"THAT'S ALL I KNOW: that I really like being in front of an audience." So declares Conan O'Brien at the beginning of the documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, in which director Rodman Flender—who's known O'Brien since the two were undergrads at Harvard—chronicles the live show that O'Brien toured the country with in the aftermath of The Tonight Show's implosion.
Angry, hurt, self-critical, and exhausted—but still crazy smart and still crazy funny—the O'Brien captured by Flender's fly-on-the-wall camera is markedly different from the one we've gotten to know on TV. "I might be a fucking genius, or I might be the biggest dick ever. Or I might be both," O'Brien later says, and evidence for all three options is presented: Here's Conan, excitedly, nervously pouring his talent and dedication into a stage show; here's Conan, being a total asshole to a surprised, confused Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock; here's Conan, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, seconds before they all go onstage, happily making up one of the show's comedy routines on the spot.
"The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" kicked off in Eugene, Oregon, and ranged from Radio City Music Hall to a sweaty, miserable tent at Bonnaroo. Everybody from O'Brien's writers to Andy Richter to Eddie Vedder to his saint of an assistant, Sona Movsesian, was drawn into the chaotic tornado as O'Brien—knowing only that he wanted to be in front of an audience—tried something unprecedented.
What's remarkable about Conan O'Brien Can't Stop aren't the many chunks of footage from the performances (O'Brien plays a whole lot of music in these scenes, despite the fact that his musical performances aren't exactly why people like him), but all the backstage stuff: Conan brainstorming with his writers; Conan at home with his family, coming to terms with who he now is, post-Tonight Show; Conan meeting his awkward, exuberant fans; and Conan weighing basic-cable job offers. Frequently hilarious, insightful, discomfiting, and candid, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop is a must-see for anybody interested in comedy. Or TV. Or Conan O'Brien. Regardless of whether you think he's a genius, or a dick, or both.