Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011)

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011) – So if you really look at it, Conan O’Brien is a millionaire who quit after his less-than-satisfactory ratings caused NBC to try to move his show (and got several million more for doing so). Still, there’s really the overwhelming feeling like he got screwed. Leno’s ratings were worse than Conan’s so why would they give Leno back Conan’s time slot? Plus comedy shows need time to find the right tone and build up a fan base; Conan O’Brien’s The Tonight Show had seven months. In a time of economic crisis and massive unemployment, Conan’s was not really a hard-luck story, but there was something identifiable about it anyway.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is a documentary about Conan O’Brien’s Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour in 2010. As the name of the tour would indicate, as part of his settlement with NBC Conan was not allowed to appear on television for a number a months. He came up with the idea of the tour because, as the title of the movie would indicate, he can’t stop. One thing that becomes very clear (and explicitly stated) in the movie is that O’Brien is a man with a compulsive need to entertain. The guy is never off. If he’s around people he’s trying to make them laugh. The movie is by-and-large a favorable profile, but it doesn’t shy away from the fact that there’s something unhealthy about needing to be the witty center of attention all the time. O’Brien doesn’t even try to hide it. He can even be a bit of a dick sometimes when his jests go a little far with his staff.

The film is directed by Rodman Flender, the director of one of my all-time favorite “guilty pleasure” films Idle Hands. I can’t say that stylistically there is much similarity but he’s directed another movie that I am absorbed by, so good on him. There are one-on-one interviews (mostly with Conan) but this movie generally just follows him around on his tour, which includes stops at Bonnaroo and his Harvard class reunion. If you like show business documentaries, this is one that is definitely worth checking out.

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