Documentary Review: ‘Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop’
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop follows the comedian on his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour (that’s a mouthful to type), better known as the thing Conan O’Brien did after the NBC fiasco that left him without a television show. He’s bitter, but the film doesn’t dwell on the controversy; instead its aim is to focus on O’Brien’s showmanship.
His energy is amazing to behold. He’s performing whether on the stage, bus, at home, at the office, greeting hordes of fans or a meager handful—anywhere. If nothing else, the film deserves its title; the man literally cannot, and will not, stop. The 85 minutes breeze by as we see Conan go from Eugene, Oregon (“Should I be nervous that we’re opening in a city where no one lives?”) to Seattle to Atlantic City to Manchester, Tennessee for Bonnaroo, and finally to Atlanta. It’s a neat glimpse into the inner-workings of the tour, from the first Twitter announcement to the plane rides and fan meet-and-greets, through to the end. It’s consistently funny, even in its darker moments such as when he hassles his equally tireless assistant or laments the 100-plus people he has to meet that day. You can’t blame him, and, in fact, you come to sympathize with him for being such a good sport.
Of course Conan takes center stage, but the film’s also an interesting and fun look at the cult of celebrity. We see the herd of fans clamor for an autograph at every stop, and, time after time, Conan obliges them. They run the gamut of appearances from sexy to obese and with a butcher’s diagram of a cow tattooed on across his belly. They give him gifts of cookies, balloons, even knitted dolls. All of these he takes in stride and offers thanks and as much appreciation as he can squeeze in. When he’s criticized for blowing one off, you see how it angers but also hurts him.
When his van makes an unplanned stop at a gas station, he gets out and mingles with some of the customers. Two of them ask if they can pray for his success, and they deliver up an impromptu entreaty while still seated in their car. It’s an oddly touching moment of admirers giving back instead of asking something of their idol.
It’s short and sweet and consistently funny. Nothing groundbreaking, but broad and thought-provoking enough to appeal to fans and newcomers alike. I don’t know if it captures every aspect of the man, but as far as showing his unstoppable drive, it more than achieves that goal.
Conan O’Brien can’t stop is rated R. Directed by Rodman Flender. Starring Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter, Mark “Love Man” Pender, Richie “La Bamba” Rosenberg, Rachel Hollingsworth, and Fredericka Meek.