Comedian Travel Shows Like Conan’s and Eugene Levy’s Must Go
In the mid-to-late aughts, it seemed like every NBA player wanted to be a rapper, and every NBA rap album was completely insufferable. Today, every comedian wants to be Anthony Bourdain.
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Yesterday, Max (formerly HBO Max) officially ordered a four-episode international travel series from Conan O’Brien titled Conan O’Brien Must Go. The show will be an extension of O’Brien’s podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Fan, wherein he video chats with fans across the globe — Conan O’Brien Must Go will follow the beloved talk show host as he travels to the most exotic locations where late-night fans still hold a grudge against Jay Leno to meet his international fans in the flesh. O’Brien joked in the Conan O'Brien Must Go press release, “My fans around the globe never asked me to visit them, so I did.”
This past February, Eugene Levy debuted his own travel show on AppleTV+, The Reluctant Traveler, a series about a massively successful and widely adored multimillionaire who just can’t stand getting paid to go on lavish vacations. And, earlier today, Peacock premiered Rainn Wilson and the Geography of Bliss, wherein the Office star visits the happiest (and least happiest) places on earth in order to learn the secrets of societal fulfillment. Apparently, the theme of streaming in 2023 is “Comedians get paid to go on vacation while you pay Max $200 to take Westworld away from you.”
Possibly the first series to explore the concept of “funny man takes fancy trip” was An Idiot Abroad, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s elaborate bullying scheme to torture their best friend/punching bag Karl Pilkington by putting him in the most unfamiliar situations possible while they laugh at his struggles to escape them. Levy has a similar schtick in The Reluctant Traveler, but Pilkington’s chagrin toward being forced by his “friends” to hike 11 hours through the mountains of Peru is hilariously believable in a way that Levy griping to a Venetian gondolier simply isn’t.
Look, it’s perfectly understandable why O’Brien, Levy, Wilson or any Hollywood celebrity, comedian or otherwise, would relish the opportunity to host a travel show — who wouldn’t? Getting paid to visit interesting places, eat delicious food and explore immersive cultures is a dream job that anyone would be lucky to have. All I’m saying is this — choose one. One comedian gets to explore the world and see if his humor can break through language barriers. I’m not going to watch seven different comics all make alpaca cracks in the Andes on seven different shows and streaming services, but I’ll watch exactly one do it.
Perhaps Max, AppleTV+ and Peacock could engage in a sort of comedy travel show battle royale in which each of their chosen comedians competes to prove that they’re most equipped to travel the world. Dump these comics on a tropical island and have them live off the land, completing challenges and forming factions to survive each round of eliminations.
You know what? Just give us Comedian Survivor.