Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Opens locally Friday, June 24th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, Jimmy Vivino
Directed by Rodman Flender (The Unborn, Leprechaun 2)
NBC's "The Tonight Show" is thought of as the pinnacle of a stand-up comedians career, and after years and years in waiting, 2010 finally saw Conan O'Brien taking it's reigns. He replaced Jay Leno, who was to move into a new primetime slot at 10:00 pm. But when Leno's new show bombed and with The Tonight Shows ratings down, the network proposed that Leno's show return to the coveted 11:35 pm timeslot, bumping Conan's The Tonight Show to after midnight for the first time in the show's history. When Conan refused to move to midnight, it created a media firestorm and massive public outcry.
The new doc "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" isn't a chronicle of Conan's departure and what led up to his leaving The Tonight Show. It picks up after he has left NBC, and after his settlement prevented him from making any public appearances on TV or Radio until the following Fall season. In the interim, you may remember, Conan found a loop-hole: There was nothing in the contract preventing him from doing a live stage show, and thus his "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" was born. This film is a sort of comedic rock-umentary, chronicling not only Conan's days after leaving the air, but much of the tour itself.
I must first preface my thoughts by saying I'm a huge fan of Conan...always have been from his days back at SNL. I consider him to be the cream of the late night crop, but I know there are many others who prefer Letterman, Fallon, Kimmel, or even Leno. So if you don't already like Conan and find his childish brand of improv humor funny, then it's a safe bet that you won't have too much here to be entertained by.
So with that being said, the documentary shows us a broken-down Conan who simply...can't stop. The title of this documentary couldn't be more accurate to sum up what his life is and was. Has he always been like this? Whatever the case may be, Conan is not one of those comedians who relies solely on writers to make him funny. Don't get me wrong, he has a strong group of writers around him, but Conan appears to be Conan on and off screen.
As we see him embark on his multiple-city comedy tour, we get an inside glimpse of Conan the human being...but the true glimpses of the man are few and far between. We get much more actual behind-the-scenes of the stage show itself than we get real Conan gossip...how it was put together, and how grueling it was. We see several cameos from big stars like Eddie Vedder and Jim Carrey, who drop by to show their support for Team Coco. We hear the bitterness and anger towards NBC and even Leno, but we see Conan always moving forward and never lingering to dwell on his misfortunes. We see that Conan makes time for his fans, but many times only because his manager has gone missing.
I found it fascinating that Conan's behind-the-scene brand of comedy differed from his on-air schtick. On air, he is the nerdy, insecure, butt-of-his-own joke. Off air, his humor reminded me more of Steve Martin, the self-absorbed, ego-maniac and true star of the show. Of course, he appears to be joking when he fires his assistant for not bringing him coffee, but his point was taken...bring me some damn coffee, please. In another scene, he is told to wait and hold out for a little longer, to which he says, "that's what they told Anne Frank." These kind of jokes are borderline for even Conan, but they show a side of his humor that goes beyond the limitations of the late-night censors.
The biggest flaw is that we don't learn too much more than what we already know. Conan lets the cameras in to film his life and then builds walls around his core. He is the saddest of clowns. Every time he reveals a bit of truth, he follows it up with a punch-line.
Which is why "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" is a must-see for his fan base. The dude is plain funny, and he literally can't stop. He's a performer, and needs it to survive. It would not be a stretch to say that this documentary was a glimpse into the life of an addict, not a drug or alcohol addict, but a performance addict. He needs this. Like Andy Richter says toward the tail-end of the film, "This tour is like chocolate cake, you can't eat it everyday." The two pause to acknowledge the thought, before Conan quips, "Andy, you do eat chocolate cake everyday."
"Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" is chocolate cake, a tasty treat that leaves us a bit buzzed but with our heads-spinning, wishing we knew more. They just seemed to skip the meat & potatoes.
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