The early buzz on Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, which follows the titular talk show host on his 2010 Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television tour, was that it revealed a meaner, bitterer Conan, overwhelmed and lashing out at close colleagues. He was mad because of some of the most highly publicized inside baseball in television history—his resignation after NBC’s decision to bump Conan’s Tonight Show beyond midnight, following a half-hour show hosted by Jay Leno, who’d been unsuccessfully plugged into a ten o’clock slot. Conan claimed he quit because a Tonight Show that began the next day was neither what he’d been promised several years ago, nor respectful of the show’s distinguished history. He left with a $45 million payout and the agreement implied in the tour title.
The Conan (millions of non-friends refer to him by his first name because it’s unique, and because of television’s illusion of intimacy) chronicled here by old Harvard buddy Rodman Flender is more aggrieved and caustic, but everything you see was vetted and approved by O’Brien, so the “dark side” glimpsed is qualified. He’s passively aggressive to his writers and he complains about constant glad-handing and posing for photos with his backup singers’ guests. Attempting to flee a crowd in a car’s backseat, he says towards the camera, “Can you close the fucking door?” But Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is ultimately sympathetic to his situation, and rightly so—by all evidence the network did screw him in favor of the loathsome Leno, and he channeled his bitter energy into a slapdash but ambitious tour that gave back to the fans. Read Justin Stewart’s review of Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.