It’s been about six months since Conan O’Brien took back the night with his talk show on TBS, but any fan of his or at least anyone still interested in what happened while he was off the air will want to see this documentary.
The film begins by explaining the controversy surrounding O’Brien’s ouster from NBC that favoured Jay Leno and the resulting ban from television, radio and the internet for six months. From there it chronicles the planning and execution of the Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour and Conan’s energies throughout it.
As my film companion Lindsay from Broken Pencil pointed out before it started, would Can’t Stop be about how Conan can’t stop working, or how he can’t turn off the funny? Turns out, it’s a little bit of both. The doc really tries to show Conan’s vulnerabilities during his down-time: his need to be in front of an audience, his stresses about actually being in front of an audience and as the tour winds down, everyone going past exhausted into slightly insane. It becomes evident that the root of most of Conan’s jokes (at least in this doc) comes from that classic gut feeling of self-deprecation. Conan cracks plenty of jokes that demean or draws attention to himself – “Paparrazzi!!” he shouts as a plane flies over him signing an autograph.
But that kind of thing is obvious, and this is getting too serious. Can’t Stop brings laughs every minute, whether it’s the tall guy, sidekick Andy Richter’s trained one liners, assistant Sona Movsesian’s unassuming funny business or the ridiculousness of certain fans. Sequences of quick editing helped, too. When Conan talks about something it will snap to an example. There are a handful of celebrity encounters as well, the funniest probably being with Jack McBrayer (Kenneth from 30 Rock) when he visits Conan backstage with Jon Hamm at one of the shows. Conan proceeds to make a ton of jabs at him about being “a hick,” and he just takes it.
I don’t want to give too much away, that would be an incredible buzz kill if I subtracted from your potential laughter. If you’re a fan of Conan, see this doc. It’s like a backstage pass to not only his sold out tour but to those six months where forced incognito turned into dark circles under eyes and some really funny moments.