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Ten Word or Less Review – Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, wanting you to love him.

The above statement is the crux of the late night host self effacing, warts and all documentary which catalogs the comedian’s 2010 comedy tour across America.  The camera was turned on shortly after Conan’s much ballyhooed departure from The Tonight Show so that the geezer sanctioned Jay Leno could resume hosting duties after reneging on his promise to retire and mercifully go away.  Riddled with anger, anxiety, and unchanneled energy, and barred from being on TV for six months, O’Brian launches a tour across America to satisfy his desire to entertain with joke and song, and perhaps more importantly, to vent his grievances to adoring fans.

O’Brien is very direct about how he feels about the entire NBC/Leno/Tonight Show debacle.  His hostility at those responsible and the loss of his coveted show are dealt with through barbs and pointed jokes and you can sense the very deep, palpable resentment behind each zing.  He’s a funny guy who’s lost the one thing he dreamed about for years and he’s pissed about it.  His tour starts off as perhaps a type of catharsis.  A creative outlet that he’s never been afforded on the confines of TV.  But as the it grinds on we’re left observing what the experience is doing to O’Brien.  It’s making him a better entertainer, but is he becoming worse as a person?

This documentary affords the audience a chance to see O’Brien’s personality at its best and worst.  He’s a demanding perfectionist of himself and the those who work for him but his attitude towards underlings sometimes lapses into abusive and insulting.  He’s not completely unaware of this.  A belittling run of jokes at the expense of 30 Rock co-star Jack McBrayer feels particularly harsh, nasty and unprovoked.  McBrayar stands there and takes it, a look of ‘What the Hell did I do?’ all over his face.  Also casting a strange reflection on the man is his relationship with his audience.  O’Brien is an entertainer with an acute compulsive need to solicit approval from fans enthralled by his antics, even if it means physical exhaustion on his part and eventual resentment of the very fans he so desperately wants to love him.  As his tour winds down O’Brien looks aged, worn and weary, yet he still habitually throws himself at those who love him, only to become grated by further face time.

Can’t Stop is an engrossing documentary for O’Brien fans but works on a larger level as well.  It affords us a look at the type of personality/celebrity which craves attention an adoration on a massive scale.  O’Brien looks to have taken great strides to remain a grounded and approachable person, but the effects of celebrity are as vivid as the joksters nefarious, flaming red hair.  He’s a man who whole heartily wants our love and devotion at all cost, even if it possibly means driving himself to the brink of burnout in the process.  A few weeks after his grueling tour ended, Conan announced his return to TV where he beams at his audience brightly five nights a week.  Now approaching 20 years on TV I hope Conan knows when to stop.


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