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Conan O'Brien tour coming, but will he return to TV?

The Conan O'Brien tour, 'Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television,' will hit 30 cities while the comedian is contractually bound to stay away from TV.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer, Staff writer / March 11, 2010

The Conan O'Brien tour gives fans like these, gathered in front of Universal Studios with signs bearing his nickname Jan. 28, a chance to catch him live in cities across the US and Canada.

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Conan O’Brien’s fans, fellow comedians, and other culture vultures are applauding the announcement that the former "Tonight Show" host will tour to at least 20 states and 30 cities between April 12 and June 14. The tour, as well as Mr. O'Brien's recent foray into Twitter, has media watchers split over what the comedian will do next.

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“It was either a massive 30-city tour or start helping out around the house,” O’Brien joked in a statement.

Some say the clear aim of the tour is to bring O'Brien enough exposure to get back to TV.

"What Conan hopes to accomplish with his cross-country tour is attract a huge enough interest to get him back on television with a plum deal,” says Paul Levinson, media professor at Fordham University.

“Since he has no TV show nailed down with Fox or Comedy Central, this is obviously his way of keeping himself in front of the people,” says Richard Goedkoop, a professor of communication at La Salle University in Philadelphia.

But others see O'Brien's unorthodox approach to his public ouster from NBC as an end run around the corporate culture that ousted him.

"He is ... thumbing his nose at corporate America (NBC) by saying with this tour: 'I may have to stay off TV for a period of time but that is not going to preclude me from doing what I love via other avenues,' " says Don Tanner of strategic communications firm Tanner Friedman.

"This 'rebel' approach makes him more a man of the people than ever before, and is going to both strengthen his eclectic fan base and win him new ones," says Mr. Friedman.

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