It goes without saying that Americans love watching celebrities fail. We observe in blissful shock when Michael Richards goes on a racist tirade during his stand-up act, and gobble up headline after headline of Jon and Kate’s doomed marriage.

The celebrity meltdown is a pastime of sorts, and the national stage makes it all the more enticing. But when it comes to indulging in the superficial world of Hollywood gossip, I, too, am guilty. Which brings me to Conan O’Brien taking over “The Tonight Show.”

Up until last week I rarely, if ever, sat down to watch an episode. It just wasn’t in me to plop in front of the TV with a bowl of popcorn nestled between my arms and say, “Hmm, I wonder what guests Jay has on tonight?” The sheer act would have required me to give up on life all together. And believe me when I say this, I have plenty to live for.

But it was not the guests droning on about their latest movie that I had a problem with. To be quite honest, I never found Jay Leno to be very funny.

Leno’s bland style of humor is far too tame for my taste. Take his “jaywalking” segment as a case in point. For those unfamiliar, “jaywalking” entails Jay (hence the name) asking random strangers a series of common knowledge questions, only to watch the hilarity ensue as each moron responds with an answer even more idiotic than the last.

Thanks to Jay Leno, that overwhelming sense of wonder over whom is buried in Grant’s tomb has strangely vanished. I feel cheated.

When Conan O’Brien took the helm a couple weeks ago, I was thoughtful and curious. Could Conan, with all of his wiseass antics and East Coast bravado, be “The Tonight Show”’s saving grace? More so, would Leno’s flatulence-prone audience respond to O’Brien’s humor?

They were questions I was positive I knew the answer to. Much like the Hindenburg, O’Brien would be a monumental failure. Media scholars would forever debate his many misses and his fiery reign of terror would ultimately go down as “The Conanburg.”

My reasoning was simple. When granted the option of Conan and Andy’s quizzical look into the future, via the past, in their recurring Year 2000 skit (appropriately changed to the year 3000), or another wacky episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” (“Debra! Where are my pants?!!”), the Barone family wins every time. Not to say I’m above the watered down high jinks of Ray and his impeccably well-behaved wife and children. It’s just that my upbringing involved much more yelling and much less comedic one-liners.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live in an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but torture seems like a more appropriate option.

I guess for me, Leno and Romano were one in the same, both creatures of immense talent, but with little or no substance. Rather than challenge the mores of comedy, they adhered to its time worn traditions. Although mildly amusing, their jokes more or less said nothing aside from “laugh now.” One needs only a laugh track to consummate the diluted response.

O’Brien, however, marked the arrival of a fresher brand of comedy, one whose idiosyncratic nature was admired and loved by college students and young people. Would he lighten up his act to make it more palatable for “The Tonight Show”’s audience? Probably not. And his first weeks as host proved this.

It’s still too early to tell whether the “Conan experiment” will fail. In the meantime, I’ll be one of many watching.