Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hot Docs review: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

Writer/Director: Rodman Flender
Producer: Gavin Polone, Rachel Griffin
Biographical music/comedy documentary
1 hour, 29 minutes

The title is quite true. He really can’t stop. This highly entertaining doc looks at the aftermath of the Tonight Show fiasco where Jay Leno gave up his job to Conan O’Brien only to flop on his new show and ask for his old time slot back. O’Brien would still have kept the name of The Tonight Show, but would have gone on after midnight, making it no longer "tonight" but the next day. He refused that arrangement and as part of the settlement with NBC, he was banned from appearing on television, radio or internet for six months.

Instead of taking a break, he went on a 32-city comedy and music tour dubbed the Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour. It started in Eugene, Oregon and took him across the U.S. and Canada. This film chronicles that long, grueling tour and shows how O'Brien really can't help but be "on" at all times.

What emerges is a very funny portrait of a very funny man who even though he is exhausted and depressed continues to throw himself at his work. Even when he's not trying, he's still funny. He simply can't help himself.

In addition to his sharp comedy, he proves to be an adept guitarist as well. The film includes concert footage where he is joined onstage by the likes of Eddie Vedder and Jack White. The sound for the live concert scenes isn't the greatest, but it's still entertaining. The film doesn't, however, go into the unexplained split with Max Weinberg who led the band for O'Brien on The Late Show and The Tonight Show, but parted when they left NBC.

All in all a very enjoyable and fun-filled portrait. Even those who might not care for him will be won over by Conan and feel for him as he gives it his all night after night. It really makes you wonder what on earth NBC was thinking by choosing the very tame Jay Leno over the much more exciting and witty O'Brien.

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