Domestic partners Niki and Esther aren't huge fans of Conan O'Brien. Before they went to see the documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop at The Royale in Mesa, Niki had watched maybe two whole episodes of Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the early '90s, and Esther was more familiar with him from animated GIFs on website You're the Man Now Dog. But they both felt NBC taking The Tonight Show from Conan O'Brien to give it back to former host Jay Leno was bullshit.
Part of O'Brien's settlement with NBC was that he could not appear on television for six months after his departure from the network. So O'Brien went on a live tour, dubbed the "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour." Conan O'Brien Can't Stop is a documentary by Rodman Fletcher that follows O'Brien across the country and behind-the-scenes as he performed in 32 cities over two months in 2010. It's showing at The Royale through Thursday, August 4.
Niki: I have to say, I took away two major things from this documentary. Number one: Conan O'Brien really is funny. Number two: Show business is hard freaking work. Honestly, after watching Conan perform all those shows, then meet a bunch of people after every show, I did not envy him. It was exhausting just to watch.
: I'm glad we got to see him outside of work, and his reactions and interactions with his fans. It made me like him even more.
Niki: Well, let me ask you this: Would you want to meet and take pictures with a hundred people after every one of your work shifts?
Esther: no. He's a stronger person than I.
Niki: What did you think was the funniest part of the film?
Esther: Hmm. What really got me laughing? You know, I think he thing that really got me laughing was seeing a girl wearing a "I'm dreaming of bonin' Conan" shirt, and his reaction to the shirt, "I don't think we sell that one." It was a really well done shirt, too. It wasn't like Sharpie on a white shirt. It was custom-made, really well done.
Niki: My favorite part was probably when he compared his anger over getting dumped by NBC to a gallstone. "It just has to pass through my urethra..."
Esther: I can't remember if it was his first show in Eugene where the town was all dead...
Niki: It was Eugene, Oregon.
Esther: And that girl had a cardboard sign that said she'd pay $100 for a ticket. And it looked like some news station or some podcast was filming her with the sign, asking a few questions.
Niki: And that Eugene show was packed. You know, I was struck by how insecure Conan seemed at times. Like, he's all worried that it looks like nobody lives in Eugene, and then it's packed. He Twitters about his tour and is all worried and watching the clock, and then the first three shows sell out in under 20 minutes. And when someone tells him, "That was awesome," his reaction is, "What was wrong with all the other times?"
Esther: And you totally cannot tell that he's having self-doubt when he's onstage. You can't. This also follows into how he really feeds off the energy that people throw out, but at the end of the day, he's acting like he's all angry he has to deal with people, but he's not truly angry about people. And his crew had to deal with a lot of the fall out, but they took it in stride.
Niki: He was punching everybody all the time.
Esther: Not everybody, but a lot of people...he realized he was being a dick a lot of times. He said, "I might be a fucking genius, or I might be the biggest dick ever. I don't know." Then he proceeds to compare himself first to Patton, then Napoleon.
Niki: And later, he indirectly compared himself to Anne Frank.
Esther: I think what really sums up everything is when, off camera, [film maker] Rodman Flender asks him, "Do you think you can have fun without an audience in front of you?" And Conan proceeds to look at him with a very incredulous look that says, 'You really had to ask that?' but [he] doesn't say anything.
Niki: Oh, we need to talk about the celebrity cameos...
Esther: I think it's better if we don't say who, and let everybody be surprised like we were.
Niki has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and PHOENIX magazine, and is now a full-time freelancer.