The Barbershop Harmony Society’s 2009 International Convention in Anaheim played host to quartets and choruses from all over the world, and was treated with a special surprise guest appearance by NBC’s The Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien and a camera crew, who spent an afternoon visiting the convention site and the contest venues. In classic Conan fare, his commentary on the entire experience ranged from the hilarious to the bizarre, and at times somewhat edgy and perhaps considered by some to be borderline offensive.
Whether or not the segment put barbershop in a “positive” or “negative” light can be debated, but barbershoppers can agree that even just a few minutes of exposure (free exposure, no less) helped show the world the lighter side of the hobby, and displayed a wonderful cross-section of barbershoppers who represented themselves and barbershop with a healthy sense of humor. Props to Rick Spencer, champ quartet OC Times, Tom Jackson from the VM, The Harmonious Hunks, BHS judge Alan Gasper, Jerilyn Evans in the Marketplace, and many others for playing their part in the segment with class.
The segment even aired out an issue with some assumed sterotypes of barbershop harmony singers, and the convention’s inability to effectively live up to them.
In Conan’s words, “My biggest disappointment is people don’t have the handlebar mustaches, they don’t have the striped vests, the straw hats, and the arm garters… that’s what I came for! And now I see these kids walking around with their backwards baseball caps…”