You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

The biggest laughs and revelations are provided offstage in this slickly produced look at Conan O'Brien's cross-country tour.

With: Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, Steve Kroft, Eddie Vedder, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Jim Carrey, Jack White.

What starts out as a sanity-restoring make-work project evolves into a highly entertaining cross-country extravaganza during the course of “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop,” an up-close account of the former “Tonight Show” host’s two-month, 32-city comedy-and-music variety-show tour shortly after he parted ways with NBC in 2010. But the biggest laughs and most intriguing revelations are provided offstage in this slickly produced documentary, as O’Brien — often pushing himself to the point of exhaustion before, during and after performances — plays for keeps while playing for laughs. Pic could click with diverse auds in various venues and formats through its multi-platform release by Abramorama (theatrical), Magnolia Home Entertainment and AT&T’s U-verse TV service.

Helmer Rodman Flender assumes anyone watching his docu must already know the messy details of the story behind the story — for those who tuned in late, he offers only a fleeting recap of Jay Leno’s return and O’Brien’s departure as “Tonight Show” host. Still, the film likely will prove easily accessible even to those who are unfamiliar with O’Brien’s past and current TV projects.

Early on, O’Brien frankly admits his bitterness — “Sometimes,” he says without a trace of jokiness, “I’m so angry, I can’t even breathe!” — and strongly suggests that NBC execs aren’t the only ones he holds responsible for his reversal of fortune. (Later in the pic, he sarcastically imagines a telegram message from Leno: “What’s it like to have a soul?”) Worse, he adds, those same execs have contractually barred him from returning to TV for several months after the “Tonight Show” contretemps (though, it must be noted, this in exchange for a hefty contract buyout).

And, really, that’s all the uninitiated need know to fully understand O’Brien’s rationale for organizing and headlining “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour,” the two-month traveling sideshow that begins in Eugene, Ore., and ends in Atlanta, with stops along the way including a glittery Las Vegas showroom, Radio City Music Hall, and an un-air-conditioned tent at Tennessee’s popular Bonnaroo music festival. O’Brien considers the Bonnaroo’s sweltering discomfort and cracks: “In six months, I’ve gone from hosting ‘The Tonight Show’ to performing at a refugee camp.”

More often than not, O’Brien appears to be having the time of his life onstage — interacting with longtime sidekick Andy Richter, cutting up with guest stars (including Jim Carry, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart), and vigorously and quite capably performing covers of country and rockabilly tunes with his band and two backup singers. He comes off as genuinely surprised — and extremely grateful — that, for the first time in his showbiz career, he says, people actually are paying to see him perform.

Offstage, however, O’Brien is hard-pressed to sustain his customary level of comic exuberance as he copes with the demands of autograph- and photo-seeking fans, the unexpected duties that come with certain gigs (at Bonnaroo, he’s expected to introduce various musical acts as well as do his own show) and not-entirely-welcome backstage visits by celebs, well-wishers, and friends and relatives of band and crew members.

To be sure, Flender never shows O’Brien flying off the handle too explosively or furiously dressing down an underling. (This being the type of celebratory pic that it is, it’s hard to imagine Flender being allowed to show such behavior even if he had filmed it.) In fact, despite O’Brien’s occasional complaints about being overtaxed or imposed upon, and his very obvious signs of physical and mental exhaustion, the star gives the impression of being someone who, at this particular moment in his life at least, is temperamentally incapable of saying “no” very often.

He kvetches, he cracks wise, he self-mockingly comports himself as a prima donna — but, mostly, he goes with the flow. And the audience is left to wonder whether, had O’Brien not landed a new latenight series with TBS, he might not still be on the road. For all its enjoyable hilarity, “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” often raises a provocative question: How much must a man do to forget, if only temporarily?

Tech values are first-rate, ensuring the pic will impress ticketbuyers as well as homevid viewers and cable subscribers.

Popular on Variety

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop

Production: A Pariah Prods. production. Produced by Gavin Polone, Rachel Griffin. Executive producer, Kathy Landsberg. Directed, edited by Rodman Flender.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Flender; music supervisor, Paul DiFranco; sound (Dolby Stereo), Michael Clark; associate producer, Ivan Bess. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (Headliners), March 13, 2011. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, Steve Kroft, Eddie Vedder, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Jim Carrey, Jack White.

More Film

  • 'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at

    'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at Camerimage Film Festival

    “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher’s bid, along with director Todd Phillips, to try something “perhaps even a bit artful” won big Saturday in Torun, Poland as he took the top prize at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival. The Golden Frog for cinematography, along with the audience prize, went to his work filming Joaquin Phoenix in the [...]

  • Roberto Schaefer

    Netflix Image Enhancement Rules Take Cinematographers by Surprise

    A Netflix requirement that cinematographers capture films in HDR, or high dynamic range, has taken many by surprise, filmmakers say, but those at the 27th EnergaCamerimage festival in Poland seem increasingly accepting of the change. DP Roberto Schaefer, whose “Red Sea Diving Resort” screened at the cinematography fest in the historic city of Torun, said [...]

  • Lech Majewski and Josh Hartnett

    Lech Majewski on ‘Valley of the Gods,’ Navaho Mythology, Josh Hartnett, Keir Dullea

    TORUN, Poland – In his latest work, “The Valley of the Gods,” director Lech Majewski explores the ancient mythology of a downtrodden people and the absurd wealth of the world’s richest man in a surreal vision of modern America. The film screened at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival as part of special showcase honoring Majewski, [...]

  • The Red Sea Diving Resort

    Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer on Gideon Raff's Thriller ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’

    TORUN, Poland – While Gideon Raff’s Netflix thriller “The Red Sea Diving Resort” shot largely in South Africa and Namibia, the project was a welcomed opportunity for cinematographer Roberto Schaefer due to his own memorable travels through Ethiopia. The film, which screened in the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival’s Contemporary World Cinema section, is loosely based [...]

  • Film director and scriptwriter Vojtech Jasny

    Vojtech Jasny, Award-Winning Czech Filmmaker, Dies at 93

    Czech filmmaker Vojtech Jasny, director of “All My Good Countrymen,” which won the best director prize at Cannes in 1969, has died. He was 93. According to the Associated Press, Slovacke divadlo, a theatre he frequently visited, said that Jasny died Friday, and a family representative confirmed his death to the CTK news agency. Jasny [...]

  • Noelle Anna Kendrick

    Film Review: 'Noelle' on Disney Plus

    What do you get when you toss together Christmas cheer, Christmas kitsch, a fish-out-of-the-North-Pole setup swiped from “Elf,” and a plot that turns on whether Kris Kringle’s daughter, played as a perky naïf by Anna Kendrick, has what it takes to step into her dad’s snow boots? You get a plastic icicle like “Noelle,” Long [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content