A documentary by Rodman Flender. Rated PG.
Is Conan O'Brien some kind of a comedy monster, unable to repress his need to entertain for even a few minutes? Or is he a pop-culture genius, able to riff on trends and current events like an antic jazz man? Both notions will cross your mind while watching Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, a behind-the-scenes look at the inherent drama behind being funny.
The doc was directed by Rodman Flender, a friend since their time together at Harvard. His fly-on-the-greenroom-wall approach is perfectly suited to what starts as a whine of pain and ends up as a 32-city excursion. The immediate terms of O'Brien's spectacularly messy separation from NBC, after his long-time stay on bedtime TV, required his absence from rival shows for a year, and here we see him assembling the elements of the Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour, complete with Jimmy Vivino's pro backup band and singing dancers. (“We wanted to call them the Tourettes,” he quips, “but they kept yelling ”˜Fuck!' ”). Perennial sidekick Andy Richter is aboard but is, oddly, the most muted presence.
Much of the emphasis during rehearsals and during the launched-on-Twitter tour is on Conan's musical chops, to go with his arsenal of guitars, and there's even a side trip to Jack White's Chicago performance space. We're not shown a lot of comedy, although there are slightly awkward tíªte-í -tíªtes with fellow funnymen like Jim Carrey and Stephen Colbert. What O'Brien really can't stop doing is working every room he enters, even in his off hours. But this still leaves time to “playfully” humiliate his underlings and hapless visitors, such as 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer, who is forced to play the hick, clearly against his own wishes. That's what you take away from this fascinating, sometimes scary film: if Conan must dance, everyone else better keep moving.
Watch the trailer for Conan O'Brien Can't Stop.