@ZackTeibloom The world premiere of “Conan O’Brien: Can’t Stop” was as hot a ticket as they come at the SXSW film festival. The film events are exclusively badge only and I didn’t have any kind of fake badge on me. Just a full stomach from a two-plate breakfast buffet at Trudy’s and a head full of sandwiches. I approached the line 45 minutes before the screening and saw that it stretched for blocks. I had no intention of entering this line. I walked to the front of the theater to check it out and saw Conan himself being interviewed in front of the theater. Here’s a video someone shot of how ridiculous the line was. That had to be long before I got there, since Conan wasn’t even there yet.
I stood by and snapped the pictures of Conan I used in this post and tried to figure out how I would make my way into the theater. I started by getting right next to the entrance, standing behind Conan as he did his interview, pretending I was just taking pictures. I realized I would have to get through 7 or 8 guards lining the 20 feet entranceway. At one point in the film, Conan says he has to remind himself to “act as if this is completely normal” when doing things like interviewing President Obama. It’s a good thing to remind yourself when crashing as well.
I hovered by the entrance, waiting for the first three guards to lose focus. The moment to make my move was when Conan was ushered into the theater and the guards scrambled to make sure he was secure. I noticed that the first round of attendees they let in had film badges as well as bright green tickets. I folded a grey schedule, walked inside and handed it to the attendant. I only made it three steps before they realized I’d handed them an awful fake ticket and they mockingly told me that was not a ticket. I decided to wait outside for the next group who only needed a badge. Sometimes you can use the amount of guards they have against them. They’ll figure if they don’t catch you, someone else will. I moved quickly,and when two guards asked where my badge was, I said “oh, they have it,” or “I’m with them” and pointed at no one in particular. No real tricks. Just persistence and knowing the difference between “Stop! You just handed us a piece of paper and we know it!” and “Wait, I didn’t see your badge, but I don’t care all that much.”
Once inside the theater, there was a genuine electricity in the air, since this was the first time the film had ever been played and Co Co was in the building. I found a seat next to @coolinaustin who told me my new favorite word: “concrashulations.” The head of the film festival came out and said that once she saw this film, she knew they had their big get. They really did.
This documentary was exactly what you want from a documentary. It was well-paced, revealing, and captures the subject as they really are at their best and worst. We start with Conan driving in his convertible by a Hollywood Tour bus. He pulls up next to the bus and yells “Hi, I’m Conan O’Brien, host of the Tonight Show!” with a big wave and drives off. From there we’re with Conan on his journey when he’s recently been fired from the Tonight Show as he plans and goes on his grueling Legally Prohibited from being funny on Television Tour.
As he said in the Q and A afterwards, Conan told him the director said “From the very beginning he said, I think this could be documentary gold. I don’t want this to be a slick Conan O’Brien product. I don’t want it to be something that shows you as this heroic person. I don’t want it to be a concert film that’s just showing how amazing the concert was. And I was OK with that. I was going through something and just thought. Let’s be completely honest. Let’s let people see everything.”
We see Conan as a stubborn, perfectionist, work-a-holic who demands the most from everyone. We see how he obsesses about being in the spotlight, but detests the meet and greets and photos anytime he leaves the house. He can be miserable to be around, but he’s a non-stop joker who has a truly kind and giving heart. He’ll always stop for an autograph or picture, but it’s clearly torturing him. We see touching moments of Conan with his kids, and see how his wife irritates him by being loud putting away dishes. He’s a complex character and is presented as such through relentless filming.
Adam Carolla says you need to film an hour of footage to get one good minute. They shot 140+ hours to get the less than 90 minute film, which makes sure the laughs never stop. It was so bad (good) that I feel like I missed a third of the movie from the audience laughing over it. The guests were plentiful, from Eddie Vedder to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and not nearly enough Jack White. I could have used more Jack (there aren’t even any scenes of them talking or recording the album) but I have few complaints about the film. It felt authentic and true. It made me like Conan more, after giving up on watching his show, and I don’t know if I felt bad for him for having to live this non-stop life, It made me appreciate it more.
*** 1/2 out of ****
Afterwards, we were treated to a very quick Q and A, I found a link to. The highlights were Conan running around the director when he was asked how he keeps up with Conan’s energy and someone asking Conan how he deals with his anger, which he clearly has a lot of. He seems to be doing it the only way he knows how. By never stopping.
Here’s footage of the Q and A: