“Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” is one of the most aptly named films I’ve seen in a long time, because if you watch it you’ll see that O’Brien simply cannot stop, not even for one second. It’s maybe his most endearing quality; though to some it could also be his biggest weakness or turnoff.
This entertaining documentary, filmed nicely by Rodman Flender, shows that O’Brien, maybe the most beloved man on late night TV, has a wildly insatiable need to make people happy and laugh. The film shows us that comedy is not just O’Brien’s profession of choice, but a need that burns down deep inside of him that allows him to gratify himself through his audience.
Everybody who wasn’t hiding out under a rock a few years ago knows O’Brien’s story by now. He was the “Late Night” comedian who ascended to the throne of “The Tonight Show” on NBC when Jay Leno “retired” from his hosting duties only to realize he really wasn’t ready to retire and was given a primetime variety show by NBC, which failed miserably, which ended up in NBC wanting to push O’Brien’s ‘Tonight Show’ back to midnight and when O’Brien refused to cave the two parties came to an agreement for O’Brien to leave the network. The agreement stipulated that O’Brien couldn’t appear on TV for a number of months, so the comedian embarked on an across the country comedy tour billed as the “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour.” The documentary follows O’Brien from the beginning stages of his tour throughout the tour’s end.
This documentary is no holds barred in the way it shows us the true Conan O’Brien, which I doubt any of his fans have ever seen before. In fact, some of his fans might indeed wish they haven’t still. Based on fan feedback I’ve seen on the Internet many have come away from this documentary with a negative view of O’Brien for what they perceive in the film as him being a sarcastic or maybe even sardonic jerk. After watching the film, I don’t believe O’Brien to be any more of a jerk than I believed him to be before … and that’s not one at all. It’s O’Brien’s need to be liked and to feel successful by making those around him laugh that proves to me he cares. He waits and waits outside in front of seemingly never-ending lines of fans wanting autograph after autograph and he gives it to them, every last one of them. Yes, he’s bothered by this after a while and grows tired of it, but he still does it because he can’t let anyone down. This isn’t the sign of a jerk, no matter how whiny he might come off for complaining in front of the camera about it. He might not love it (celebrities shouldn’t be obligated to sign autographs for fans anyway), but he feels he has to do it. That’s the sign of true workman. O’Brien is definitely a workhorse. You get the feeling watching this film that if he hadn’t have embarked on this tour while barred from TV that he would’ve certainly gone stir crazy. While some might lose respect for O’Brien from the documentary, I feel that I’ve gained even more.
There are many good laughs in “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop,” after all it is about one of the most gifted comedians of our time, but the film is quite a bit more dramatic than I would have envisioned it to be going in. It’s definitely well worth the view and ranks has one of the best documentaries of its type.
“Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” can be viewed on Conway Corp. On Demand. O’Brien’s late night variety series “Conan” can be seen on TBS Conway Corp. Channel 8 at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday.