SXSW Review: Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

Monday, March 14 by

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is the documentary following O’Brien’s comedy tour following his ousting from “The Tonight Show.” It is an outstanding portrait of an artist that just lets us be in Conan’s world, the one we don’t get to see between late night episodes.

O’Brien is funniest when he’s just talking about life. He makes observations, decisions, even recaps what’s gone one since his last filmed interview. He can’t help satirizing events. He describes it in that irreverent way. Following a Hollywood tour bus is a brilliant bit of real life meta humor.

Watching the show sell out within an hour of O’Brien announcing it on Twitter is really a magic moment. We start seeing him spitballing bits like the “My Own Show Again” song (sung to the tune of “On the Road Again). His descriptions of his anger are as profound as his humor, although he never quite reveals the details of what he’s describing.

As the real work of writing the show starts, we see a demanding, aggressive side of O’Brien. Directing rehearsals, he is a professional who has to make sure his collaborators do their jobs right. He’s also serious about his food. He demands his assistant, Sona Movsesian, find a restaurant that will cook him fish without soaking it in butter. You can’t tell if he’s really mad at her, although Movsesian comes across as the best assistant ever by the end.

Sometimes O’Brien is a real dick. With the exhausting show underway, O’Brien is roped into schmooze fests with celebrities, which he’s not theoretically opposed to but it’s just too much to demand of someone’s time. He’s really mean to Jack McBrayer and I can’t tell if it was a bit that McBrayer was in on, or if O’Brien was just making redneck jokes at his expense.

O’Brien definitely lashes out but you come to understand he doesn’t blame his guests. There just needs to be a system to give himself rest. Meeting and greeting is more exhausting than performing.

He is good to his fans. It’s no small demand to give everyone an autograph or photo, and we see there are sometimes flaws in the system where people under him turn away fans. When it’s up to O’Brien, he signs and poses. He gets an anti-Leno gift from some fans on the road that’s vicious.

What begins as a document of the creative process turns into a portrait of the emotional sides of an artist. O’Brien is constantly funny, even at his meanest. Can’t Stop is rawer for exposing the slight edges in attitude than if it showed his break down crying.

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COMMENTS

  1. March 14, 2011 9:12 am

    Anonymous

    wow, i hope this comes to netflix streaming. sounds like a whole other side to coco.


  2. March 14, 2011 9:12 am

    Kellan Courchene

    O’Brien and Jack McBrayer know each other very well. Jack used to work on his show all the time. So yes Jack is in on the jokes.


  3. March 14, 2011 9:12 am

    Kellan Courchene

    O’Brien and Jack McBrayer know each other very well. Jack used to work on his show all the time. So yes Jack is in on the jokes.