Tom Cruise is in London, getting into a car with Conan O’Brien for a clip that will light up the internet, and he couldn’t be more excited.
“We’re going to do Carpool Karaoke, right?” he says gleefully. “This is amazing.”
No, O’Brien explains; that’s a James Corden thing.
“Coffee,” Cruise says. “We’re going to go get coffee, we’re going to talk about comedy.”
No, O’Brien says; that’s a Jerry Seinfeld thing.
What O’Brien wants to do instead is very simple. He wants to get back to the basics.
“Listen to this,” he says. “We just drive.”
The resulting Conan segment, which aired Tuesday night, devotes 11 minutes — about the length of a standard Carpool Karaoke segment — to watching Tom Cruise and Conan O’Brien just drive.
They get stuck in traffic. It’s raining. Cruise suggests O’Brien might ask him some questions; O’Brien wants some help navigating a traffic circle instead. Cruise tries to helpfully point out some sights of London; O’Brien shuts him down. Eventually Cruise falls asleep.
It’s an aggressively boring clip that goes on for way too long, which is exactly what makes it so funny. If Carpool Karaoke exists in a mystical fantasy world where every car ride is the greatest road trip montage ever filmed, full of beautiful people belting out their favorite songs in their gorgeous professional-musician voices while the wind blows through their hair, then Conan’s “just drive” segment exists in the nightmare world of the worst-case-scenario road trip.
Conan has the child lock engaged so Cruise can’t escape from the car. He’s jet-lagged and has never driven in the UK before; furthermore, he says, he’s lost his license after driving on pills. (“The judge was so mad!” he chortles.)
“We’ve been driving for three and a half hours,” O’Brien remarks cheerfully toward the end of the segment. “We are now at the halfway point.” And Cruise, with horror dawning in his eyes as he realizes there’s no way out for him, is playing perhaps the most relatable role he’s ever had.