Movie Review: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop [2011]

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop [2011]

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop [2011]
Director: Rodman Flender
Genre: Documentary
Language: English
Country: USA

The year 2010 was an eventful one for Conan O’Brien. In January, he lost his dream job as the host of the Tonight Show. NBC paid him $45 million to hand over the reigns back to Jay Leno, with an added contract clause being that Conan could not appear on television or radio for six months. Having such an extended break was unfathomable for Sir Coco, so he decided to go on tour, humourously titled “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour”. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a documentary about this 42-show binge where he performed for unanimously sold-out crowds.

It should be immediately apparent that this documentary will not appeal as much to non-Coco fans. Those who do not “get” Conan’s style of humor will find little of value here. Having said that, this is a fascinating portrait of the tenuous summer of a man on a mission. Conan clearly isn’t in this for the money; he is doing this tour for his fans, and for his absolute need to perform.

Conan O'Brien: Can't Stop [2011]

There are plenty of clips from his various shows, everything from his first concert in Eugene, Oregon to his appearance at Bonnaroo. I wish I had the chance to see him here in Chicago, and I am especially kicking myself for missing out after seeing this documentary. Much like Conan himself, his shows were all over the place, equal parts rock-and-roll, comedy and even reminiscent of a variety show with plenty of guest appearances (Eddie Vedder, Jack White and Jack MacBrayer all make cameos, to name a few).

However, the best parts of Can’t Stop are when the camera focuses on the backstage events and life on the road. This is where we learn the most about Conan the person. It is obvious that he is a genuinely funny and intelligent being, and he loves being the center of attention. He does a lot for his fans, although the toll of signing autographs and taking pictures clearly wears him down as the tour progresses. He is always friendly to those whom he meets, even though he would rather be relaxing with friends after an intense performance. Conan’s quick jabs at his writers and other personnel may make him come across as a bit of a dick at times, but I can’t help but feel that everyone would be on edge during a long tour like this, especially when his “off days” turn into impromptu secret shows.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop [2011]

The documentary is full of laughs, but my personal favorite moment was watching Conan impatiently wait around backstage before his surprise appearance at his college’s 25th reunion. He is clearly restless and busts out his guitar to pass the time. This turns into an impromptu performance of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” complete with a stand-up bass and a flute. Yeah, it’s just as awesome as it sounds.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a great documentary, one that those onboard Team Coco will get maximum enjoyment out of. I could have done without some of director Rodman Flender’s jumpy edits, but for the most part he does a wonderful job taking us into the life of one of television’s funniest entertainers. Equal parts hilarious and dramatic, Can’t Stop is well worth seeing.

8/10

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