Conan O'Brien at Dodge Theatre: The Brawny Paper Towel Guy Before a Bone Marrow Transplant

Categories: Concert Review
conankickphoenix.jpg
Luke Holwerda
Conan kicks it in Phoenix.
In a self-deprecating attempt to mock his bearded appearance, former Late Night and Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien remarked Friday night that he did, indeed, bear a resemblance to the plaid-wearing, paper towel-hocking Brawny Guy.

Of course, O'Brien had to qualify his resemblance with the fact that he only looks like the fictional advertisement prior to a bone marrow transplant -- O'Brien is rather gangly and thin himself. It was that statement -- that sense of humor -- that endears O'Brien to his fans and ultimately garnered his massive, cult-like following once his time with NBC's Tonight Show was unceremoniously cut short. O'Brien, however, did not harbor ill will towards Jeff Zucker & co. last night, instead looking forward towards his new deal with TBS and what lies ahead for his late night future.

Oh, and he absolutely charmed the pants off (even the shirt for one eager female fan) the decidedly pro-Conan/Team Coco audience in attendance last night. After comedian/musician/beatboxer Reggie Watts warmed up the crowd with his unclassifiable brand of hilariously vulgar entertainment (fuck shit stack, anyone?), casually referring to the crowd as San Diego and the venue the Gibson Amphitheater, O'Brien took to the stage wearing a white, #8 Channing Frye Suns jersey. While that was a welcomed sight for those in attendance, it showcased O'Brien's propensity to taylor the start of his set to the particular city he is in. O'Brien joked about how he could -- with his pale, Irish complexion -- only live in Phoenix and its heat for "45 seconds" and made the perfect SB 1070 joke, noting that his set would have to be cut short because at any moment the Arizona police were coming to deport La Bamba.

O'Brien stayed pretty true to his other shows while on tour, showcasing his talent as a guitar player and his love for singing, doing his own version of Elvis Presley's (via Tony Joe White) "Poke Salad Annie" as an homage to his parents, both of whom worked upper-middle class jobs in Brookline, Mass., Conan's hometown. Poke salad was never on the menu during O'Brien's youth, yet his goofy tribute to his hardworking mother was rather entertaining and endearing.

And that's what O'Brien's 90 minutes on stage last night really were -- a chance for the spurned talk show host to endear himself even more to his fanatically loyal fans. Being plucked from relative obscurity as a writer on both The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live to host NBC's Late Night in 1993, O'Brien had a sly potential that only comedic genius Lorne Michaels could see. To watch O'Brien on stage last night, singing songs and telling self-depricating jokes about his painfully public dismissal from The Tonight Show, knowing that he was once a meek writer for the Harvard Lampoon with a failed television pilot is rather mind-boggling, to say the least. The Conan O'Brien that took the stage last night was one of America's funniest, charismatic and most endearing entertainers.

Say what you will about the Late Night Wars and Jay Leno. It's unfortunate to have to even mention this with regards to O'Brien, but it is always going to be an inevitable part of the man's career/legacy. The way O'Brien handled everything -- with a subtle grace and well-spoken demeanor (with just a hint of justifiable resentment) -- was nothing short of saintly. He got a raw deal, as everyone knows, but he turned an awful experience into a brilliant opportunity, scheduling an entertaining live tour -- the proceeds of which are going to his out-of-work writers.

Team Coco shined last night, and it was all thanks to their charismatic, loyal leader. Phoenix, unfortunately, doesn't have the same clout as Los Angeles or New York (or even Eugene, Oregon), so guest stars who have been joining O'Brien on stage throughout his tour were nonexistent last night. That was okay, though, because O'Brien gave all of his fans in attendance every last drop of effort and subversive humor he had in his gangly, lanky body. 

For someone, like myself, who has been watching Conan O'Brien since 1998 (I was, unfortunately, too young to stay up and watch Late Night in its infancy), there was a sense of pride watching O'Brien take the stage last night. There was this tall, goofy guy on stage last night who had been entertaining us as a talk show host for 17 years (his other work on television going back even farther), beaming with a child-like exuberance for his loyal fans. The crowd erupted when Conan O'Brien took to the stage last night, and hardly anyone in attendance was surprised. They had come to witness their leader -- their red-headed comedic sage -- give back to his fans what they have so loyally given to him throughout his many years on television. Those fans were rewarded in a way that none will ever soon forget.

Is it November yet?

Last Night: Conan O'Brien and the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour at the Dodge Theater.

Better Than: Watching the Tonight Show.

Personal Bias: I am a 26-year-old male. I am at the heart of O'Brien's core demographic. I think Jay Leno is mindless, unfunny and rather rude. I have been watching Conan O'Brien on television for 12 years. I know what episode of The Simpsons O'Brien wrote and I have seen his failed television pilot, Lookwell! -- written with Robert "Triumph The Insult Comic Dog" Smigel -- numerous times. I have even read his speech given at Harvard's Class Day from 2000. It's safe to say that I am a fan of Conan O'Brien.

By The Way: Phoenix was the first city to show Conan some boobs. Phoenix may not have gotten any guest stars on stage, but they are the only city on the tour so far to have flashed Conan.

One More Thing: If you haven't seen this Walker, Texas Ranger clip, then please watch it immediately. 

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