Joel McHale mocks Ryan Seacrest even backstage at Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show

I gave up the now-cancelled/on extended hiatus Best Week Ever for E’s The Soup a while ago, and now I know why: Joel McHale’s dissection of popular culture is awesome, even in graffiti.

Backstage at The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, guests sign a wall after their appearances, and those signatures reveal a lot about the person who signed it. Tom Hanks, for example, has a small, understated signature underneath first guest Will Farrell’s massive signature, in which John Mayer wrote in one of the cursive looped Ls something like, I’ve always wanted to be inside Will Farrell. (There’s a slideshow of signatures on The Tonight Show’s web site, and as a bonus, they’re high-quality photos instead of crappy cell phone ones.)

Among the recognizable/readable signatures I saw while backstage at the Tonight Show yesterday–special guest, Heidi Klum, who said nothing substantive about the new Project Runway–were three belonging to reality TV-related guests, and they exemplified three general trends:

Some people think they’re more amazing than other people, and thus make their signature bigger or bolder than others. For example:

Daughtry's signature on Conan's wall

The wall has has already become a living memorial, sort of. Billy Mays appeared on the Tonight Show five days before his death in June:

Billy Mays' signature on Conan's wall

The best ones use their space to make a contextually appropriate and witty joke, and none of the signatures I saw did that better than Joel McHale’s, which is written maybe seven feet up on the wall:

Joel McHale's signature on Conan's wall

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.