“Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop”: Backstage with Coco
“I’m sick of people saying that I’m drunk with power! Or that I’ve lost perspective!” shouts Conan O’Brien at his sycophantic staff, during one of many moments of edgy backstage needling in Rodman Flender’s documentary “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.” Yeah, it’s a joke, of course.
But it also represents a vein of uncomfortable humor that runs all the way through this fascinating film, a chronicle of O’Brien’s “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” tour, which brought the comedian’s traveling vaudeville act to 32 North American cities during his six-month, post-“Tonight Show” banishment from the small screen last year.
It’s also a joke, I guess, when O’Brien later compares himself to Anne Frank, leading his assistant, Sona Movsesian, to gape at him in open-mouthed disbelief. He grumbles his acknowledgment that she’s right, it may be going too far to compare being paid $45 million not to appear on TV with being killed by the Nazis, and you see a flicker of distaste or unhappiness move across his truculent expression.
Like: Am I really this person now? Success in show business demands an obsessive, even maniacal drive, along with a diva-ish degree of self-regard and a projection of your own will onto the universe. It should be no surprise that O’Brien possesses all those qualities, despite a public persona based on his humility and upper-middle-class ordinariness.