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‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop’ documents comedian’s 44-show tour as he comes to terms with his past and his future


Conan O’Brien’s very public feud with NBC  on the verge of his departure from ‘The Tonight Show’ 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop' photo: www.citypages.comwas pop culture fodder that television historians will be talking about for years.
In the weeks leading up to his final show, almost the entire general public rallied around O’Brien as the peacock network replaced him with his predecessor Jay Leno.

O’Brien knew the ship was going down, so he and sidekick Andy Richter took the bull by the horns, held nothing back, and put together some of the funniest sketches in the history of late night television.

Although O’Brien was given an estimated $32.5 million dollar severance package by NBC to walk away from television, he was legally prohibited from appearing on television, radio, or the Internet for six months following his swan song on ‘The Tonight Show’ in January 2010. For the first time in over two decades, O’Brien had no job, and the scars from his sudden upheaval of losing his job loomed large. Yes the money is nice, but money can’t buy happiness, and O’Brien was clearly lost.

After several months, O’Brien reemerged and decided the best way to get himself together would be to do the thing he does best- perform. The result was the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” which saw O’Brien, Richter, The Legally Prohibited Band, The Coquettes, and a cast of writers and producers stop through 32 cities (including Philadelphia’s Tower Theatre) while performing a mixture of comedy, music, appearances by Jack White, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jim Carrey, and everything in between.

'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop'  is a personalized ‘behind the scenes’ look at O’Brien (brought to you by filmmaker Rodman Flender) as he tries to cope with the chain of events that had transpired in the previous months while he attempts to get the tour off the ground during (at times frustrating) writing sessions and musical rehearsals.

What makes the film unique is Flender’s honest portrayal of O’Brien during some pretty intense moments throughout the documentary. While O’Brien seems appreciative towards his fans (he even prays with a family whom he meets at a rest stop in Connecticut), he appears to have bitten off more than he can chew in regards to the extensive touring schedule. By the middle of his cross-country trek, O’Brien appears mentally and physically exhausted. The everyday demands have taken its toll on him, he can be temperamental at times, and he clearly longs to return home to his wife and two kids. In fact, one unfamiliar with O’Brien’s trials and tribulations might get the impression that he can be a little surly. At times, his anger can be directed towards his staff as well as his family (although he admits he tries to mask these feelings through humor).

O’Brien however, fully realizes this, and confesses that part of his demeanor is his way of grieving over what happened with NBC. Despite the occasional rough patches, O’Brien and his crew take his situation into consideration, there is still plenty of humor to go around, and nothing ever gets too personal or out of hand.

After watching ‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop,’ it’s quite apparent that O’Brien taking his show to the road was the most effective way he could make his transition from television, to wherever life would lead him next (keep in mind this was prior to O’Brien landing his new gig with TBS) while reaching out to the fans who have supported him for almost 20 years. By the last show, O’Brien’s personal catharsis appears to have to reached its zenith, and he looks prepared to take on the next chapter of his life.

‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop’ is the most detailed look at O’Brien that will probably ever surface. There is something powerful about seeing someone take the steps needed to get their life back that they lost, while they heal themselves at the same time. Lots of us have been there and some of us are still trying. While chances are we  won’t walk away with a $30 million dollar consolation prize, the human element prevails here.

And in the end the hero rises again.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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