Tonight's Show With Conan O'Brien
The once and future
king of late night closes out live tour in New York.
O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour, seen
June 1 at Radio City Music Hall, played like an extended and remixed
version of his “Late Night” show, including one of everything he might
have had on a typical episode, including a musical guest and a stand-up
comedian, just omitting the interviews.
Most of the highlights of the performance depended on audience favorites
from O’Brien’s “Late Night” material, namely Triumph the Insult Comic
Dog (seen on video) and his “Walker, Texas Ranger” bit.
The show opened and closed with grand musical flourishes featuring
O’Brien’s band members in the beginning, strolling out into the audience
in a long horn section-dominated jam. Toward the end, O’Brien himself
did his own version of this during a rendition of “Take A Load Off
Annie,” walking all the way up the aisle and climbing into the second
mezzanine, then along stairs that ran down the theater walls back to the
For most of the early part of the show, O’Brien settled into a monologue
– not about news stories or the usual fodder – but filled with wry
asides about his Tonight Show misadventure at the hands of NBC, even a
brief mockery of Jay Leno’s shrill voice. One of the most effective bits
of comedy of the night that were Conan’s doing alone were a video of
himself, hair slicked back and bespectacled, playing a nasty, snarling
network executive who squeezes the cat he’d been stroking like a Bond
villain, just a little too hard.
But it was the guest turns that really raised the level of the comedy in
the show, namely an appearance by Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart (who
probably were not present at other tour stops). Colbert came on first to
joust verbally with O’Brien, then challenge him to a goofy dance-off
during which Stewart suddenly appeared from the audience in something
like a caballero outfit.
Also contributing, in very small appearances, were Bill Hader, John
Krasinski and Paul Rudd, who each took turns engaging in brief banter
with their host before pulling the lever prop that called up the most
ridiculous “Walker Texas Ranger” clips Conan’s producers had found.
The only quibble with the show Conan has put together for this road
outing that is serving to keep him fresh in people’s minds for his
return to TV this fall is that it’s a little heavy on O’Brien performing
cover tunes, which he does serviceably but not astoundingly. But some
absurdity gets thrown in to leaven even this, namely in the form of a
giant blow-up bat that supposedly came from a Meat Loaf tour. And at
times, even O’Brien’s rock-star jones can pay off, as in an energetic
rendition of Elvis’ concert staple “Polk Salad Annie” and the disco hit
“I Will Survive.” Judging by the improvised banter with audience members
that O’Brien also fit into the show, which gave the night unique
touches, he will indeed survive.
Conan O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television”
returns for the final night of the tour June 2 at Radio City Music Hall
in New York.