In the past year, comedian Conan O’Brien claims to have experienced “the greatest professional year” of his life, a story he openly shared with the Class of 2011 this past June. While he may have revealed snippets of his personal wisdom in his rehearsed speech, fans will get an intimate look at the man behind the comedian at his most vulnerable jobless in Rodman Flender’s illuminating and equally entertaining documentary “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium.
“Can’t Stop” shows Conan running around the United States and Canada on a music/comedy revue, since his contract banned him from making any appearance on radio, television or the internet for six months after leaving NBC’s “Tonight Show.” The contract failed to mention him appearing in any movies or musical tours.
So, of course, the man whose best skills are in improvisational comedy and leadership makes a documentary about his “downfall” on a musical expedition with guest stars, stand up, skits, and every other form of lighthearted entertainment imaginable. In this intimate portrayal, we see Conan in all his shades of orange: hysterically funny, passionate, dedicated, ambitious, goofy, self-effacing, angry, grateful and incredibly talented.
Whether one is a fan of Conan or not, “Can’t Stop” is an intimate portrayal of an artist at his least composed, a dissection of a high profile persona. It is strikingly similar to “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” which was shown in Lowe Auditorium earlier this year, indicating a popular trend in dissecting high profile comedians at their most human.
From both documentaries, the point that is often made is peculiar: The people we rely on for humor and happiness in our times of gloom tend to be as unhappy, insecure, and dissatisfied as anyone else. Yet they cope by making other people laugh, charming an audience to endearment with their flaws and vices.
Conan’s famously goofy sense of humor even carries him through an otherwise depressing situation as he takes responsibility for all his casts’ careers. His story unfolds during the legally imposed TV blackout, ending his successful 22-year career on NBC on a bitter note. For a man who lives for playing to a crowd, it was perhaps one of the worst experiences in his life.
But within moments of the news, fans from all across the world gathered, protested, started internet memes, called in nonstop to NBC executives, and formed the now trademarked brand of Team Coco.
With the unbridled support, his misery led to conviction, and as the very candid camera shows (and as he noted in his commencement), a need to create, experiment and try anything to overcome his obstacle and please his adoring fan base and himself as a comedian all of it captured for audiences’ eyes to see.
To Dartmouth students, “Can’t Stop” could very well serve as a lighthearted comedy or an inspirational lesson on perseverance in the face of turmoil. Better yet, it could showcase that it is okay to not to take ourselves too seriously, regardless of how high our ambitions are maybe even cope in ways other than ravage escapism, despite its ease.
Whether it is for comedy or inspiration, “Can’t Stop” is worth the watch as a great adventure and portrayal of one of America’s favorite comedians.
Conan falls apart in the documentary he whines, gets angry and impatient, and at times takes out his frustrations on his friends or enemies in bitter insults, wallowing in self pity at the cruel hand dealt to him. We have all been there, and it is ugly to watch. He doesn’t escape he grows.