×

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:
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.

Popular on Variety

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.

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

  • Spirited Away

    Netflix to Carry Iconic Studio Ghibli Animated Films

    The iconic animated features of Japan’s Studio Ghibli will be available on Netflix from February. The move is a further change of position for the studio which has repeatedly resisted the idea that its beloved cartoons would be released on digital platforms. Netflix, sales agent Wild Bunch, and Studio Ghibli, which counts Hayao Miyazaki as [...]

  • Outstanding Performance by a Cast in

    SAG Awards 2020: 'Parasite' Makes History; 'The Crown,' 'Mrs. Maisel' Earn Top TV Honors

    Neon’s “Parasite” won best motion picture cast at the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, becoming the first foreign language film to pick up the top prize. Netflix’s “The Crown” was named best TV drama and Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” earned the prize for best TV comedy in a strong showing for streaming [...]

  • Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Lee Jeong-eun,

    SAG Awards 2020: The Biggest Snubs and Surprises

    The Screen Actors Guild Awards are always the first peer group ceremony of the new year, giving those who make films and television series the chance to celebrate each other. Going into the 26th annual ceremony, which took place Jan. 19, the nominees were a mix of industry veterans and beloved favorite and some newer-comers, [...]

  • HAF logo

    Hong Kong Project Market HAF Lines up Cream of Asia for 2020 Edition

    Lin Cheng-sheng (“Betlnut Beauty”), Giddens Ko (“You Are The Apple of My Eye”), Pang Ho-cheung (“Love in a Puff”) and Yeo Siew-hua (“A Land Imagined”) are among the big name Asian directors lining up to participate in the 18th edition of the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The powerhouse project market will run for [...]

  • Jennifer Aniston

    SAG Awards: The Complete Winners List

    Korean thriller “Parasite” made history at the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, becoming the first foreign-language film to win best motion picture cast. In another streaming stride, Netflix’s “The Crown” nabbed best TV drama and Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” took home best TV comedy. In a repeat of the Golden Globes, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content