Saturday night, Conan O'Brien brought "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" to Gibson Amphitheatre. Joined by Andy Richter and The Legally Prohibited Band (featuring members of Max Weinberg's group, including fan favorite LaBamba), O'Brien was in strong form, mixing together nods to his former shows with musical numbers and celebrity guests. Jim Carrey surprised the audience when he emerged from the crowd decked out in a Superman costume. Aziz Ansari, Jack McBrayer, Jonah Hill and Jon Hamm took turns with the Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle (formerly known as the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever). Triumph the Insult Comic Dog returned and the Masturbating Bear made an appearance as the Self-Pleasuring Panda. More important than the guests, though, were the little kernels of wisdom that O'Brien, and Richter as well, dropped throughout the night.
"Your applause makes me stronger," Conan O'Brien.
O'Brien said this in jest, his voice taking the tone of a comic book villain as the crowd at Gibson Amphitheatre roared with applause. The statement, though, is ripe with truth. Would the former Tonight Show host be here, at a sold-out show in the middle of a massive North American tour, without the cheers of a generation? He's the first to admit that this tour is the first time people have paid to see him on stage. Thanks in part to the #imwithcoco Twitter stream and a graphic that became a meme, O'Brien came out of the NBC fiasco unscathed and has been able to continue working despite contractual limitations. He might actually be more famous now than he was when he took over the legendary television spot.
"Sit back and enjoy an incredibly awkward situation."
Gibson is walking distance from the lot where O'Brien filmed his short tenure on The Tonight Show. Seemingly, awkward, yes, but the location of the event was also poignant. In the same complex where O'Brien's gig as a major network late night host combusted, he rose as a superstar. It's a phoenix story for people who subsist on way too much pop culture.
"If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of bad ideas being greenlit."
At this point, it's hard to remove O'Brien from the The Tonight Show debacle. The loss of his show, made up a good chunk of the opening jokes and elicited a hearty response from the audience. It wasn't so much griping on O'Brien's part, after all, he is returning to the small screen later this year. Instead, it felt like the personal was pointing to the general. His remark hits close to home for anyone who has ever clicked through 1000-and-some-odd channels and still couldn't find anything worth watching.
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"Never take a good hard look at your life."
It can be strange to hear of O'Brien's problems with NBC described as a David and Goliath sort of tale. He's a guy at the top of his career who still has really weird ideas, as opposed to the little guy. Listening to O'Brien on Saturday night, he appears well aware of this. He jokes about his privileged upbringing in song and goes through the eight-stage process of stars who lose their talk shows (Number 6: "36 Hours of Red Bull and Halo"). He's kept the bitterness under control.
"Autographing bottles and cans doesn't bring more money," Andy Richter.
After Andy Richter left Late Night in 2000, he starred in several TV series, all of which were short-lived. Then he returned to his role as O'Brien's sidekick for The Tonight Show. It was a reunion that made nerdy insomniacs scream with glee. But we all know how that ended. If anyone understands the test of will that comes along with working in show business, it has to be Richter and few are as good as turning out self-deprecating jokes as he is. Richter's "What I've Learned" segment was one of the highlights of the night, right up there with the "pizza sleeping bag" bit in his commercial for Big Mama's and Papa's Pizza. We salute you, Andy Richter.