Review: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

jason stives reviews the documentary about CoCo’s comedy tour …

You would think that for $45 million, you could hush anyone up about their problems and they would just go away. Conan O’Brien was given that much money but a man as vocal as him can’t be silenced nor his desire to work to be diminished even with such a hefty sum. What does a man do with $45 million? He goes on tour doing what he was already doing, and that’s what is seen in the documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop chronicles the manic ginger and one-time Tonight Show host on his 30-city “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television” tour that followed after his very public outing from The Tonight Show in early 2010. Because of the contractual obligation of not being able to appear on television for at least six months, O’Brien and the crew that made up Late Night and his stint on The Tonight Show toured the country creating essentially a rawer and untelevised version of Conan’s late-night talk show.

If anything is to be learned from spending time with Conan O’Brien, it’s that he is a great boss. I don’t mean on the he occasionally sits in with the team kind of Boss, but one of the guys. Practically cohorts with his writers, producers, and his personal assistant, he shows a great care for the people who work for them, which makes sense since he had them paid handsomely when he left NBC. He also displays a strong respect for his fans, never turning down a picture or an autograph. Basically, Conan knows his bread and butter, and regardless of any talent, one man can’t do the task of hundreds.

Also, it’s obvious Conan was still very pissed at his sudden ousting by NBC executives in February 2010. For someone who has a calm and collective approach to his life and career, he is very candid in the only way he knows how to do it, through a laugh and big head of hair. It is sour grapes as you would expect it to be but considering how quiet he was in the press about it, it’s nice to see he wasn’t just sitting on his lumps about it. However it doesn’t stop him from jabbing at his former bosses or Mr. Leno including a scene where Conan reads a fake telegram from Jay asking Conan what it’s like to have a soul. It’s a bit vindictive and maybe egotistical but you can’t expect someone to swallow their pride and go gently into that good night.

His anger and his willingness to show it, is what reinforces personal frustration of what happened to him. The very public war that ensued when NBC executives wanted Jay Leno back in the late night seat has been played to death but it is something no less that this film was going to address. Thankfully, it’s not the bane of this projects existence and the heart of the matter is the tour and why it’s the reason Conan exists as a 21st century Vaudevillian.

The tour itself from what was filmed of actual performances was a comedic juggernaut for Conan’s fanbase. With O’Brien flexing his musical talents with the future Basic Cable band as well as the return of classic characters like the Masturbating Bear, the show was a larger continuation of what was already funny to begin with. The tour is tracked from its opener in Eugene, Ore., to noted stops in New York, Boston, and the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

What is truly perplexing is that the tour was a success and everything featured were hallmarks of Conan’s previous work, yet he still got booted off television. Politics aside, the undertaking of this tour as the film progresses shows a tired ring leader. Conan by the films end having already done almost 30 dates as well as the occasional two shows in one night, is fatigued and exhausted, probably one he was already feeling mentally from the exhaustion of his firing and the media blitz that followed it.

As an audience member, it’s not as exhausting. In fact, there is much to be desired. While seeing Conan bust out his exceptional guitar skills on rock and roll standards, only hints of bits done with sidekick Andy Richter and certain sketches are glanced at. Having not attended the tour, I wanted to see more, and know how the ideas came together and the overall model was presented as the tour went on. Thirty shows is a lot to stay fresh and I can only imagine what was changed as the tour progressed.

In the end, this is a venting project for Conan O’Brien, and we are willing to sit there and let him vent. He now his own talk show again which inherently makes this documentary seem like nothing but a desire for a young red headed kid to get what he wants. Thankfully, Can’t Stop is not just about politics and anger; it’s about satisfaction, something that both Conan and the audience get in the end.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Excellent)