While it falls slightly short of last summer’s documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” in terms of providing insight on the souls of stand-ups, “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” is still a fascinating true story of catharsis through comedy and the journey of one man across America to overcome his anger. When that man is Conan O’Brien and the story is true, it makes for a much better watch than your average melodrama. It’s touching and humorous, never stooping to the lows of a mere “behind the scenes” documentary.
I remember watching the end of Conan’s tenure on “The Tonight Show,” also the beginning of this documentary, depending on your outlook. I remember his joking in spite of it all, but mostly I remember this quote: “All I ask of you, especially young people … is one thing. Please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” It was a great message from someone leaving a terrible situation who seemed to be smiling to whatever life had ahead of him.
But as “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” shows, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Conan takes no steps to hide the fact that he was angry at Leno and NBC for screwing him over, and this rage is something that he has to take great steps to keep bottled up inside. Thus, he has to surround himself with people and keep trucking forward in show business, fearing that it will consume him if he were ever to stop.
He then embarks on the well-publicized “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on TV Tour,” a wild comedy act of his own invention to keep him busy in the six months that NBC stipulated he could not appear on television. It’s fun for us to watch, as it shows a personal side to Conan that we don’t get on late night between celebrity interviews and political humor. Although we all know that he now has a show on TBS, it’s a fascinating journey of indecision and rediscovery through show business, revealing of both a man and a craft. A-
Marshall blogs at Marshall and the Movies.
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