[The head writer] said, “Here are the remarks you made after the Sandy Hook shootings and the Pulse nightclub attacks in Orlando. You might want to look at them to see what you might want to say tonight.” And that, that struck me. How could there be a file of mass shooting remarks for a late night host? When did that become normal? When did this become a ritual? And what does it say about us that it has?
Conan O’Brien is, as Slate points out, not a particularly political comedian. If anything, he simply doesn’t consider himself a political authority. But his statement on Monday didn’t need jargon to capture the deep hopelessness and fatigue many Americans feel in the aftermath of yet another act of gun violence—one that occurred, as The Onion has published again and again for years, “in the only nation where this regularly happens.”
“The sound of those automatic weapons last night are grotesquely out of place in a civilized society,” O’Brien said. “It makes no sense to me, as a reasonable human being and a father.”