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Conan O’Brien is a rock star.
No, it’s true. The red-headed comedian best known for his late night antics as the host of Late Night with Conan O’Brien for 16 years and The Tonight Show for considerably less time has departed the airwaves in favor of a music-filled, laughter-packed variety show dubbed the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour — O’Brien’s only means to reach out to the masses at the moment, as he truly is legally banned from appearing on TV, radio and internet for the next several months.
While the tour doesn’t represent a career change from television to stage personality — indeed, O’Brien has a new TBS late night series launching later this fall — his appearance at last night’s show at Radio City Music Hall, attended by Spinoff Online, almost makes one wish that such a transition had occurred. For all of the hilarity O’Brien brings to the small screen, the talk show host was the first to admit to the New York City crowd that there’s simply nothing like sharing these moments together all under the same roof and in the same space.
Since launching at the beginning of April, details of the 30-city live tour have remained relatively under wraps. Many aren’t aware, for instance, that O’Brien has resurrected some of his most beloved and classic sketches, albeit under new monikers so as to prevent legal action. The Masturbating Bear, for example, has become the Self-Pleasuring Panda, while The Walker, Texas Ranger Lever is now renamed The Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle. Throughout the evening, O’Brien had help pulling the handle from guests including Saturday Night Live star Bill Hader, The Office actor John Krasinski and Role Models leading man Paul Rudd.
There were other special guests as well, though perhaps it’s best to watch this one for yourself:
Those who watched O’Brien’s 60 Minutes interview last month are aware of the comedian’s reinterpretations of On The Road Again and I Will Survive, but those songs are far from the only musical components he has to offer. In addition to a hilarious upbeat number bemoaning the hardships of his “upper middle class” upbringing, O’Brien is picking up the guitar and playing music not only with The Legally Prohibited Band, but other musical guests as well.
At last night’s Radio City show, O’Brien saddled up alongside Vampire Weekend, and while it wasn’t necessarily the most riveting musical performance of all time, there’s one blatantly apparent fact to observe and celebrate: Conan is having fun. No, he’s not a master shredder of the electric guitar nor is he a crooner the likes of which haven’t been seen since Frank Sinatra, but the wiry O’Brien is cutting loose in a way that fans haven’t seen from him in several years, possibly ever. It doesn’t matter if O’Brien is an expert musician when you’re watching him tear up the stage, not when he has every right in the world to be hiding in a dark corner with whiskey in hand after his public ordeal with NBC.
(On that note, the fact that Radio City Music Hall is mere blocks from NBC’s Rockefeller Center headquarters didn’t go without its fair share of ribbing from O’Brien and the crowd.)
O’Brien’s enthusiastic stage presence is infectious, prompting several rousing moments of fan interaction from a brilliantly coordinated group conversation to spontaneous chants of USA! USA! USA! on the comedian’s request. His threats to unleash his unsightly, pale, self-described “chicken legs” upon the audience instigated hoots and hollers from many of the women out in the audience. There was only one noted objector to O’Brien’s new unshaven look, with the rest of the Radio City crowd loudly and wholeheartedly endorsing the man’s bearded appearance.
No, O’Brien might not be the greatest musician in the world, but if you ever find yourself in the thick of a crowd of fellow Team Coco loyalists while watching the cult’s leader cutting string dances, pulling levers, jamming out with famous musicians and other such versions of “doing his thing,” there will be no doubt in your mind that Conan O’Brien is not so much a comedian anymore — he truly is a rock star.