Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" (Documentary) (2011) - Movie Review

My first visual of Conan O’Brien was sometime during the grad school days when his late night show was going on in the background in a friend’s television and his comedic entry to the stage. His buffoonery entrance did not impress me rather annoyed a little bit. Then when I visited the NBC studio 3-4 years back, I saw his studio and for some reason triggered to follow his show. From there on I have been a straight up Conan fan. While I like Jay Leno’s act, Conan O’Brien has always been very grounded in his comedy. There is a simplicity to his jokes. And his attitude to acknowledge his falls makes it even more funnier which made me appreciate his comedy a lot more. He is phenomenal especially in his interaction with other people which fascinates me. He is the man he appears on the show. “Conan O’Brien” Can’t Stop” is the behind the scenes documentary of his “The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour” wherein we see him at his highs, lows and everything in between.

Being exited from the Tonight show seven months after he took over it caused him hurt, pain and anger. The exit money was tremendously huge but it is not about the money. What exactly went down rode along for days in the media and laughing war between the hosts. Now with nothing in prospect and the future of his career in question he begins the tour. The film begins with few interviews of the man but the real movie begins when the tickets for the tour sells off rapidly. The ultimate fun begins when the crew hits the air and road.

He is bitter and his props for fun, tease and taunt becomes the people around him. His personal assistant puts up with those mainly because she knows her boss is going through tough times and he is a good man outside of this. He is hilarious and an entertainer throughout his daily life. I was watching an entertainer in a show during my visit to Wisconsin Dells. An old guy with the talent for simple juggling and odd tricks, most of his act involved him talking giving a partial standup. I deduced this about the man that he is the entertainer not on the stage alone but in real life. That is him and this is not an act. So is Conan O’Brien. A man determined to make all his conversation a comedy, a one liner and to induce laughter in the person conversing with him and around him.

He mentions that right on the day of the last episode of the Tonight show, he began planning this tour. 44 shows around the country and he begins to breathe the show. We see him formulate an idea and conceptualize through the writers and perform with his full capability. He is nervous, tense and focussed right before the first dress rehearsal and exhausted after it. He lays on the couch drinking water after every show and we are drenched in his sweat. Then after five minutes he goes to meet the fans outside. Sign the sheet, take pictures while the camera falters due to the inability of the operator of the device. He holds the smile forever and heads back to the dressing room. He is frustrated and has a love/hate relationship with the tour and meeting the fans. He does not want to disappoint a fan and at the same time it dries him out and wonders why he has to do this.

“Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” is not so of a statement or propaganda on the man’s case and his disappointment with Leno and NBC. It contains the emotion towards it but it is more about the man living through the applause and thrill of standing in front of a crowd. This is his job and he has to do it. This is his drug and this is his cure. He does not care how good he is but feeds off the enjoyment of the audience. His audience is available 24 hours in and around him. That drives him to push through the day and wake up for a kick ass morning. That the title makes sure to deliver and movie backs it up with the evidence.

While this tour was happening, he was also in the process of selling his show to other station. The concept of uncertainty is troubling and I can tell it from experience. Not that world is going to fall apart but the bother remains. It is an itch that cannot scratched and it drives you to insanity. People deal with it in different ways while Conan did it with burying himself in work. His workaholism becomes his way of surviving the ordeal and he succeeded admirably. Directed by Rodman Flender, it is entertaining to see the man behind the stage, in the dressing room and his interaction with his crew. It is moving at times to see him aggravate himself and swallow through the anger. It is funny to see him picking up his colleagues and co-workers. One thing I would remember is I would never ask him to have a picture with me when I do meet him some point in my life.

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