They say analyzing comedy is akin to autopsying a dead frog. Let’s try it anyway! Comedy operates on setting up expectations, then breaking those expectations with a surprise. So when Paul Rudd appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 2004 to promote the series finale of Friends, announcing to a surprised-looking Conan O’Brien that he had a secret clip to show, it made for the perfect punchline that he instead showed a clip from Mac and Me, a notoriously terrible E.T. ripoff. This started a chain of repeat O’Brien appearances where Rudd would promise to set up one clip before showing the exact same Mac and Me clip. So how did Rudd heighten his 2019 appearance on Conan, to promote Netflix series Living With Yourself? He heightened… by doing the exact same thing.
Neither Rudd nor O’Brien bats an eye when Rudd sets up the clip from the dark clone-comedy he’s going to show. And if you’ve seen the pilot episode of Living With Yourself, you’ll know the scene he’s talking about — his mild-mannered Miles Elliot emerging from the ground in a diaper and a plastic bag in some kind of grotesque, absurd rebirth. But then the clip rolls… and it is, of course, the same exact Mac and Me clip, in which a wheelchair-bound child flies off of a hill into a body of water, ending with the stop-motion Mac looking on in dumbfounded impotence. When appearing on previous iterations of O’Brien’s shows, Rudd has sometimes tailored the Mac and Me clip to be in dialogue with whatever he’s promoting — his Ant-Man version, in particular, is a work of art. For Living With Yourself, the tweak was simple — instead of one Mac at the end, it’s two. Just like there are two Rudds in the Netflix show.
So far, pretty damn funny, right? Here’s the best part. After the first Mac and Me fakeout, O’Brien asks for Rudd to play the actual Living With Yourself clip, and Rudd acquiesces. And then, Rudd heightens… by playing the exact same Mac and Me clip. No new bits, no attempt at a base reality. Just a blunt sledgehammer of a beautifully absurd running joke. All hail Paul Rudd, King of Getting Conan’s Goat.
Check out the full Rudd/O’Brien clash below and see just how comically exasperated O’Brien gets at Rudd’s charming shenanigans. And for more charming Rudd shenanigans, here’s Rudd eating some dang hot wings!