CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP – The Review
Wow, has it been a year already since the late night war was resolved? I suppose I should specify Late Night War II. The first war happened when Johnny Carson vacated The Tonight Show throne nearly twenty years ago. This was well chronicled in Bill Carter’s book “The Late Shift” which was also the basis of an HBO original movie. Carter’s released a new book about the new battles if you want some more background information ( or wait for the inevitable cable TV movie ). The focus of the new documentary by Rodman Flender, CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP, concerns this war’s aftermath. As part of his NBC settlement, O’Brien must stay off TV, radio, and the Internet for several months. So is Coco gonna’ ride the couch? Not a chance! He’s going across the country ( and Canada ) to thank his loyal fans by putting on a live stage show! But this is far from Mickey and Judy using the old barn to put on a musical.
In this new film we get to follow the evolution of this big tour. We’re in the writers’ room as O’Brien and his staff put the act together before taking it on the road. Of course loyal sidekick Andy Richter is right on board as is Jimmy Vivino’s band. Because live music will be a huge part of the show, auditions are held to find two female back-up singers. The company rents a rehearsal space. The show dates and cities are announced online and quickly sell out. Tension mounts as they prepare a test show performed before an audience of ex- show staffers. The first tour stop is Eugene, Oregon. We get to see O’Brien deal with pre-show jitters. Chicago, Las Vegas, Austin, and Atlantic City follow. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert join him for a skit on stage in NYC. Jim Carrey does the same in LA. Celebrity well-wishers fill up the backstage area before and after the shows. There’s major tension at the Bonnaroo Music Festival as O’Brien is pressed into introducing various musical acts.
As for the shows themselves, we don’t get to see much before some brief snippets. Maybe there’s a DVD concert set coming out soon. Like many rock band documentaries we experience some of the travel tedium along with the energy rush after a well received show. You can almost smell the sweat after his last bow. O’Brien should be exhausted, but feels an obligation to greet his fans. That interaction may be the real heart of this film. A couple of times,fans say to him, ” You got the shaft!” to which he quickly replies, ” Oh no. Not at all!”. O’Brien signs endless items ( beer cans, flesh ) and poses for countless photos. Amazingly he doesn’t lose his cool when a clueless teenage fan says an offensive religious slur in front of him ( “Don’t ever use that phrase again.” is O’Brien’s retort ). The film concludes shortly after the tour ends as he settles into his new home on cable super-station TBS proving not only that Conan O’Brien can’t stop , he won’t let anyone ( or any network ) stop him.
Overall Rating: Four Out of Five Stars