Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

Directed by: Rodman Flender
89 minutes

East Coast Premiere

2011 Closing Night Film

What do you do when you get your dream job, only to lose it six months later? If you’re Conan O’Brien, you get angry for a while... and then you go to work. As he is contractually forbidden to be funny on TV, he mounts a live variety show and takes it on the road. The success of the venture is by no means guaranteed; after years of seeing him onscreen for free, will people pay to see him in the flesh?

Anyone who was lucky enough to catch the tour when it hit the Wang Center last fall knows the answer to that question. But the Conan who emerges in this documentary is a surprising one indeed. Onstage, we see the familiar public figure: affable, quick witted, self-deprecating, wildly energetic, and intelligent. More revealing are the offstage scenes, which show the entertainer’s vulnerable side as he wrestles with the insecurity and exhaustion that a lengthy tour can induce. The flip side of the public’s adulation is that they are never satisfied, and the more thinly Conan is stretched, the further his patience is eroded.

However, offstage or on, Conan’s mind is constantly working: he never misses an opportunity to squeeze a laugh from his audience, whether it’s a sold-out theater or just a handful of his trusted staff. And Rodman Flender’s camera catches it all.

It is impossible to not be inspired by O’Brien’s work ethic. He is a dervish, constantly striving to improve his performance. By providing unique insight into this critical transition point, CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP reminds us that endings are opportunities for new beginnings. It also is a side-splittingly funny documentary about one of the most hilarious and hard-working people in the industry.