Tuesday night had me back at DAR Constitution Hall to witness the madcap hilarity of the Conan O’Brien Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour. I don’t think I need to recap how Conan lost his Tonight Show gig to its former host, other than to mention how that extremely public NBC scheduling conflict resulted in one of the oddest forms of comedic revenge I have ever witnessed. The whole point of Conan O’Brien taking his variety show on the road is to keep America laughing while exacting sweet revenge on the ratings dead-weight that replaced him on air. For two months now, Conan O’Brien, his writers, and his band have been criss-crossing America delivering knock-out evenings of comedy and music. Tuesday night’s stop in DC was no different and provided the sold-out Team CoCo crowd with a non-stop night of comedic genius.
Conan O’Brien has often shared his fantasy to be a traveling rock musician and with nearly 6 months to kill before he is contractually allowed back on television he has decided to indulge that fantasy. With the remnants of the now defunct Max Weinberg Seven, re-christened The Legal Prohibited Band, backing him up, Conan has created a comedy/music variety show that is unlike anything that I have ever seen.
There were just too many amazing routines and gags peppered through-out the show to recap them all here. The show shifted gears constantly keeping the audience on their toes with costume changes, guest appearances, video segments, and “strobe lights n’ crazy movement“. Each song Conan performed was retooled with humorous lyrics reflecting Conan’s life story and his road to recovery after losing the Tonight Show gig. Notable reworkings were of Elvis Presely’s ‘Poke Salad Annie’ and the Cake cover-arrangement of ‘I Will Survive’.
Andy Richter, Conan writer Deon Cole, and band member La Bamba provided Conan with great comedic support. Richter bantered with Conan, had a nice monologue of his own while wearing a tiny cowboy hat and riding a ridiculous stuffed horse, and narrated a hilarious fake commercial for DC Duck Tours. Deon Cole did a mini-stand-up set right in the middle of the show to allow time for a prop set-up. Cole had fun turning racial stereotypes on their head and telling some funny stories about being the only black writer on the Tonight Show. And La Bamba, well, Conan licked La Bamba’s face and told the audience he tasted like Funyons!
Perhaps the most DC-centric part of the show was an amazing video segment featuring Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. In the video Triumph was delivering canned monologue which had region specific references digitally inserted. It was purposefully done so poorly that it was funny in its own right. But the DC specific references and insults that Triumph unleashed were even funnier. At one point he was insulting the food at Yum’s Carryout and said that if he “wanted his colon stuffed with mystery meat he’d go eat in Dupont Circle! Because it’s a gay neighborhood!” Insult dog indeed.
Perhaps the two best sight gags of the show were Conan returning to the stage mid-show in a skin-tight recreation of the purple, leather outfit Eddie Murphy wore in his concert film “Raw”; and the inflating of Conan’s “AC/DC” style stage prop. Other cities on this tour have had some amazing guest walk-ons. New York got Steve Colbert, John Stewart, and Pee Wee Herman. While those are cool and all, DC got something just a little more bitchin’.
Conan brought the original inflatable bat from Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell Tour” and inflated it not once, but twice on the DAR stage! Or at least what Conan claimed was the original Meatloaf inflatable bat. The thing sure did look aged and beaten enough to be the real thing. It also looked completely and utterly absurd. Conan said he bought it sight unseen and after it inflated he and Andy Richter took hilarious pot-shots at how lame and friendly looking it was. At one point Conan quipped, “This thing was supposed to guard the gates of Hell? We’re in Hell, we’re baking cookies!” Andy fired back, “Why is that bat getting a chest x-ray?”
It was obvious, from the many references to it during the night, that Conan O’Brien was very affected by losing the Tonight Show job. It was also obvious, from the heartfelt thank you he gave the audience and the great entertainment he provided them, that he was greatly moved by the huge public outpouring of support for him during that time. In a way the whole crazy tour seems like a way for him to travel the country and get as close as he can to personally thanking his dedicated fans.
In fact during the encore song he did just that. Conan leaped off of the stage and ran through the roaring crowd giving out high-fives and hugs and jumping up and down with screaming fans. The he bolted out of the auditorium through one of the side exits while the band wailed away at their tune. Conan was gone for just a few moments too long, just long enough to be funny. And then he suddenly materialized out of one of the balcony seat entrances, the entrance closest to our seats. Conan ran right up to our section and began to hug and high-five fans all around us. I grabbed my sister-in-law (who worships Conan O’Brien something fierce), pushed her in front of me, and she got a hug from Conan O’Brien!*
All of my life, for as long as I can remember, I have wanted to experience a concert where the front-man of the band or the headlining comedian jumped off stage mid-show to run out of the theater’s exit and then stayed outside just long enough for it to be slightly uncomfortable for the audience. I think it is a brilliant and whacky thing to do to an audience. I remember this old Kevin Meany comedy special where he left the theater completely and began berating passing motorists with questions and insults. The best footage was of the clueless audience he left behind in the theater. I have always wanted to experience that kind of crazy move at a concert and thanks to Conan O’Brien I can finally say that I have. Conan doing that was amazing in its own right, but even more amazing was how it ended (for my sister-in-law).
*A highlight of her life. If anyone has any pictures or video of Conan hugging people in the upper-seats at the back of the Hall please leave a comment on this article. I would really like to get her a copy.