Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Music by: Conan O’Brien and the Legally Prohibited Band
Distributed by: Lakeshore Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When Conan O’Brien was kicked out of his contract with The Tonight Show in preference of returning Jay Leno as host after failing in his Primetime debut, I was angry. I’m not a Jay Leno fan and I happen to believe that Conan O’Brien is not only a lot funnier, but that he earned his spot as host of The Tonight Show. Leno made his decision when he left and, simply because his gamble didn’t pay off, NBC was willing to turn its back on a 22-year relationship with one of late night’s funniest talk show hosts.
After this longtime relationship was severed, Conan’s answer to the stipulation in his contract to refrain from appearing on television, radio or the internet for a full six months after completing his last show with NBC was to take his act on the road. The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour was a thirty-two city music and comedy improvisational tour featuring some of Conan O’Brien’s most inventive work. A documentary of the tour, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop by filmmaker Rodman Flender shows the comedian excelling in what he was trained to do and does so well.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started listening to the Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop Soundtrack, but once the first track had finished playing, I found I couldn’t wait for the next one. The very first track, Polk Salad Annie, inspired by Elvis Presley’s Vegas version of a Tom White classic is Conan at his very best. The song is about a poor young man growing up in the south in a family doing whatever they can to survive. Conan’s improv act is to insert his own upbringing into this song. Of course, Conan’s upper middleclass upbringing doesn’t even come close to the sad sack poor story of this song and that’s what makes it so funny. Listening to Conan expound sorrowfully on his life in the “slum” of a hugely upperclass neighborhood with a lawyer mother and a scientist “deadbeat” father is hysterical.
Conan performs some actual songs on this album, reminding us that his forte is comedy, not singing. The best tracks involve Conan’s improvisation bits like his unfinished song Conrad Bane about a rather interesting looking lover he met in Spain and her strange family; On the Road Again, a song in which Conan discusses his fear that he may never work on a talk show again and praises TBS for taking a chance on him; his version of I Will Survive in which he sings of his anger at being unceremoniously fired and his ability to succeed again as a talk show host.
And yet, that’s not to say that the music isn’t good. There is a great rendition of Weight on this album and I loved the version of the Seven Nation Army as well. The Legally Prohibited Band is terrific and the music on this album is great. Conan’s singing isn’t all that, but his band sings very well.
But, as I said, the fun on this album doesn’t come from the singing, it’s from Conan O’Brien’s talented improvisation. Fans of Conan O’Brien are going to want to check out the Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop Soundtrack, further proof that Conan O’Brien is one of the most talented improvisational comedians out there.